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Boston College hockey coach Jerry York frequently references his upbringing in Watertown, the joys of pond skating, and whatever is going on with the Red Sox, Celtics, Patriots, and Bruins.
His tone is upbeat, his personality outgoing. But when hockey games on are the line, his affability gives way to a steely resolve. The goal of the Eagles is to win trophies and the program has boatloads of them, including three NCAA championships in the last five years.
Over that span, BC is 135-53-18. The only college teams with comparable records are Michigan (141 wins), North Dakota (135), Miami (132), and Denver (126), but none has a national title.
The defending champions don’t believe in resting on their laurels. From the seniors through the freshmen, the goal is to win now. Every year.
“When I won it my freshman year, [former Eagles captain] Matty Price had already won one and the rest of that senior class,’’ said BC captain Pat Mullane. “Their focus was that they had experienced it, but the sophomores and freshmen hadn’t. It was instilled in me that the legacy was if you have one, you make sure the younger guys get one. I’d love to see the freshmen win a national championship and selfishly, I’d love to win three. We would love to be the one class in Boston College history with three national championships. That’s part of our drive. That’s a personal goal within a team goal. When you have success, you want that much more of it.’’
Mullane said BC recruits top talent, but that is only part of the story. He said the coaching staff makes no secret of its high expectations.
“It obviously starts at the top with coach York,’’ said Mullane. “They want to win just as badly as we do. They’re not interested in personal goals. [York] could care less that he has 900 wins. All he wanted was that one trophy at the end. When your leader has that mentality, it really trickles down. I think it’s also the kids who play here and the kids coach York brings in.
“A perfect example is Barry Almeida. He didn’t crack our top three lines for the first three years. He could’ve gone to a ton of other schools and he’d have been a first-line guy all four years. But he comes to BC because he wants to win and he’s willing to sacrifice to be the third or fourth-line guy for us who kills penalties and blocks shots, all the things he has to do for us to be successful. We have a ton of those guys in the locker room. I think that’s what has made us so successful. It’s in the culture.’’
That culture is the reason defenseman Michael Matheson, a first-round pick of the Florida Panthers (No. 23 overall) in the 2012 draft, chose the Eagles.
“There are no better three coaches in all of NCAA hockey,’’ said Matheson, referring to York, associate head coach Greg Brown, and associate coach Mike Cavanaugh. “The success they’ve had lately, it just reinforces it all the more. There might be a little bit of pressure, but I like that, I like being in a program that is expected to win. If it’s not, you’re not going to advance and progress the way you should.’’
Matheson said he was comfortable with the other players from the moment he walked into the locker room and that camaraderie makes them all work harder.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been closer to a team through a whole season than I have in the first month here,’’ he said. “It’s incredible how close the older guys are and the way they [included the new players]. All seven freshmen, they just accepted us.’’
Mullane said a key reason the Eagles perform so well in the most important contests is because they have so much experience.
“Winning at the high school or junior level doesn’t compare to when you step into TD Garden and there are 20,000 people there,’’ he said. “We prepare well here. The older guys have experienced success and we take it upon ourselves to lead by example on those big stages and the freshmen kind of follow.’’
As much as it’s a function of talent, it’s also like the old NFL saying about scoring touchdowns — act like you’ve been there before.
“I’m not putting down any other school, but the fact that we’re there so much, and I say that humbly, we can act like we’ve been there,’’ said Mullane. “Some schools get to the Garden or wherever they may be and they’re like me my freshman year, you’re starstruck. For me, fortunately, I was brought back down to earth by the older guys. Whereas a lot of teams, if they haven’t had that success, the older guys are starstruck and they don’t have anyone to bring them back down to earth.’’
If it is human nature to be satisfied after achieving success, BC’s program allows for proper celebration, but when the next year comes, last year’s goals are put aside.Continued...