MANCHESTER, N.H. – On paper, top seeded Boston University looks by far like the hottest team in this weekend’s Northeast Regional. The Terriers have just two losses since Christmas and are the only club of the four participants to have won its league championship last weekend.
If you listened to head coach Jack Parker speak, though, heading into the tournament, you might never know that. Parker was disappointed with his team’s effort down the stretch, through the Hockey East quarterfinals and even last weekend when the Terriers beat Boston College and Mass.-Lowell to win the Hockey East title.
So it’s no surprise, then, when asking the players what the past week of practice was like it didn’t sound very much like a Club Med atmosphere.
“We got in a few kids’ faces [at practice],” said senior co-captain Matt Gilroy. “I think we got the wins last week and that was important. But the atmosphere in practice all week was that we had to work real hard. We really got after each other and we’re really excited to get to the national tournament right now.”
“It’s always been difficult to judge whether the team is ready to play tonight or ready to play this week,” said Parker when asked what to expect on Saturday night. “We had a good week of practice and the kids seem to be enthusiastic. The stars seem to be aligned properly and we just came off a big win. But you never know what’s going to happen with the emotions of a tournament. You never know what will happen with the pressure of an NCAA tournament.”
Get Out the Measuring Tape
Parker, during his team’s practice on the Verizon Wireless Arena ice on Friday, pulled out a tape measure and began measuring the space between the lines. His findings were that the rink sets up as expected, with 64-foot neutral zones, matching what is suggested by the NCAA.
“When I looked at [the neutral zone] upstairs, it looked bigger than our rink,” said Parker. “When I looked at it on the ice, it looked normal. I just wanted to see what it was.
Back to Parker’s Roots
Ohio State is not a very familiar opponent for the Terriers. Saturday’s game will be the first between the two schools in the NCAA tournament and the two teams have met just twice ever, both in holiday tournaments and both won by BU.
For Parker, though, one of those games may be more memorable. BU’s contest with Ohio State on December 28, 1973 at the Rensselaer Tournament in Troy, N.Y., was just Parker’s second game behind the BU bench. Parker had taken over the reigns at Christmas time when Leon Abbott was let go by the school. Parker’s Terriers beat Dartmouth in the opening game of the tournament, then faced Ohio State the next evening.
For the record, BU won that game, 6-5.
Wilson Has Added Incentive
Colin Wilson may be a tad more familiar with Ohio State than the rest of the Terriers as he’s played with Buckeyes’ John Albert, Joseph Palmer, and C.J. Severyn prior to arriving on campus. The four guys skated together on the U.S. Under-18 Team in the National Team Development Program before embarking on college careers.
“It’s obviously going to be an exciting game here,” said Wilson. “Playing against old teammates makes it a little bit more exciting; it makes me want to win just a little bit more to get a little bragging rights against those guys.”
BU History 101 with Jack Parker
They’ve won the Ice Breaker Tournament, the Denver Cup, the Hockey East regular season, and the Hockey East Championship…so where does the 2008-’09 Terriers rank among the other clubs in BU history?
“I think it’s pretty easy to say who the best teams are in BU history,” said Parker. “It’s the teams that won the national tournament. You measure everybody else to them. The best team that didn’t win the national tournament would probably be the ’76 team and maybe the ’96 team. The ’96 team was probably the best team, but it was the most difficult year; that was the year of the Travis Roy injury. It was a difficult year for everybody on that team; we were defending national champions and we lost in the semifinals of the national tournament. This year’s team is as good a team as I’ve ever coached up until this point in the season. It remains to be seen whether or not, you know, if they’ll join the other four as the best in BU history.”
Playing Against the Hunter
BU coach Jack Parker was very well aware that his first round opponent, Ohio State, has already beaten the other three number one seeds: Michigan, Notre Dame and Denver.
He hopes his club doesn’t become the fourth.
“They’re probably thinking, ‘Here’s another number one seed to beat,’” said Parker. “They’ve beaten some good teams and we’re going to have our hands full.”
Melissa Parrelli contributed to this report.