MINNEAPOLIS — As Boston College’s Jerry York closed in on the record for most victories by an NCAA Division 1 hockey coach, he was asked frequently about the achievement.
He began the 2012-13 season at 913, needing just 11 to tie the mark held by Ron Mason. But York deflected the attention, focusing instead on team goals.
Although his players praised the job he did, molding the Eagles into a consistent contender, they, too, reflected York’s philosophy that no single person is greater than the whole.
But on Saturday afternoon, in front of a sparse crowd at Mariucci Arena that was nearly all Minnesota fans arriving early to wait for the Gophers to play the nightcap of the Mariucci Classic against Air Force, York won his 925th game to surpass Mason as the top-ranked Eagles beat Alabama-Huntsville, 5-2.
York had tied the mark against archrival Boston University Dec. 1.
York, whose team improved to 12-2-1, said it’s the type of achievement he will reflect on long down the road.
“Maybe when I sit down on some porch in 10 years thinking about it,’’ said York. “I’ve always been about team. When I was a player, I was like that. As a coach, I’ve been like that, so I haven’t really sought individual goals.
“I remember Brian Gionta in between [games of] a Frozen Four in 2001, they announced the Hobey Baker winner. We had just beaten Michigan and we were going to play North Dakota. The people came down to tell me [that Gionta wasn’t going to win]. You could tell I was upset that he wasn’t going to be a Hobey Baker winner and he said, ‘Hey Coach, I came here for one trophy.’
“I kind of feel the same way. I want to win major trophies for the team.’’
The Eagles have plenty of them under his guidance. York led BC to NCAA championships in 2001, 2008, 2010, and 2012, in addition to the one he earned with Bowling Green in 1984.
BC has been to 10 Frozen Fours during York’s tenure, including eight in the last 13 years.
He has helped the school capture nine Hockey East titles, with six in the last eight seasons.
No matter how much he wins, he is never satisfied until his next team adds to the vast trophy collection at The Heights.
As much as he is known for hockey knowledge, York brings an unbridled enthusiasm for the sport. Whether it’s pond hockey, a midseason game at Frozen Fenway Park, the Beanpot tournament, the Hockey East tournament, or the NCAA tournament, York is game to go.
“I was so surprised my freshman year,’’ said BC captain Pat Mullane. “The first practice of the year, I was obviously extremely excited, but he was twice as excited as anyone on the ice. It was the same my freshman year as senior year. A rainy, cold day in January, he’s still the most excited guy coming into the locker room.
“This year hasn’t changed. He is still the same optimistic, calm, composed Jerry York that I knew freshman year.’’
As much as he was asked about York approaching the record, Mullane said it was never a distraction for the team.
“It was almost the opposite,’’ said Mullane. “I think it motivated us. He’s given us a great opportunity to play for Boston College, and everyone in the room understood that we owed it to him to get it for him as soon as possible. It’s very special to be a part of.’’
BC was operating shorthanded Saturday, particularly on the blue line. Defenseman Isaac MacLeod, who suffered a shoulder injury in the last game of the semester Dec. 7, was expected to return but wasn’t ready. Senior Patch Alber was a late scratch with a knee injury.
The Eagles were also without top scorer Johnny Gaudreau, who is playing in the World Junior Tournament in Russia.
The Eagles jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the opening period on nine shots.
At 2:53, BC started the flurry when sophomore left wing Cam Spiro beat senior goalie John Griggs on a backhander. It was his first career goal in his seventh college game.
Junior center Bill Arnold doubled the lead at 11:15, tapping in a backhander from outside the left post with Griggs down and out.
Sophomore right wing Danny Linell potted his second of the year, off the rush with a shot from just outside the left post, to make it 3-0.
The Eagles chased Griggs at 1:23 of the second on a goal that was the result of an unfortunate bounce. Freshman right wing Brendan Silk took a shot from the left side and it caromed off Chargers defenseman Anderson White in front and sailed into the net for Silk’s second goal.
Alabama-Huntsville (3-15-1) broke through at 5:38 of the second during a power play to make it 4-1. Whitney closed BC’s offensive output at 9:08 of the third, and the Chargers added a late goal.
After the final horn sounded, the public address announcer acknowledged the record and the small crowd responded with a warm round of applause. York just held up his notebook in acknowledgement, then moved off the bench to the dressing room. After all, there are many more team goals to reach.
“Our kids are excited about winning games, we play to win trophies,’’ said York. “Our mind-set was to start the second half of the year and chase trophies and there is one available here tomorrow night.’’