|Flames prospect Johnny Gaudreau celebrates a goal in Boston College's 6-1 rout over Minnesota on Thursday that pushed them into the NCAA final on Saturday in Tampa Bay. (Getty Images)
TAMPA BAY, FL -- Boston College is accustomed to playing for a U.S. college championship. Ferris State is not.
That's the backdrop for Saturday night's Frozen Four title game between the Eagles (32-10-1), one of the America's elite hockey programs, and the Bulldogs (26-11-5), who are competing in only the program's second NCAA tournament. The Bulldogs compete at the Division II level in other sports.
Boston College, the overall No. 1 seed, won its 18th straight game Thursday night by dispatching Minnesota 6-1 in the semifinals. But even though the Eagles seem poised to earn the fifth national championship in program history — and third in five seasons — they are approaching Ferris State with caution.
"I hear this talk of David and Goliath, but I do not consider it to be that way," said Boston College coach Jerry York, in his 18th season with the Eagles. "Anybody that gets to the Frozen Four is a really great team. I said any of the four can win this thing. And now, down to two teams, any of the two can win it."
Boston College has outscored its NCAA tournament opponents 12-1. The Eagles have largely been fueled by goaltender Parker Milner, who had a shutout streak of 193 minutes, 49 seconds that was halted when Minnesota scored early in the third period.
"Parker has been playing unbelievable and everyone in our room knows that," Boston College senior defenceman Tommy Cross said. "It definitely gives you confidence to have a goaltender who's rock solid back there, who's on top of his game and has his confidence going. If his confidence is going, that spreads to the rest of the team."
Ferris State, which is seeking the school's first national championship in any sports, also has built substantial confidence. It began when the Bulldogs were ranked No. 1 nationally for two weeks earlier in the season. It continued during the NCAA tournament run, which included a 3-1 come-from-behind victory against Union College in Thursday's semifinals.
"I think it will give our team a little more confidence to be on the ice a little bit longer and to practice a couple more times before we play the big game on Saturday," Ferris State senior defenceman Chad Billins said. "We had some first-game jitters, but now they are out of the way. Getting that first game under your belt really helps."
Ferris State coach Bob Daniels said he has great respect for Boston College, particularly its overall speed and its depth in scoring lines. But he doesn't believe the Bulldogs will be intimidated by the title-game setting.
His players echoed that sentiment.
"You always want to play the best to be the best," said Ferris State senior forward Jordie Johnston, a native of Rosetown, Sask., and one of eight Canadians on the team. "It's a perfect opportunity for us to play a team that has been here numerous times, countless times. Being this is our first time, we can hopefully start creating a dynasty of our own. That's what we're here to do."
York, the Boston College coach, rejected the notion that Ferris State has nothing to lose in Saturday night's game.
"We want to win trophies," York said. "So everybody has got something to lose at this point, unless you don't want to win a trophy. We have our hands full. We understand the kind of program they have."