THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Eagles sent flying

NCAA 1st-round site is St. Louis

By Nancy Marrapese-Burrell
Globe Staff / March 21, 2011

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When the NCAA hockey selection program began airing yesterday morning, there was excitement in the Boston College locker room. But the buzz gave way to a business-like atmosphere as the Hockey East champion Eagles learned they would be a No. 1 seed in the West Regional at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, pitting them against No. 4 seed Colorado College Friday at 9 p.m.

It will be the first meeting between the schools since Dec. 27, 1998, in the Denver Cup. Overall, they have met 17 times, including three times in NCAA Tournament play, with BC winning two.

Former NHL coach turned TV analyst Barry Melrose said before ESPN2’s selection show started that North Dakota was going to win the NCAA title, and he followed that up during the program by saying that since BC goaltender John Muse is 8-0 in NCAA Tournament play, “I guess you could say he’s due [to lose].’’

Muse, who has two NCAA championship rings, sat watching with his teammates, expressionless.

That, in addition to all the praise levied on the team during the half-hour, such as Melrose’s prediction that BC will contend for a second straight title despite his Fighting Sioux pick, rolled off their backs, and Eagles captain Joe Whitney said they don’t concern themselves with outside distractions — positive or negative.

“It’s background stuff . . . it’s just stuff we don’t really pay attention to,’’ said Whitney. “Sometimes it’s not easy to do, to ignore that type of stuff when it’s right there in front of you, but with the experience on our team, we don’t listen to that stuff, it’s just background noise. We’re just focused, and now we know the teams are set in stone and we’re just going to try to go after this thing.’’

Coach Jerry York said he and Colorado College coach Scott Owens saw each other last summer when both were in Switzerland at a tournament and discussed scheduling a game between them.

“We were trying to think of scheduling down the road,’’ said York. “And all of a sudden . . . ’’

Merrimack, making its first trip to the NCAA regionals since joining Hockey East and first since 1988, is the No. 2 seed in the Northeast Regional and will play No. 3 seed Notre Dame in Manchester, N.H., at the Verizon Wireless Arena Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Host team New Hampshire, the No. 4 seed, will play the 4 p.m. game against No. 1 seed Miami, which won the CCHA championship.

The Warriors were still smarting over their loss to BC Saturday night in the Hockey East title game, but they were excited that their season will continue right in their own backyard.

“We’re still dealing with the loss,’’ said Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy. “It should be a natural process. You play these games to win and when you don’t, it stings, but the further away from it you get, the better you feel. Then, to make the NCAA Tournament lessens the sting that much more.

“All you really want for your team is to take a step forward, and even in a loss, I thought we did that. We’re thrilled to be going to Manchester.’’

The Warriors haven’t played Notre Dame since Nov. 26, 1991. The Irish lead the series, 3-2, and the teams have split two meetings since Merrimack moved to Division 1 in 1988-89.

“It’s funny because our new president [Dr. Christopher Hopey], the only thing he has ever asked me to do is try to schedule Notre Dame,’’ said Dennehy. “So I said to him, ‘It took me six months, but we finally got it done.’

“It’s a thrill to be able to play in an NCAA Tournament first and to play such a respected program as Notre Dame [makes it even better].’’

Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at marrapese@globe.com.