The Boston College Eagles are by no means a shoe-in to win the Frozen Four this year- not as long as the No. 1 Minnesota Gophers are rolling over their opponents like they did last weekend. However, viewers learned far more about BC’s big game capability than they did about Minnesota’s this past weekend.
Though the Gophers killed Robert Morris and St. Cloud State in the Midwest Regional, outscoring their opponents 11-3, they’ve still yet to prove that they can win a big game in 2014. Don’t forget, Minnesota was knocked out of the Big Ten tournament in the first round by Ohio State, a team that gave up 100 goals this season. That’s second to last in the six team conference and 22 worse than Minnesota. Despite being No. 1 in the nation, one might argue that the Gophers haven’t done quite enough to earn that title this season.
Like the Gophers, the Eagles had some doubts to shake off after being bounced from the first round of their conference tournament- probably even more so, as they had an entire three game series to knock off Notre Dame. The Gophers lost in a one game playoff.
However, unlike Minnesota, BC had the opportunity to demonstrate two things in their game against UMass Lowell on Sunday in the Northeast Regional Final. Firstly, they scored four goals on Connor Hellebuyck, one of the best young goalies in the NCAA. “Helly”, a Calgary Flames prospect, had more shutouts than losses in his two years at the college level going into the NCAA Tournament. BC’s big gun, the Johnny Gaudreau – Kevin Hayes – Bill Arnold line, totaled four points in that game, proving that the Eagles’ skill players were in fact ready to play, even while grinding it out against a great goalie and a back-to-back Hockey East Tournament champion team.
And grinding- that’s the second part. The River Hawks were far from slouches on Sunday. BC and UML exchanged punch for punch, a goal apiece in the game’s first 41:04. The River Hawks even led for a brief 21 seconds. It wasn’t until the clock showed 8:44 in the third period that Eagles defenseman Ian McCoshen scored the game winner. Eight minutes and change is a long time to defend a one goal lead, especially against a hardy UML team that’s eager to go to their second Frozen Four in two years. If BC had caved, no one would have said much about it. If anything, the spotlight would have been on the River Hawks. Instead, the Eagles held strong with the game on the line. They absolutely looked like they belonged in the Frozen Four.
The underdogs that are left in this tournament- North Dakota and Union- definitely showed something this past weekend. The Fighting Sioux clawed their way past Big Ten Tournament Champion Wisconsin, as well as then Hobey Baker candidate goaltender in Ferris State’s C.J. Motte. Likewise, the Dutchmen took care of business against two teams from Hockey East, where even the middle of the pack can produce some tough outs. They outscored Vermont and Providence 8-3.
However, both of these teams are yet to confirm that they can skate with the likes of BC and Minnesota. The Gophers still have something to prove since losing 3-1 to the Buckeyes in the Big Ten Tournament, but the powerhouse haven’t stooped so low as to have anyone expect an upset against the Sioux. As the bracket stands, BC and Minnesota are still the teams to watch.
Still, while Minnesota remains an undeniable contender, BC has given hockey fans far more to digest with its performance this past weekend than the nation’s top ranked team. Forget what happened in the Hockey East Tournament. The Eagles are definitely gamers in 2014.