The Boston University Terriers are the No. 2 team in the nation headed into the Hockey East semifinals this weekend after holding the top spot for six straight weeks and seven times overall this season.
BU finished the season with a 16-game unbeaten streak and won the Hockey East regular-season championship. After beating Maine in three games to advance to a tilt with arch-rival Boston College in the Hockey East semifinals this Friday, the 2008-09 Terriers (29-6-4, 18-5-4 in the Hockey East), are starting to be thought of as one of the best BU teams in the program's storied history, and some in the college hockey world believe a Hockey East championship and NCAA tournament championship run could put them in the history books as one of the best teams ever.
Since neither accomplishment has been achieved yet, however, don't bother asking the Terriers or their legendary coach, Jack Parker, if he and his players agree with such claims. In his 36th year behind the bench, Parker knows that with the one-game elimination format of the Hockey East semifinals and finals, as well as the NCAA tournament, anything can happen.
"Sure, I'll agree we've got a lot of depth and talent in goal, on defense and in front," Parker said. "We are very high scoring, good defensively, good on the power play and our numbers are tops in the league. That makes for a successful regular season and we showed that by winning the regular-season championship. But the thing that will make us a great team is if we bring that talent along with the right attitude and focus to continue to win something bigger than we have already won. To win one of those titles (Hockey East or NCAA) makes it a really terrific BU hockey team, and to win both makes the team one of the best ever."
Parker knows his players understand the chance at history that lies in front of them, but he also is confident they won't get ahead of themselves.
"We are not new to the block," Parker said. "We have quite a history of success in college hockey for a period of time. Winning a lot of games during the season is nice, winning Beanpot is important and nice, but winning a Hockey East championship in mid-March or the NCAA championship in mid-April, that is a feather in someone's hat and we want that feather in our hat again."
Senior defenseman and co-captain Matt Gilroy
, who led all Hockey East blueliners with 32 points and who will be a highly sought free agent by NHL teams this summer, concurred with his coach.
"We aren't there yet," said Gilroy. "I mean, if you go back to the great teams at BU, they won hockey championships, and we have a ways to go to be noted as one of the best teams. That being said, we're confident we can achieve that status with the group we have here. We have a great combination of guys that work hard and are skilled, so that's the right mix. We just need to continue that hard work and stay focused game-by-game.
"Every line and every player, this is such a talented team. Kids can make big plays. The most important thing is that we are a team and we all work our tails off every game. We try to break it down to periods and win those 20 minutes. We want to win each period. Everyone clicks with it and everyone has bought into the system and that is why we have been so successful."
The Terriers came into the season with a bad taste in their mouth after losing last season in the Hockey East semifinals to Vermont and missing the NCAA tournament. According to Gilroy, the players really wanted to redeem themselves this season and continue the program's winning tradition.
"I think the guys, when we first got here, we hated the way things ended last year and I don't think the players forgot that," Gilroy said. "It was a long, long summer after losing in the semifinals and the guys remembered that all this season. We want to be one of those great BU teams and not be remembered for last season."
Hobey Baker candidate Colin Wilson
, who is third nationally in scoring with 49 points in 37 games, also knows his team will be judged for what it does over the next month.
"We still haven't really done everything we want or what it takes to be put up there with all those great BU teams," said Wilson. "We have a lot of potential and great players, but to go ahead and say that we are one of the best hockey teams, it is a little soon to say anything like that. We want to win championships and then we can think about that. Until then, we're going to keep working hard and hopefully get to where we need to be."
Parker believes this group can leave a legacy, but that legacy won't be based on regular-season results.
"If college hockey stopped right now forever and was based on this regular season, then yes, this BU hockey team would be one of the best ever," he said. "But no hockey season ends at the regular season. Legacies for the individuals like Gilroy or Wilson won't be based on them being All-Americans. The legacies will be that they won something big at BU and that will be the same legacy for the team. Those things determine where this team stands on the list of great teams."
-- The late Shawn Walsh, who coached the 1992-93 Maine Black Bears to a remarkable 42-1-2 record and Hockey East and NCAA championships, was awarded the top coaching performance in Hockey East history as part of the conference's 25-year anniversary. The memorable 5-4 come-from-behind win against Lake Superior State in the national title game earned Maine its first NCAA title and also marked the first time a Hockey East school captured the national crown. Maine's Paul Kariya
was the 1993 Hockey East Player of the Year Hobey Baker Award winner that season. The team also was named the greatest in conference history. ... According to a report in Wednesday’s Bowling Green Sentinel Tribune, the Bowling Green men's ice hockey program could be in danger of folding. According to the report, the University's Board of Trustees is looking at potential budget cuts after the state school reported an expected shortfall of between $6 million and $10 million when the new state budget goes into effect July 1. The hockey program is part of an athletic department that lost more than $750,000 this year, something Trustee Michael Marsh said happened despite the department's "best efforts." "That can't continue," said Marsh. "The academic departments know they are in for severe changes and athletics can't be treated any differently."