When Boston College (22-11-4) takes on Union (21-12-5) Saturday night at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence in an East Regional semifinal, it will mark the first time the schools have faced one another.
The squads were both in Tampa for the 2012 Frozen Four, but were in different brackets. Union was eliminated by Ferris State, and BC went on to beat Ferris in the championship game.
“That’s good for both programs,’’ said BC coach Jerry York, who will be behind the bench despite recovery from eye surgery. “You get to the Frozen Four and then right back the next year into the national tournament. So, the consistency, [Union coach] Rick Bennett and myself both feel good about that.’’
The other teams in the regional are No. 1 seed Quinnipiac and No. 4 Canisius.
BC lost to Boston University in the Hockey East semifinals last Friday, then had to wait until Sunday night to find out where it was playing next and against whom.
“We’ll approach this as we have in the past, as kind of a mini-tournament,’’ said York. “We’re going to Providence and there are four teams there. So, there are like two mini-tournaments to win the national title.’’
Although the Eagles were disappointed not to bring home the conference title, they go into Saturday night relatively healthy.
“Kevin Hayes is the only one who is not going to be able to play,’’ said York, referring to the junior forward, who is out for the season after leg surgery. “Everyone else is dinged up like they should be after five or six months of hockey. We expect everybody to be ready to go.’’
York said he has made a few tweaks to the lineup. Sophomore Danny Linell, who played defense against BU last Friday, will play right wing on a line with center Billy Arnold and Johnny Gaudreau. Destry Straight, who had played right wing on that line, will shift to center on a line with Cam Spiro and Brendan Silk.
Although there is plenty of talent on the Eagles, who have won the NCAA title two of the last three years, York reminded that this is a different team from last year’s, which won 19 games in a row to close out the season.
“Our objectives are the same and we go about it the exact same, but there are a lot of different faces,” he said. “This is a team that has shown some good improvement as the year has gone on. We feel very confident, but we also understand Union has won the ECAC and they’re a Final Four team last year. They are all difficult draws but we don’t have to make a case for Union. We understand how good they are.’’
The loss to BU only made BC hungrier to compete this weekend.
“We played BU and we lost in that game and we’ll learn from it,’’ said York. “We haven’t seen Union, we’ve never played them in the history of the two schools, but we’ll do more work with ourselves. We know we have to get better at different things.’’
Unlike BC, Union finished strong. The Dutchmen shut out Yale, 5-0, in the ECAC semifinals, then beat Brown, 3-1, for the championship.
It was the second straight ECAC title under second-year coach Bennett, and the fourth straight year the Dutchmen have reached 20 victories. Junior goaltender Troy Grosenick has led the team to a six-game winning streak. In his last five outings, he has a 1.04 goals-against average and .966 save percentage.
The Dutchmen also have excellent special teams. They are the only team with a power play and penalty kill both ranked in the top seven in the nation.
Union has the No. 5 power play (40 of 174, 23 percent) and No. 7 penalty kill (130 of 150, 86.7 percent).
BC, meanwhile, has the No. 8 power play in the nation (34 of 154, 22.1 percent)
and the 17th-ranked penalty kill (156 of 184, 84.8 percent).
“Union certainly is one of those teams with a legitimate chance to win a national title,’’ said York. “We watched them play last year and they’re gritty, they are very well-schooled in fundamentals. Rick has them playing from the goal out, really good defense. They move pucks through, excellent special teams, so they concern me. All of us should be concerned with whoever we play and Union is no exception as we look at them. We’ve broken down some of their tape and their goaltender is one of the top netminders in the country, but we’ve seen that in our league a lot. We’re excited about playing.’’Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.