BOSTON — Boston Collegeplayers enjoy the responsibility that comes with the sweater. Every night, regardless of the opponent, the defending national champions take the ice as the favored team, and time and again this season, the Eagles have come out victorious.
Boston College ended Northeastern's season on Friday night with a 5-4 hang-on-for-dear-life victory in the Hockey East semifinals at the Garden. The Eagles will try to win their league-leading 10th tournament title on Saturday night.
It wasn't easy, as BC clung to the win after building a comfortable 5-2 lead, but Northeastern fired back with a pair of goals in the game's final four minutes. But the Eagles have been in this position before — greater stages, even — and they benefited from their experience.
"I think we enjoy that," said BC senior goalie John Muse, who has two national championship victories under his belt. "When you can come in as the top seed, we know everybody is going to be giving us their best game, and I think that helps us out a lot. When people give us their best games, we give them our best game. It's a lot easier to play teams when they're playing as hard as they can rather than teams that just roll over for us."
BC swept UNH during the final weekend of the season to win the Hockey East regular-season championship, and it's a win shy of claiming its second straight tournament championship. The Eagles, who have perhaps been the nation's premier program of the last decade, have won five Hockey East titles since 2001, including three of the last four.
They've already successfully defended their Beanpot crown, and they'll probably be a No. 1 seed in next weekend's Northeast Regional for the second year in a row, too.
Regardless of what happens on Saturday, the Eagles are in a much better position than their last national title defense, when they missed the NCAA tournament altogether in 2009. For that, BC's Jerry York was named Hockey East Coach of the Year during Thursday's awards banquet.
"We have more experience [this year]," Muse said. "Speaking for all three seniors, we don't want to go through what we went through our sophomore year. That was more embarrassing than anything, coming off a national championship and not even making the [NCAA tournament]. It's pretty embarrassing to do that. We want to get back to where we were last year, and I think we all worked hard to be able to do that."
Because of their credentials, the Eagles will be the target from here on out, just like they've been for the entire season. Not only does it not bother them, but they relish the opportunity. The players on BC's roster have more big-game experience than some entire conferences.
"It's fun to play in these games," said BC junior defenseman Tommy Cross, who had a goal and an assist against Northeastern. "We've played in some this season, definitely, and we like to play in them."
"We acknowledge it a little bit, but we just try to play our game," BC sophomore forward Steven Whitney said of being the favorites every night. "We know when we play a team, it's a big game for them. We know they're going to bring their best, so we have to bring our best every night. That's the only way we'll be able to win."
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