In ordinary terms, Boston College’s trip through the NCAA Tournament will involve some time on the Mass Pike and I-290 until reaching the DCU Center. In other terms real to the Eagles and their fans, it begins with the Air Force Falcons. Every stop on the way, the path will become more difficult, but not unnavigable. There’s (typically) no such thing as an easy route to the Frozen Four, and this year is no different.
When it comes to going to Tampa, Boston College has two teams in its way: Air Force and the winner of the Maine/Minnesota-Duluth game. With regards to the first, a loss in this game would not only be an enormous upset, but an even more bitter loss than last year’s implosion against Colorado College. In that contest, BC got shafted by the committee and sent out to St. Louis; now, the Eagles are in the comforts of their own commonwealth at an arena where they typically play well. Not only that, but they are the top overall team in the tournament, facing the weakest team in the field.
Fortunately, the DCU Center treats BC well during regional action. Since the turn of the century, the Eagles are 8-1 out in Worcester, and it also happens to be the site where Boston College has launched all three of their previous tournament conquests under Jerry York (2001, 2008, and 2010).
Playing the Falcons also seems to agree with the Eagles, but don’t be fooled by their all-time record. Boston College has won all five meetings on ice with Air Force, but only one has taken place since Jerry York became coach in 1994. The other four games were played between 1977 and 1993. None of them matter, anyway; the only one that does is the game to be played in March 2012.
As for Minnesota-Duluth and Maine, both are ranked teams. The former are the defending national champions and the latter were the most recent team to have beaten BC. Granted, Boston College just beat Maine to win the Hockey East title, but they’re only 2-2 against the Black Bears this season, and Maine was down a key player for said matchup (one Spencer Abbott). With regards to the Bulldogs, the Eagles do have a little history with them, but it’s dated. The last time the Eagles saw Minnesota-Duluth was in October 2003 (a tie), and the time before that was December 2001 (a win). Neither of those games mattered as much as this one would, if it happens.
Boston College will face an Air Force team looking for a titanic upset, while Minnesota-Duluth is hungry to repeat and Maine is looking for revenge for the Hockey East final. None of them are going to make the Eagles’ job easy, but there is hope. Not one of these teams mentioned is better than Boston College on paper — but of course, games are not played on paper. The Eagles also have an aforementioned distinct advantage when playing their regional rounds in Massachusetts. Finally, one would think they’d like to at least avoid the public indignity of losing a 1-16 game after getting torn a new corn chute by Colorado College in their last NCAA Tournament game.
Did we also mention that BC has Jerry York, who will by next season be the winningest coach in the history of college hockey?
The Eagles are the top seed for a reason. Just because they might face a tough game or two on the way to Tampa does not mean they cannot or should not be favored to win. Now, they might not win, but they should. The first game is as easy as the road to Tampa, and ultimately the national title, will get, but if any team can steer its way through a difficult tournament, it is Boston College.