Before the Boston College hockey team gathered in the players’ lounge to watch the NCAA Tournament selection show, coach Jerry York collected the trophies won this season by the Eagles and placed them on a table underneath the flat-screen TV.
There was the one for the Ice Breaker tournament, another for the Beanpot, two for the Hockey East regular-season and tournament titles. The veteran bench boss wanted his squad to be reminded of the rewards that come from hard work, believing in a team concept, and a commitment to excellence.
The Eagles’ next quest for hardware begins Saturday afternoon when the No. 1 seed takes on No. 4 Air Force (21-10-7) in the opener of the Northeast Regional at the DCU Center in Worcester.
BC (29-10-1) is one of four Hockey East teams to make it to the final 16. Maine (23-13-3), the team the Eagles beat in the league title game, is the No. 3 seed in the Northeast and will take on defending champion Minnesota-Duluth (24-9-6) Saturday night.
Of the local teams in the field, Boston University (23-14-1) has the farthest to travel as the No. 3 seed in the West Regional in St. Paul, and will face No. 2 Minnesota (26-13-1) on Saturday afternoon. UMass-Lowell (23-12-1) is the No. 3 seed in the East Regional and will square off against No. 2 Miami University (24-14-2) on Friday night at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn.
BC will be seeking its third national title in five years. The Eagles have won 15 games in a row.
“We’re confident in our game, but I think we’re also very humble and realistic,’’ said BC captain Tommy Cross. “If where we are at right now is our finished product this season, I don’t think that’s good for our team. We all know we have to keep getting better. I think that’s what’s great about this year’s team, we realize it.’’
Cross, a senior defenseman, said there is no room for complacency. Even though the Eagles have been successful and are on an impressive streak, he said there is plenty of hunger to keep it going.
“It’s one and done,’’ said Cross. “The only thing that matters now from here on out is a four-game winning streak. These are the four most important games of the year. Everyone resets. Whatever team gets four wins is going to be holding the trophy.’’
BC has faced Air Force five times over the years and won them all, but this is the first time they’ve faced off in the NCAA Tournament.
For BU, the road has been a good place to be this season. The Terriers are 11-4-1 away from Agganis Arena.
Captain Chris Connolly, whose brother, Jack, is also in the tournament as captain of Minnesota-Duluth, is pleased to be heading to his native state to play at the Xcel Energy Center.
“I think the guys will be excited once they get out there,’’ said Connolly, who was born in Duluth. “I don’t think they realize the type of building it is, the type of city, the type of fans who will be there, so it’s going to be pretty great. We’ve done pretty well on the road this year and I think we’ll rise to the occasion.’’
Even though Minnesota is normally enemy territory, the Terriers will have some built-in support in the form of North Dakota fans, whose team is playing Western Michigan in the same bracket. North Dakota views Minnesota the same way BU views BC.
“We’ll have some fans who are not BU fans, but will be just because we’re playing the Gophers,’’ said Connolly.
It’s the River Hawks’ first appearance in the NCAAs since 1996, and Maine’s first trip since 2007. This year marks the ninth time the league has sent four or more teams to the tournament.
Although each Hockey East team is capable of making it to Tampa for the Frozen Four, a favorite has to be BC, which is the No. 1 overall seed in the field.
“Coming off a St. Patrick’s Day victory in the Hockey East championship and then folding right into the selection show, it’s a terrific time to be associated with our program,’’ said York. “The NCAA basketball and NCAA hockey over the years, there have been so many upsets, it’s almost hard to call them upsets anymore, so we’re really on guard with [Air Force], we’re supposed to advance. We understand the team that plays the very best that night advances. This is a mini-tournament that leads to Tampa and the Frozen Four. So it’s our goal to win this mini-tournament and go to Tampa.’’
Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.