Friday, February 23, 2018
Colleges

Frozen Four: Return to Tampa, return to title for Boston College?

TAMPA — When legendary coach Jerry York and Boston College last came to sunny Florida for a Frozen Four, the Eagles added to their storied history in 2012 with their third national championship in five years.

They haven't won a title since, with just one Final Four appearance in the past three years, but the Eagles can proudly tout themselves as "The Coldest Program in College Hockey History," moving past Michigan this year with their 25th Frozen Four appearance.

"We measure our team by the number of trophies we win, not necessarily how many games we win," said York, who in January became the first coach in college hockey history to win 1,000 games. "We are successful in those trophy games, and now we have a chance to win another one."

York, 70, played for Boston College in the 1965 Frozen Four and is now coaching in his 13th Frozen Four, but his experience is aided by the fact that his players — even his seniors — are still hungry for their first title.

For all its tradition, Boston College is an underdog in Thursday's semifinal against top-seeded, top-ranked Quinnipiac, the first-ever NCAA meeting between the New England schools. Quinnipiac is a young program compared to BC, having started in 1975 and moved to Division I in 1998; this is just the Bobcats' second Frozen Four.

"I'm looking forward to the challenge of Quinnipiac," York said. "They've had an unbelievable year, ranked first in the country, by good reason."

Boston College has no shortage of star power. Goalie Thatcher Demko is one of three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award, the so-called "Hockey Heisman," to be awarded at the Tampa Theatre on Friday night. He has a school-record 10 shutouts this season, and two more this weekend would give him a share of the NCAA record.

Want scoring? Junior forward Ryan Fitzgerald has 23 goals, and his brother, freshman Casey, has 22 assists, many on his brother's scoring. Teddy Doherty, a converted defenseman, had two goals in a 3-2 quarterfinal win over Minnesota-Duluth that sent the Eagles to Tampa.

"Certainly three storied programs with an immense amount of success," Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold said of his competition in BC, North Dakota and Denver. "A ton of draft picks, a lot of high, first-round-type draft picks. There's a lot of talent on those three teams. For us, we're happy to be in the Frozen Four, with any three teams. We're excited for the challenge."

Boston is a hotbed of college hockey, with its annual Beanpot Tournament a February classic at TD Garden pitting BC against Boston University, Harvard and Northeastern. The Eagles won this year — their sixth win in seven years, with a roster loaded with proud talent from all over Boston and its suburbs.

So there's often an "r" at the end of Floridahr, and that same letter is missing from the Frozen Foah you'll hear York talk about. Having the Frozen Four in Tampa was an uncertain idea for him four years ago, but one he quickly embraced, even before his team had a championship here.

"As most of college hockey was, we were very concerned that it wouldn't fly," York said of the Tampa locale in 2012. "Was it too far for people to go for the majority of our programs in northern states and the Midwest? How were the Lightning going to be?

"We were greatly surprised by how Jeff Vinik has taken that franchise … the reception, the fan base, it took over the whole area there. It was very welcome. When we saw it was going back to Tampa, we all thought it was a great move by the NCAA."

Boston College has experience playing in Florida this season — the Eagles actually went 0-2 in a holiday tournament in Estero.

But they'll remember their last trip to Tampa, which saw two easy wins on the way to a championship in 2012.

Contact Greg Auman at [email protected] Follow @gregauman.

 
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