The Tampa Bay Times Forum is setting itself up quite nicely as the perfect venue to host one of college hockey’s most storied rivalries.
The climate within the arena is cold and icy, providing an accurate summation of the mutual dislike between traditional hockey powers Boston College and Minnesota, which will face off next Thursday in one of two national semifinals as part of the 2012 NCAA Frozen Four Tournament.
“It’s what we play for,” Boston College head coach Jerry York said earlier this week. “College hockey is built on rivalries, and what better of one to have than one with a chance to play for a national championship? No matter what you do all season, winning one or two big games in this tournament against some good teams is all it takes.”
In this case, that likely will prove easier said than done.
Boston College is Frozen Four royalty. It was part of the first event in 1948 along with Michigan, Colorado College and Dartmouth. The team’s current place in this year’s competition is its 23rd trip to the national semifinals, which is second all-time only to Michigan’s 24, and its fifth in the past seven years.
The Eagles have won the national championship four times, in 1949, 2001, 2008 and 2010, and enter the final field of four carrying with them a 17-game win streak.
“We’ve gone from being a good club, to a special club,” York added.
But Minnesota’s resume isn’t half bad either.
Together, the two schools have combined for nine national championships.
The Golden Gophers have five to their name, including three under legendary head coach Herb Brooks, he of the Miracle On Ice, in 1974, 1976 and 1979. The school then tacked on two more this century, collecting titles in 2002 and 2003.
Boston College and Minnesota square off at 8:00 p.m./ET on April 5th at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
“The two school are rich in tradition,” Minnesota head coach Don Lucia said. “Even though it’s the national semifinal game, I think it certainly has that championship-caliber feel to it.”
With Minnesota leading the all-time series against the Eagles, posting a record of 14-11-2, Lucia’s sentiments likely stem from the fact that nine of those 27 games have come in the NCAA tournament.
Come Thursday, however, neither Boston College nor Minnesota will be playing solely for bragging rights over the other.
“It’s about pride,” Golden Gophers forward Zach Budish said. “You want to give not only your school, but your home state good representation.”
Via a national media conference call earlier this week, Budish admitted that it was difficult watching in-state rival Minnesota-Duluth capture the NCAA title last season, an experience that led the sophomore forward to set a lofty goal for himself and his club at the beginning of this season.
“We needed,” he said, “to take over the State of Minnesota again.”
Likewise, Boston College endured a similar experience by watching crosstown rival Boston University win the 2009 NCAA title.
Either way, whether playing merely for school or state, the teams will have the opportunity to claim a title for both beginning next week.
“The mission of a college hockey team is to collect significant trophies,” York said. “And there's none shinier than the one they’re going to present a week from Saturday in Tampa Bay.”