When Boston College coach Jerry York was a young man, his mentor, the great Bob Johnson, told him, "When you win a national championship, you will then have the blueprint to win more."
York, now 66, laughs when he thinks back about that advice. Heck, he would've been fulfilled to finish his career with one national title.
He now has five.
Saturday, York's Eagles won their third national title in five years with a 4-1 victory against Ferris State at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. The game was much closer than the final score indicates, but the Eagles did have that special blueprint for success. Here is how that blueprint looked … and worked.
After winning 18 in a row, blowing out Minnesota in the semifinals and entering Saturday night's game as a heavy favorite against Ferris, BC had every reason to believe it could merely throw its sticks on the ice and win yet another national title.
The Eagles said all the things Goliath is supposed to say going into such an apparent mismatch; about how they weren't going to take Ferris lightly.
And while the Eagles didn't necessarily play their best game of the season, they certainly took the Bulldogs seriously. The close contest wasn't a result of arrogance or ignorance on BC's part, but tenacity and pride on Ferris' part.
Get a good start
There's no better way for a favorite to take the zest out of an underdog than to smack it in the mouth right from the get-go. Send a message. Let it know it can forget any hopes of pulling off a shocker because it just isn't going to happen. BC did just that, scoring only 3:18 into the game.
Ferris showed its grit by answering two minutes later with a goal of its own, but BC scored again five minutes later.
You see, the best way to orchestrate an upset is to put doubt in the mind of the favorite; scare it, get a lead on it and make it start questioning itself. Get it thinking, "Uh-oh, we might lose this game."
But BC never allowed Ferris to get that lead. The Eagles never trailed Saturday and, in fact, led for all but 81/2 minutes.
Not everything went the Eagles' way.
Not just Saturday, but during this season, too. Back on Jan. 21, the Eagles lost to Maine 7-4 to fall to 14-10-1. They never lost again, winning their final 19.
That 19th victory wasn't exactly smooth. It took a little luck, a little elbow grease. The Eagles had to fight off four consecutive penalties in the second period as they nursed a 2-1 lead. They couldn't really exhale against a determined Ferris team until a goal with 3:02 left made it 3-1.
Have your best players be your best players
The best player on the ice Saturday, as he has been throughout this NCAA tournament, was BC goalie Parker Milner. And he was at his best Saturday, turning away 27 shots and allowing two goals or fewer for the 17th consecutive game.
The Frozen Four's most outstanding player stopped 110 of 112 shots in the tournament, and that .982 save percentage is the third-best all time.
Meantime, senior Paul Carey, who had two goals in the semifinal, knocked in the eventual winner Saturday while freshman Johnny Gaudreau scored his 21st goal of the season. BC's best players showed up Saturday.
Have a great leader
York added to his legacy Saturday night by winning his fifth national championship, tied for second all time. His 37 NCAA tournament wins are the most ever. Most of all, he implemented a blueprint for success, a blueprint that could not be beat Saturday night.
Tom Jones can be reached at [email protected]