Out With The New, In With The Old

“We got caught up in the hoopla…. [BU is] supposed to come here. This is their destination just about every year.”
— St. Cloud senior captain Geno Parrish

“There’s a lot of pressure on us, not just from our own fans in Boston, but the college hockey world. They expect that BU is going to be in the national tournament and vying for the national championship every year.”
— BU junior Carl Corazzini

Sometimes new is better.

There are any number of diseases people no longer die of because of revolutionary treatments and vaccines. A state-of-the-art, MHz-screaming PC beats a TRS-80 any day of the week. And aluminum, graphite and composite hockey sticks perform better than their old-fashioned wooden predecessors.

But there are plenty of other cases where new is not improved. “New” Coke’s taste was no match for Coke Classic. The Backstreet Boys don’t belong in the same sentence with the Beatles. And whether it’s American Beauty or Cider House Rules that wins this year’s Oscar for Best Picture, both must bow in deference to Casablanca.

When it comes to the NCAA tournament, Boston University is its Casablanca. The Terriers have appeared in more tourneys, 25, than any other team. In the nineties, they reached the Frozen Four seven times, also a high-water mark in college hockey.

The youngblood looking to topple the establishment Terriers this year came in the form of St. Cloud State. The Huskies didn’t begin Division I play until the 1987-88 season and had previously appeared in only one prior NCAA tournament. Invited as an Independent in 1989, they lost a two-game series to Lake Superior State and never returned.

Until this year, that is. Would St. Cloud be like the vastly superior computers of today, where newer is in fact better? Or would the Huskies just be the hockey equivalent of the Backstreet Boys to BU’s Beatles?

The Terriers’ veteran NCAA status, after all, was perhaps a paper tiger. They went one-game-and-out in 1998 and failed to earn a bid last year. So only the four seniors who advanced to the title game in 1997 had ever won a national tournament game.

“I think it hurts us more than it helps us,” said Corazzini, whose goal just 2:35 into the game gave BU a great start. “We have that great tradition at Boston University…. There’s a lot of pressure on us, not just from our own fans in Boston, but the college hockey world. They expect that BU is going to be in the national tournament and vying for the national championship every year.

“We [have to] go out there and play our own game and not worry about those things. Last year we were so worried about teams in the past and what they had done and what players like Tony Amonte and Keith Tkachuk would think about us when we were 14-20.

“So Coach told us to go out there and forget about those guys. Those guys aren’t playing. We’re our own team and hopefully we can live up to that tradition this year.”

In contrast to those high expectations and inherent pressure, St. Cloud players could perhaps enjoy the experience more while also fighting the just-happy-to-be-here feelings.

“Growing up, everybody loved to go to tournaments,” said Parrish. “Regular season games were kind of blah. You got to a tourney and you’d play little-stick hockey in the halls. We can’t do that anymore, but it’s just fun. It’s really exciting.”

Pressure and fun notwithstanding, it looked like BU’s comfort with the NCAAs and St. Cloud’s jitters helped contribute to BU’s decisive 3-0 first-period lead that led to a 5-3 win.

“When [BU] got rolling, our guys were a little too timid,” said St. Cloud coach Craig Dahl. “This is a game that you’ve got to play with intensity and focus. You can’t be timid or doubt yourself. They scored first and we got some self-doubt.”

“It was a rough start for us, obviously,” added Parrish. “We came into the tournament and there was lots of excitement. We got caught up in the hoopla.”

BU coach Jack Parker, however, looked at his freshman- and sophomore-laden roster and saw a much different explanation than tournament experience for the 3-0 outburst the essentially won the game.

“I don’t think there’s any [experience] advantage,” he said. “I wouldn’t relate that to a 3-0 lead. I would say more so that we played poorly in our last outing [a 4-2 loss to Maine in the Hockey East semifinal]. Sometimes when you get slapped upside of the head it gets you a little more alert.

“We’re both fairly young. I think chronologically we’re younger than St. Cloud. I don’t think it was a matter of a senior-laden club or an older club having a little more poise…. I don’t think it had anything to do with, ‘Aw jeez, St. Cloud is the new guy.'”

Perhaps Parker is right, and BU’s 25 appearances versus St. Cloud’s two had nothing to do with how the teams performed. Either way, St. Cloud’s Parrish saw the experience of this NCAA tournament as a building block.

“[BU is] supposed to come here,” he said. “This is their destination just about every year. That’s what we want to build at St. Cloud State. We’ve laid the roots down quite well. Now we’ve just got to let it grow.”