ST. LOUIS — When you think of rivalries in college hockey, Michigan-Michigan State, Minnesota-North Dakota and Boston College-Boston University all come to mind. Regional relations are paramount, in general, when it comes to building a rivalry.
And then there’s North Dakota and Boston College
For the sixth time since 1999, the Eagles and Fighting Sioux will lock horns in the NCAA tournament. Each and every one of those battles to date has been monumental in proportion.
Similar to last year, BC and North Dakota will face off in the national semifinal. Prior to that, there were regional title games in which the two met in 1999 and 2005. And, of course, there were back-to-back national championship contests in 2000 and 2001, with each team winning one.
So when the two clubs take the ice in Thursday’s nightcap, expect the familiarity to be high.
That said, both BC players and coaches were downplaying the rivalry on Wednesday.
“The games are so big in the national tournament you get so fired up just like you do when you play your rival,” said senior captain Brian Boyle. “The rivalry is there because both teams are such competitive teams with guys who really want to win. There’s a lot of firepower that makes it a lot of fun to watch.”
“If you’re going to be a good team, you’re going to get deep into that national tournament,” said BC head coach Jerry York. “So it’s no coincidence that we keep coming up against North Dakota.”
The Winner, and New Heavyweight Champion …
It’s not often that a third-string goaltender is a media darling during the Frozen Four.
It’s also not often that a third-string goaltender stonewalls one of the most potent offenses in college hockey.
Meet Adam Reasoner. If the name sounds familiar, he’s the younger brother of former Boston College standout Marty Reasoner. During Wednesday’s final practice before Thursday’s national semifinal, Reasoner stopped each and every forward and defenseman in the Eagles’ lineup in the ritual shootout.
All of the skaters take breakaway shots on the three BC goaltenders, and if a forward can score on all three, he’s the champion.
The rare occurrence, though, is when a single goaltender stops every shot he faces, as was the case with Reasoner on Wednesday.
The rewards for winning the shootout is a belt — resembling that worn by a WWE champion at last week’s WrestleMania — made up of a towel, cardboard and hockey tape.
On Wednesday, Reasoner was awarded the belt, but not until after he joined in a big bearhug with fellow dufflebags Cory Schneider and Joe Pearce.
“As goalies, we’re kind of shunned out there in [the shootout],” said Schneider. “The forwards don’t like to see goalies out there win the shootout. They’re trying to amend the rules so that we can’t win it at all.
“We goalies, we try to pull for each other so if one of us wins it’s like we all win.”
As Schneider basked in the glory of Reasoner’s victory during the post-practice press conference, not surprisingly Boyle sat on the podium, simply shaking his head in disdain.
Since arriving to a police escort from the moment their plane landed on the runway at the airport in St. Louis, the Eagles say they’ve been treated like champs.
BC is staying at the Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark, a hotel with rooms overlooking the St. Louis Cardinals’ home, Busch Stadium. Tuesday evening, a handful of Eagles players dressed in full suits and ties wandered over in the late innings of the Cards’ game against the New York Mets and were admitted into the stadium.
On Wednesday morning, the entire team took a stadium tour. That all came after the Eagles were treated to a similar showing of the St. Louis Blues hockey locker room over at the Scottrade Center on Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s a great part of being at the Frozen Four,” said York. “We really try to reward our players, whether its Milwaukee or Albany or Providence or here in the heartland of America, St. Louis.
“Our guys are baseball fans so I thought it was great for them. We got a tour of the locker room and got to stand next to [Albert] Pujols’ locker, and [David] Eckstein’s locker. I think that’s great for our guys.”
The 51 losses by the four teams in this weekend’s Frozen Four ties the record for the most combined losses by the Frozen Four participants. It matches the field of 1981, of Northern Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan Tech.
The asterisk associated with 1981, though, is that the quarterfinals, equivalent to today’s regional finals, were two-game, total-goals series. Thus a team could (and did) lose a game in the quarterfinals yet still advance.
This is the first season that both men’s and women’s teams for Boston College have reached the Frozen Four. The women’s team lost to Minnesota-Duluth in double overtime of the women’s tournament.