April 6, 2007
NCAA Frozen Four Notebook
Feels So Right
Title game coaches harken back to earlier triumphs

By Joe Gladziszewski and Mike Eidelbes

ST. LOUIS – Boston College coach Jerry York and Clarkson coach George Roll exchange text messages often. But one recent exchange between the two is more significant. Prior to BC's departure for St. Louis, the topic of Bowling Green's 1984 championship came up and "feeling the magic" from that year a team that York coached and Roll played on.

Bston College coach Jerry York led the Eagles to a national championship in 2001, and guided Bowling Green to a title in 1984.

Even though that team captured a championship 23 years ago, its impact remains timely. All championship teams have something in common, and it's something that Jerry York and Rick Comley know from leading teams to championships in past years.

Boston College's York led Bowling Green to a title in 1984 and Boston College to a title in 2001. He said this current team has some of the traits that those prior national championship outfits possessed.

"There are more similarities than dissimilarities," York said. "You've got to have great players, you've got to get on a roll, and you have to have excellent team unity."

Comley won a national title with Northern Michigan in 1991. While that team was a more explosive offensive team, the mindset in the locker room was similar to this 2007 group of Spartans.

"Attitude, I think more than anything else, just the personality and the make-up," Comley said. "Our senior class has had a tremendous year. They don't put up a lot of points but their attitude, their approach has been great. I'd say that our strength is our leadership."

Drawing on past experiences will help on Saturday night, when the coaches will try to add another national championship to the distinguished hockey histories of their respective institutions.

SEEN AND HEARD AT THE SCOTTRADE CENTER

• If Michigan State wins on Saturday, Rick Comley will become just the third coach to lead two different schools to national championships in Division I men's ice hockey. The others are Ned Harkness (Cornell and Rensselaer) and, of course, tomorrow night's opponent Jerry York (Bowling Green and Boston College).

• Both Comley and York have followed Michigan State Director of Athletics Ron Mason on the coaching trail. After Mason left Lake Superior State in 1973, Comley was the Lakers' next head coach. Mason then went to Bowling Green, leaving that post in 1979 and York succeeded Mason in Bowling Green. After Mason moved from the bench at Munn Ice Arena to his current administrative position, Comley again stepped in and became Michigan State's head coach.

Michigan State goaltender Jeff Lerg can help coach Rick Comley join an exclusive group with a win in tomorrow's championship game.

• While many teams dress for practice by having their players wear colored sweaters coordinated by forward lines with different colors reserved for defensemen, Boston College divides the team into two groups only, with 11 players wearing maroon practice sweaters and 11 players dressed in gold. The coaching staff borrowed the idea from Boston College women's ice hockey coach Tom Mutch and said it helps them in some drills and scrimmages they use.

• Boston College brought some of the local lingo to the Midwest. During a 2-on-1 drill, BC forwards entered the zone ahead of the puck and Brian Boyle shouted from the bench, "Wicked offsides!"

• Spartan defenseman Tyler Howells was a part of a championship team when he won the Minnesota State High School tournament with Holy Angels, and he said that atmosphere of playing in a packed, professional arena helped prepared him for the Frozen Four.

• Michigan State reserve goaltender Steve Mnich received a text message after Thursday afternoon's semifinal win from one of his teaching assistants back in East Lansing. The TA created an impromptu field trip, relocating the class to a local bar that is famous for serving several varieties of chicken wings, and the class enjoyed the game.

• MSU forward Zak McClellan used some of his post-practice down time to record another installment of his "In the Box with Zak McClellan" video feature, which can be found on the Spartans' web site. McClellan, a junior from Frankenmuth, Mich., interviewed kids hanging out by the walkway leading from the MSU bench to the team's locker room.

Spartan captain Chris Lawrence, a senior forward, turned 25 last month. He's often teased by his teammates about his advanced age, as he told reporters gathered for MSU's post-practice press conference.

"I get teased about my age, but not as much as Zak," Lawrence said, referring to the 24-year-old McClellan. "He looks like he's 40."

• Considering that all but a handful of Michigan State players weren't even born when the songs were popular, the tunes emanating from the Spartans' locker room following the team's practice had a decidedly mid-80s feel. Among the choice cuts: Stevie Wonder's "Part-Time Lover," "Break My Stride" by Matthew Wilder, and "Easy Lover," the Phillip Bailey-Phil Collins collaboration. What, no Kenny Loggins?

• The final word on the Spartan locker room: We're not sure what this means with regard to tomorrow's outcome, but the loosey-goosey atmosphere in the MSU room reminds us of the free spirits who filled the wooden stalls in the Denver locker room at the 2004 Frozen Four in Boston.

• A brief stroll of the Scottrade Center concourse turned up a handful of links to college hockey among the various artifacts and tributes on display. The most obvious were giant photos commemorating former St. Louis Blues greats — among those honored were Michigan coach Red Berenson; Bob Gassoff, an ex-Blue whose son, Bob, played for Berenson; and goaltender Glenn Hall, whose grandson is Grant Stevenson, the former Minnesota State forward who now plays for the San Jose Sharks.

There's nothing on display inside the rink honoring Brett Hull, the ex-Minnesota Duluth star. The Blues have retired his number, but the banners have been removed from the arena for the Frozen Four. The stretch of road that runs along thie east side of the Scottrade Center was named Brett Hull Way this February.