Boston College coach Jerry York on Wednesday said the anticipation of being in a Frozen Four was something special for him.
"So who knows if these are the four best teams in the country?" he said. "But we have earned the right to come here."
And game day is finally here.
Union College vs. Ferris State at 3:30 p.m. and BC vs. the Gophers at 7 p.m. in Tampa, Fla.
"To win one is certainly the stuff of dreams," said York, who has won three in his BC career in 2001, 2008 and 2010.
The Eagles' 17-game winning streak is not something his player dwell upon. There's a much bigger concern. "In the playoffs, if you lose, you go home," defenseman Tommy Cross said.
"We're hungry," senior forward Paul Carey said. "Last year wasn't the way we wanted to finish the season."
Colorado College, another WCHA, upset BC in the first round of the NCAA tournament in St. Louis. The Eagles were the third overall seed.
"It's a little different going from 90-degree weather onto the ice," Carey said. "But I think [the Tampa Bay Times Forum] is a great facility, great arena, venue, and we're excited to play here in Tampa Bay, and we've got a nice locker room, too.
"It's not easy to get here. But I think coach York has made it part of our culture, and each year he expects his teams to work hard and really try as hard as they can to get here."
VIEW OF GOPHERS
"The Gophers have been at the top of the national rankings all year," Cross said. "They come from a stories program with a lot of history. And for me, all you got to do is look at what they did last weekend or two weekends ago. They beat a really good Boston University team and a really good North Dakota team. So we know they've got a lot of good players.
"And Minnesota is playing some of their best hockey this season. And they like to play with speed and play with skill, and it should be a real exciting game."
Said Carey, "We know they can score a lot of goals. They just took over the most goals per game [nationally category] this past weekend. So I guess we are kind of focusing on that, and I think if we manage the puck correctly, then we'll be able to limit them."
"We're going to face a very, very good opponent," York said. "Haven't found many easy ones. When you get to this point, they're all tough."
This is York's 10th Frozen Four team in 15 years.
"It's making sure you have a lot of good players," York said, explaining the program's success. "And that is when players graduate, you recruit well, and your assistants do a good job recruiting, and then you have a lot of good players and they have to be focused on team goals.
"We feel at BC, that when you come into our program, that no one player is bigger than the Eagle. You're there for one purpose. You represent the school. Your focus is on winning trophies."
York said BC is winning because the players are playing smarter and goalie Parker Milner has gone from "a good goaltender to an exceptional goaltender. Assistant coach Jimmy Logue's done a great job with him. And Parker, he's not even close to what he was in November and December.
"... I thought goaltending was going to be a problem for us. Now it's a strength. He's matured, emotionally he's matured. His game's just a lot better.
Milner has not given up more than two goals in the past 16 games.
"He's been one of the real catalysts for us -- and here's a young guy that he did not make first-team all-league, did not make second team all-league, and did not get one vote for honorable mention [in Hockey East]. And probably rightfully so, if you thought about him and say is this Parker from January and December, but now you look at his numbers. ... This month and a half [he] has been phenomenal."
LIVE CHAT AT NOON
Want to talk Gophers hockey? Live chat is set for noon today at startribune.com/sports. I'm here in Tampa, Fla., have been since Tuesday soaking up as much college hockey as I can.
Went to all four news conferences on Wednesday -- and took notes. Put life and limb at risk by doing a video from players' bench during BC practice on Wednesday. No pucks came close, thankfully.
* The winner of the Hobey Baker Award will be named on a 5 p.m. show Friday on the NHL Network. The ceremony will be held at the MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. Three finalists are Jack Connolly of UMD -- probably the favorite because of his overall career, I know it is for this year but career stuff is right there to see -- Spencer Abbott of Maine and Austin Smith of Colgate. All are senior forwards.
* Eighty-three of 108 players in Frozen Four are from the U.S., most of the others from Canada. The Gophers are all U.S. players except for Erik Haula, who is from Finland.
Forty-eight played in the USHL, 13 in the NAHL, 11 in the EJHL and 1 in Northern Pacific Hockey League.
The Gophers have 15 NHL draft picks on their roster, BC has eight, Union and Ferris State none.
* Single-day tickets are now available for $110 for either Thursday's semifinals or Saturday's championship game.