Frozen Four preview: Despite different cast, Boston College hopes for same result in Tampa

Boston College plays Quinnipiac for the first time in the national semifinals (photo: Melissa Wade).

When reflecting on the Northeast Regional tournament win for Boston College, coach Jerry York was pretty simple in summation.

“We’ve gone to Frozen Fours from Worcester a lot,” said York. “I really enjoy the Worcester regional.”

2016 Frozen Four

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York could be saying the exact same thing about this year’s Frozen Four destination, Tampa. Although the Florida city has hosted just a single Frozen Four, it was the Eagles that left the sunny city by the bay with the national championship trophy in 2012.

While York and Co. will hope to again leave Tampa with the hardware, this year’s path may be a little more difficult. In 2012, BC was the top overall seed in the tournament and advanced to Tampa without surrendering a single goal. York’s varsity crushed Minnesota in the national semifinal before defeating an upstart Ferris State team in the final.

This year, the Eagles were a two seed advancing from Worcester, didn’t have to take on the top seed in the region (Providence) and now face the top overall seed in the tournament, Quinnipiac, in Thursday’s opening semifinal.

Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold seems comfortable embracing a role of underdog, even if he feels that it has been manufactured a bit by the media. And while York knows his team is experienced in this tournament, he was hardly going to call his Eagles favorites.

“I think this particular Frozen Four, the winning percentage of all four teams is the best since we’ve started the 16-team field,” said York. “I don’t know who will be the underdog. Usually there is someone. But I think you look at the four teams, all have had very successful seasons.”

York’s Eagles will play on the “unfamiliar” side of the draw. BC and Quinnipiac will meet for the first time in program history as opposed to North Dakota and Denver, which play in the other semifinal, two clubs with more than 270 past meetings, including five this season alone.

About the Eagles

Coach: Jerry York, 22nd season at Boston College, 44th overall

Record: 28-7-5 (15-2-5 Hockey East, tie-first)

How they got to the Frozen Four: Defeated Harvard 4-1 and Minnesota-Duluth 3-2 to win the Northeast Regional

Regional seed: Second

Last Frozen Four appearance: 2014

Best NCAA finish: Champions, 2012, 2010, 2008, 2001, 1949

Why they’ll win the national championship: Both depth and experience are in BC’s corner. Even though no one on this current team has won a national title, BC’s head coach has won five of them. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt to have Thatcher Demko in net.

Why they won’t win the national championship: First off, BC has to face Quinnipiac in the semis, a team that might be the most potent at the Frozen Four. And if the Eagles survive the Bobcats, the ultimate test — be it either North Dakota or Denver — have the depth equal to or better than BC’s.

— Jim Connelly

That means there will be plenty for York to learn about the Bobcats before Thursday. However, one look at Quinnipiac’s regional final win over UMass-Lowell told quite a story.

“[Quinnipiac] limited Lowell to 15 shots on goal,” York said of the regional final game. “I’ve watched Lowell up close and personal the last few years and they usually can get 30 shots a night.”

In advancing to Tampa, Boston College got a number of key contributions in the regional. In a 4-1 win over Harvard, Austin Cangelosi and Alex Tuch, offensive catalysts for the Eagles all year long, each potted two goals. In both games, goaltender Thatcher Demko was on point, stopping 60 of 63 shots he faced.

But it was a hero that York may not have tabbed at the beginning of the season who made the contribution that had the most impact.

Captain Teddy Doherty, a player York calls “probably the biggest surprise to my club” this season, scored a pair of goals that helped BC control the final against Minnesota-Duluth. The senior defenseman-converted-to-forward entered the season with just nine goals in his previous three seasons but has netted 13 in 39 games thus far.

“I’m as surprised as anybody,” York said of Doherty. “He’s a player who played for us for a number of years but never in crunch time. He was elected captain last year and he just bought in to becoming the best player he can.

“When we lost a couple of players due to injuries, we asked him to move to forward and he gladly accepted that. His leadership has been outstanding.”

York knows this trip to Tampa will feel a whole lot different than 2012; he even joked, “I just can’t seem to find Johnny Gaudreau’s number [on our roster]. He was really good for us last time.” The challenge in front may seem more daunting. The opponents maybe are even more talented.

But BC hopes that one thing stays the same: the end reward.