After Johnny Gaudreau flipped his scintillating backhand shot past Ferris State Bulldogs goalie Taylor Nelson, it was all academic. After a stiffer than expected test from the feisty CCHA representative, the Boston College Eagles hockey team collected their fifth national championship and third in the past five seasons. The 4-1 win concluded an unprecedented run of success dating back to late January that saw the Eagles win 19 consecutive games, a stretch so dominant that they allowed more than two goals just one time and trailed only twice. Let's just take a moment and let that sink in.
This was not always a season that was destined to end with a National Championship, though. The Eagles came into the season highly ranked despite the loss of a number of key offensive players from last season and questions regarding who would replace all that scoring. Another question was the goaltending. After losing the great John Muse to the NHL, all that remained were unproven backups with little game experience. Finally, the last real question was how the team would bounce back after the devastating NCAA tournament loss to Colorado College the previous season despite huge expectations.
After a quick start that saw the team win eight of its first nine games, the Eagles slipped into a funk that had many people questioning whether this team had the talent to compete for another championship. That stretch saw the Eagles go just 6-9-1 with several pitiful performances against the likes of UMass and Boston University thrown into the mix.
Then, after being swept by conference rival Maine in Orono in late January, a two-game set that saw the team surrender 11 goals, senior defenseman Tommy Cross stood up and declared that the team's effort was completely unacceptable. The next weekend, the Eagles swept away lowly New Hampshire to begin that 19-game winning streak that ended with a dog pile along the boards at the Tampa Times Forum in Tampa, Florida.
This incredible march to a championship was led by junior goaltender Parker Milner, who earlier in the season was benched in favor of senior Chris Venti during the Eagles' mid-season swoon. After reclaiming the starting job, Milner was spectacular, and he only got better as the games got bigger. In tournament play (the Beanpot, the Hockey East Tournament, and the NCAA Tournament), he allowed just 11 goals in 10 total games. In other words, the Eagles surrendered the same number of goals in 10 playoff games that they did during that two-game series against the Black Bears in late January. Couple that with the offensive firepower that the Eagles possessed from the likes of Gaudreau, Chris Kreider, Steven Whitney, and Paul Carey, and you've got a recipe for great success.
Always accused of looking at things through maroon-and-gold-colored glasses, Eagles fans believed that Boston College had the premier program in all of college hockey. Detractors would tell you that schools like Michigan, North Dakota, Boston University, Denver, etc. all had superior programs and could back that up by pointing to the sheer number of championships those schools possessed as opposed to BC. With this fifth championship, and the emerging dynasty that has spawned them, the critics have been effectively silenced.
With four titles since the turn of the century and three more appearances in the title game during that span, the Eagles' run of dominance is virtually unmatched historically and is, without question, the most successful stretch of hockey by a team in the modern era. The great Michigan teams of the 40's and 50's were built largely during an era in which there were only four teams in the tournament. With the move to more and more teams (now up to 16) and the "one-and-done" nature of the tournament, it's far more impressive to reach the title game now than it was during that era.
In addition, the fifth championship in school history pulls them even in terms of total titles with rival Boston University and WCHA member Minnesota. The Eagles still trail behind Wisconsin (six titles), North Dakota, Denver (seven each), and Michigan (nine) in the all-time race, but as long as coach Jerry York stands behind the bench in Chestnut Hill, this program will continue to be the strongest program in the country and be in contention for championships every season.
Speaking of York, he continues to be the face of the program. The now-legendary coach took home his fifth National Championship (his fourth with Boston College) and solidified himself as one of the great coaches of the modern era, and certainly one of the two or three best college hockey coaches of all time. His eye for talent, his ability to get superstar athletes to buy into his "the only thing that matters is the team" mantra, and the class and dignity with which he does it all is the gold standard for which all coaches at Boston College should be measured by. The school motto of "Ever to Excel," more recently used as a punch-line when it comes to BC's athletics programs (ahem, Frank Spaziani), is a way of life for Coach York and he instills it in each of his players and uses it to bring the best out of all of them.
It was an incredible ride for followers of the BC Eagles hockey team, and with little to cheer about in recent years athletically, this win has to be especially sweet. No longer is this program trying to simply establish it self as one of the best programs in the New England era, let alone the country. Boston College is hands down the best program that the sport has to offer at the college level.
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