Boston, MA -- Four of the most prestigious hockey programs in the United States will converge on the TD Banknorth Garden on Friday, March 21st and 22nd when the 24th Hockey East Championship returns to Causeway Street.
Friday's semifinal contest will feature top-seeded New Hampshire against #4 Boston College at 5:00 p.m. The second game will feature #2 Boston University and #3 Vermont at 8 p.m. Both semifinal games will be televised live by NESN and you can get your tickets here.
Undoubtedly, these four schools will bring many fans through North Station, all of whom think their team is the best in Hockey East.
Boston College coach Jerry York certainly knows how much this weekend means to his hockey team.
"I love the expression, 'Make It To The Garden'," said Coach York, via teleconference. "That might be our slogan for the next couple of years.
"I think it’s one of those weekends where, as a coach, or as a player, it puts a lot of stress and strain on your program because it is so important to get to the Garden. It something you focus on all year long.
"We’re excited about moving on and trying to secure a Lamoriello Cup," he said.
New Hampshire is in the way.
"They have a lot more wins than we do," said York. "Dick [Umile] has had an incredible year. But, that’s not unusual."
No, it's not. New Hampshire has long inspired fear in their opponents around the nation.
"We’re excited here at UNH to be heading down to Boston to play in the Hockey East Playoffs," said Umile. "We look forward to competing for the Hockey East Championship.
"UNH and BC is definitely a good match up and you’re going to see a lot of speed and a lot of skill."
And there is nothing wrong with playing in the home of the Black & Gold.
"This is a very difficult tournament to get to Boston to get into the finals," said the UNH bench boss. "And it's getting harder each year.
"It’s the home of the Bruins, it’s a big hockey town and to go there with your program is exciting."
You know what else is exciting -- BU vs. Vermont.
Longtime rivals in the ECAC, Vermont and BU have recreated that rivalry in Hockey East and Friday's game will just continue that trend.
"Well, we’re certainly very honored to be heading toward Boston on Thursday," said Vermont's head coach, Kevin Sneddon. "[And] I think a team that’s not prepared or battle tested might feel like it’s a disadvantage that we haven’t played there or played in front of a crowd like that.
"Our team is mentally prepared for this challenge because they’ve stepped up all year."
And in the house of Black & Gold, the Catamounts will face the Scarlet and White.
"It seems like both programs have had great second halves -- I know Jack (Parker) was probably not happy with his team the first half [and] I certainly wasn’t happy with our team the first half," said Sneddon. "Both teams have taken a big 180-degree turn…so, we’re playing against the team that’s probably one of the hottest teams in the country.
"Jack has done a fantastic job of turning their season around."
Coach Parker is no stranger to big games, and this is just another trip to the The Show -- or is it?
“Well it was like pulling teeth to advance to the Garden again," said Parker. "This is the fourth time in the last five years we’ve had to go to a third game in the quarterfinals.
"It’s a grind."
And BU has made it a grind for their opponents, recently, but the Terriers certainly have their hands (or paws) full.
"I’ll bet Vermont will have a huge crowd there," said the legendary Terrier coach. "They always travel well, and they will bring a big and enthusiastic crowd, so I don’t think that we have any advantage as far as BU having played in the Garden more often than Vermont."
Whomever is on the ice on Friday and Saturday, it's clear that the Hub of Hockey will again be home to some of the best on-ice action in the country.