Jerry York’s last National Championship was also the only one that happened while I was a student as Boston College, so this one will always have a special place in my heart. The 2011-2012 Boston College Men’s Hockey season remains my single favorite season of watching a York lead team and man, does it still make me smile going back to look at some of the highlights all these years later.
First off, this team was absolutely stacked with talent. Looking back at the roster, it really feels like there was the perfect blend of guys you could just tell were going to have an impact at the NHL level and guys who were really, really solid four-year college players. Tommy Cross, Barry Almeida, and Paul Carey wore the letters for the Eagles while Parker Milner became the full time starting goalie in his junior year. Other solid players like Steven Whitney and Pat Mullane made big impacts throughout the season as well. They were joined by a number of players who are still enjoying success in the NHL today. Chris Kreider (a first round draft pick) was a junior, as was Brian Dumoulin on the blue line. Kevin Hayes (another first round pick) was entering his sophomore year, and a 5’7” Johnny Gaudreau was about to begin his collegiate career. There’s plenty more players who had a big role on the 2011-12 team that I didn’t even mention here, but the overall point remains. On paper, this team was loaded.
BC got off to a fine start in 2011-12, going 8-1 out of the box to get their season going. The opening two games of the season were a 5-2 win over Michigan State and a 6-2 win over North Dakota, and it already felt like we could be in for something special. After a home opener loss to Denver, BC ripped off six straight conference wins and it really looked like they were ready to go on a bit of a roll. As it turned out, they did have an incredible run coming, but we were a few months away from that.
The middle of the season, however, was a bit of a mess. After that nice six-game winning streak, BC went 6-9-1 in their next 16 games, with some really ugly losses sprinkled in. The Eagles lost two games to BU (including an ugly 5-0 loss at home), dropped a game to Notre Dame, and got shut out by a UMass team who finished the season tied for second to last in the conference. The really ugly games came on January 20 and 21, when BC lost both games of a road series to Maine, including a 7-4 loss in game two, and saw their record drop to 14-10-1.
And that was it for the losing. After BC’s loss to Maine on January 21, they had 11 games remaining in their regular season. They won them all, and they won a lot of them in blowout fashion. Some of the highlights included a 7-1 win over Northeastern in the first round of the Beanpot, a thrilling 3-2 overtime win over BU in the tournament’s final, and three wins over Vermont by a combined score of 15-2. This was the time of year Jerry York liked to call ‘trophy season’ and did his team ever peak at the right time. The 11 straight wins were enough to clinch the regular season Hockey East title for BC for the second straight season.
They didn’t let up in the Hockey East Tournament either, winning two surprisingly close games over UMass to advance to the semifinals where they knocked off Providence 4-2. They somewhat surprisingly matched up with the four seed Maine, the last team to beat them all the way back in January, but there would be no repeat of that. The Eagles took down Maine 4-1 to win their third straight Hockey East Tournament and wrap up a #1 seed with their 15th straight win.
Then came the NCAA Tournament. If you don’t remember or if you weren’t following super closely back then, I’d highly recommend checking out some highlights, because this was an absolutely dominant four-game stretch. On their way to the national championship, BC faced off with Air Force, Minnesota-Duluth, Minnesota, and finally with Ferris State in the finals. The Eagles won those four games by a combined score of 16-2, and even that scoreline doesn’t feel like it’s doing these games justice. BC didn’t allow a single goal in their first two games before facing Minnesota in the semifinals. Minnesota’s start to the tournament had been just as impressive, blowing out a good BU team 7-3 in their opener before taking down North Dakota 5-2 to advance to the Frozen Four.
And they didn’t belong on the same ice as BC. The Eagles effectively wrapped things up in two periods, taking a 4-0 lead into intermission after a flurry of goals late in the period. And when Parker Milner finally did concede his first goal of the tournament, the Eagles got it right back 20 seconds later. The final score of 6-1 felt deserved and it sent BC into the championship game against a Ferris State team on a bit of an incredible run. And to their credit, Ferris State gave BC what was probably their toughest game of the tournament. BC was only up 2-1 with about three minutes left in regulation and Ferris State pushing for the tying goal. And then, well....
One of the best moments of my life as a sports fan and an absolutely perfect way to end the season.
For my money, the 2011-2012 team is the best BC men’s hockey team we’ve seen in recent history. The way they played from the end of January until their national championship might be the most dominant run I’ve ever seen from them and it was just incredible to watch. And it’s crazy to think that this happened a decade ago, because so many of the memories that I have from that run at the end of the season are still so fresh inside my head. The 19-game winning streak to end the season remains my absolute favorite stretch of Boston College hockey, and I’m so glad that it got to end with Jerry York lifting that trophy one more time.