Boston College is not coming into this year's NCAA Hockey tournament playing its best hockey. But, how can anyone count out the Eagles? Jerry York's program has won three of the past five national titles. On the plus side for BC are four of the most dynamic forwards in college hockey, including sophomore Johnny Gaudreau, Hockey East Player of the Year.
When the NCAA Selection show unveiled the field for this year's tournament, BC's chances improved even more. The Eagles were sent to the East Regional in Providence, RI. On paper and based on history, the four-team region is the weakest in the field. Combined with BC's tradition of playing some of its best hockey in March and April, the weaker set of Regional teams greatly increases the Eagles' chances at making the Frozen Four in Pittsburgh.
Boston College opens the defense of its national title Saturday against Union College. The Dutchmen made the Frozen Four last season and are the two-time defending ECAC Tournament Champions. Rick Bennett's Union team is not a slouch, but compared to some of the three seeds BC could have faced from out West, it is a heck of a break.
If the Eagles are to advance to the regional final, they will face the winner of the Quinnipiac and Canisius game. Quinnipiac, the top seed in the region, was the regular season champion of the ECAC and the winner of 27 games this season. Canisius is the Cinderella team of the tournament. The Golden Griffins snuck in as the last overall seed, thanks to a run through the Atlantic Hockey Association Tournament. Dave Smith's team has won eight in a row with a hot goalie, but their best non-conference win was over Clarkson back in October.
The Eagles were on fire for most of the first half, hitting on all cylinders. BC has played well at times since the Christmas break, but have seen its fair share of disappointments. One such occasion was a weekend at the end of January when last place Maine came to Chestnut Hill and swept the Eagles on their home ice.
The most recent disappointment was blowing a 2-0 lead to arch-rival BU in the Hockey East Semifinals. The Eagles became undisciplined, taking too many penalties, and an emotional BU team playing for its coach took advantage for five unanswered goals.
"The first 30 minutes were some of the best hockey we've played all season long," said BC Associate Head Coach Mike Cavanaugh following that semifinal loss against BU. He added, "If we can play like we did the first 30 minutes, I like the way we're going into the regionals."
With Gaudreau, Steven Whitney, Pat Mullane and Bill Arnold on their side, the Eagles have by far more offensive skill than any other team in the Eastern Regional. Senior Patrick Wey was named the Hockey East Best Defensive Defenseman by the league coaches, and Michael Matheson was named to the Hockey East All-Rookie Team. The only concern for the Eagles is the lack of depth compared to previous teams in recent years.
Jerry York has missed four games with an eye issue this season, including the last two games of the Hockey East Tournament. However, the NCAA career-wins leader will return for the East Regional after his doctors gave him the go-ahead Monday.
The Eagles will be the two-seed, but the majority of the college hockey world will be shocked come Sunday night if Boston College is not moving on to Pittsburgh and the 2013 Frozen Four.
Jeff Cox covers college hockey for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.