Sunday April 11th, 2010

DETROIT -- Give the game puck to the coach after Boston College's 5-0 victory in the Frozen Four championship game against Wisconsin on Saturday night. BC's Jerry York may be as good as any skipper in the game at building a philosophy and sticking to it. After his team beat Miami (Ohio) on Thursday by a 7-1 score -- BC can boast to besting two powerhouses by a combined score of 12-1 -- each time with his team pulling away in decisive third periods. Cam Atkinson scored twice for the Eagles and John Muse made 20 saves, but really there was no Eagle out of step all night. They blocked shots, disrupted passing lanes, prevented rebounds and made not a single turnover that led to a point-blank scoring chance all night.

"Smart disciplined players," York said of his team. They've learned what it takes to win." In fact, his senior class finished its career with two national titles and a mark of 25-2 in tournament play. It was a stellar mark, considering the squad bounced back from failing to make the NCAA tournament in 2009 after its victory in 2008. In all, the senior class finished with 101 victories. After some indifferent play during the season, including a 3-5 stretch in December, the team finished the year with a 12-0-1 mark and trailed for all of 55 seconds over the last 13 games. For York, the victory marked the 33rd of his collegiate career in the NCAA tournament, the most of any coach in history. He's tied for third all-time in national titles with four, including his first one with Bowling Green in 1984. He has 850 career wins, second-most in NCAA history, in 38 seasons, including 16 at BC.

York traditionally builds teams with players that are well-suited for the college game: Skilled, quick, speedy, able to make big ice seem smaller. Many are not necessarily big. Think Brian Gionta, an undersized star at BC before he went on to surprise critics and become a successful sniper in the NHL. Earlier in the season, York brought together a line of shorter players who complemented each other's skills and formed one of the top lines in college hockey: Atkinson (5-foot-'8), Joe Whiney (5-6) and Brian Gibbons (5-8). "Everybody talks about their quickness," York says, "but our players are strong on their skates. They may be short in stature, but you can't underestimate their strength or their smarts."

The Eagles' first goal was a perfect example of both. On a power play midway through the first period, Joe Whitney sent a pass from the left point off the right boards to his brother, Steven. Repeating a play that worked earlier in the tournament, the younger brother then wound up for a point shot but instead fired a hard pass into the slot, where Ben Smith, nudged his way into open space, accepted the pass and fired a shot past Wisconsin goalie Scott Gudmandson, who was still moving to his right and not yet set for the shot. That strike at 12:57 held up until the third period when BC added four more goals, including two by Atkinson and one each for Chris Kreider and Matt Price.

The game also wrote another chapter in the rivalry between York and Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves. More than three decades ago, When York was coaching at Clarkson, York tried to recruit him, but Eaves chose to attend Wisconsin instead and won a national title with the Badgers. Eaves' two sons, Ben and Patrick, went on to play for York at BC. Both coaches addressed the matter this week.

York: "I'm still mad at Michael for not coming to Clarkson. I was at Clarkson in the 70s and he was a high-scoring forward in the Ottawa area, and we recruited him pretty hard. He went to Wisconsin. It softened a little bit when I got the chance to coach Ben and Patrick. They were such great players for our team and for college hockey. I've noticed that a lot of the times, coaches' sons just understand the game better. Mike did a great job raising his two boys as far as hockey players and they're good people, too. So, I have more appreciation for Mike now that I did back in the 70s. He's done some amazing things with the Badgers. He's an awfully good coach."

Eaves (before the title game): "Well I'm going to use Patrick's response, which I think is brilliant. He said they're kind of in a win-win situation because they are going to win no matter what happens. Either their alma mater is going to win or their dad is going to win. I think that's a great answer, but it's tough to remember back that far. I was 17 and I came to Wisconsin in the springtime and didn't have a chance to see a game in the rink; but I just fell in love with the campus, and that's where I felt the most comfortable in my heart. I went with that feeling."

The tournament, which took place in the Detroit Lions' home of Ford Field, was the first played in something larger than a traditional hockey arena and required more than a thousand feet of newly installed pipe to construct. The final drew 37,592 fans and 72,546 for the two days. At times the ice was noticeably choppy and the crowd noise seemed to get lost in the building's spacious confines. "The ice was the same for both teams," Eaves insisted diplomatically. "It bounced the same for them as it did for us."

The tournament marked the first time in Frozen Four history the semifinal and final games were all decided by five goals or more. On Thursday, Wisconsin defeated Rochester Institute of Technology, 8-1, and BC bounced Miami, 7-1, to reach Saturday's final.

Wisconsin's Blake Geoffrion was named the Hobey Baker Award winner this weekend, emblematic of the top collegiate hockey player in the nation. The senior forward became the first Badger to win the award. He was named MVP of the West Regional earlier in the tournament. During the season, Geoffrion amassed 28 goals and 50 points in 39 games. He ranked tops in the nation with 15 power-play goals. He is second-round draft pick of the Predators. Geoffrion's hockey genes are impressive and the name is legendary in Montreal. His father, Danny, played three seasons in the NHL. His grandfather was hockey legend Bernie 'Boom Boom' Geoffrion, a Hall of Famer credited with originating the slapshot while with the Canadiens. His great-grandfather, Howie Morenz, became one of the game's first true superstars while playing in Montreal.

Two Badgers earned first-team all-America honors this weekend, as junior defenseman Brendan Smith and Geoffrion won the honors. No Eagle was named to either the first or second team.

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