We've reached the final installment of our countdown of the 20 biggest stories in college hockey this past season, with the top 5.Here are the previous installments of this series: #6-10, #11-15, and, #16-20.
#5 Jerry York Breaks the All-Time Wins Record
Jerry York was already one of the most respected and beloved figures in all of college hockey, but he added onto that legacy on December 29th, when a 5-2 win over Alabama-Huntsville at the Mariucci Classic in Minneapolis gave York his 925th career victory, surpassing Ron Mason for number one on the all-time wins list among college hockey coaches.
The event itself was a little bittersweet. After roaring out to a 10-1-0 start to the season, there was a possibility of York breaking the record at home, against rival Boston University, but a loss across at BU the night prior, meant York only tied the record against the Terriers. The enjoyment of setting the record was also cut a bit short after the Eagles were demolished 8-1 by Minnesota the following night at the Mariucci Classic. That said, the somewhat quiet nature of the event seemed to fit York's humble nature perfectly.
#4 Yale Wins the National Title
It's hard to believe a team taking home college hockey's biggest prize only checks in at number four on this list, but Yale's seemingly improbable run showed just how flimsy college hockey's postseason can be.
Yale's season seemed to be over after a disastrous weekend at the ECAC tournament, where they were shut out twice, including in the third-place game to rival Quinnipiac, putting their postseason hopes in serious jeopardy. The Bulldogs spent Selection Sunday hoping that Notre Dame would defeat Michigan in the CCHA tournament final so that Yale could secure the final at-large bid at 15th in the Pairwise rankings.
But once they were in the tournament, the Bulldogs looked like a completely different team. They opened up the tournament by upsetting second overall seed Minnesota less than ten seconds into overtime. Next, they completed the WCHA sweep by upsetting North Dakota. At the Frozen Four, they crept past UMass-Lowell in overtime, and dominated Quinnipiac in an all-Connecticut final to claim their first ever national title, defeating three of the tournament's four #1 seeds in the process.
They were from a fluke--a regular season win in any of their three games against Quinnipiac would have had Yale in the tournament as a #2 seed-but their title did show just how random the single-elimination hockey tournament can be.
#3 The CCHA Closes Their Doors; The WCHA Breaks Up
It was another great season of hockey in the CCHA and WCHA, with conference title races coming down to the last weekend of the season, and the WCHA race in particular bringing its' usual excitement in the second half of the year as team's jockeyed for playoff positioning. But the specter of next year's conference realignment hung over the season like a dark cloud. Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson responded to a November fine by the CCHA for criticizing CCHA officiating by saying he was just looking forward to being in Hockey East next year. Even the final conference tournaments for the two leagues as we know them were overshadowed by the Big Ten and NCHC using the opportunity to announce details for their new conference tournaments next year.
It was sad to see what college hockey once was fade into the background, especially when many are skeptical of what the future will bring to the sport.
#2 Jack Parker Retires
The CCHA wasn't the only 40+ year institution to call it quits this year. After 47 years as a player or coach at Boston University, including 40 years as the team head's coach, Jack Parker announced that he would retire at the end of the season.
Like his cross-Boston rival Jerry York, Parker was one of the winningest and most respected coaches in college hockey. He finished his career with 876 wins, by far the most by any college hockey coach at a single school. He won three national titles with the Terriers('78, '95, ''09) and was named national coach of the year three times('75, '78, '09). He's coached numerous players to NHL careers, as well as coaching a good core of the 1980 US Olympic team.
Given the nature of college hockey coaching these days, it's unlikely that we'll ever see a coach at a major college program for as long as Parker was at Boston University.
#1 Quinnipiac Really Is That Good
Quinnipiac put together their best season in school history, and were arguably the top team in the country all season. The Bobcats went on a 21-game unbeaten streak in the middle of the season, which helped vault to them to the first national number one national ranking in school history. They clinched both their first ever ECAC regular season title, and the number one overall seed in the NCAA tournament by mid-February.
Debate swirled throughout the season about whether the Bobcats were really that good, or just the product of a weak schedule. Quinnipiac's detractors had their "I told you so.."'s ready when the Bobcats entered the NCAA tournament, but Quinnipiac proved they were legit by sweeping through the East regional, which contained reigning national champ Boston College, and defeated WCHA regular season champ St. Cloud in dominating fashion at the Frozen Four. They couldn't quite close the deal on their magical season, laying an egg in the national title game, but the fact that their title game loss came to a team they had dominated three times already in the regular season, showed it was more a fluke of single-elimination hockey.