Back in 2010, Clifton Park native Patch Alber was a wide-eyed Boston College freshman defenseman who was mesmerized by playing in the NCAA hockey Frozen Four, and just happy to be there.
Two years later, Alber’s back in the Frozen Four. His eyes may not be as wide open as they were two years ago, but the excitement of playing for a championship is still there.
Alber and the top-ranked and top-seeded Eagles (31-10-1) will face sixth-ranked Minnesota (28-13-1) in the second Frozen Four semifinal tonight at 8 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Alber was a walk-on player his first two years. Because of several injuries on the defensive unit, Alber received plenty of playing time late in the season. That resulted in him playing in the Frozen Four at Ford Field in Detroit, home of the NFL’s Detroit Lions. Alber scored his first collegiate goal and had a defensive rating of plus-3 as the Eagles rolled to a 7-1 win over Miami (Ohio) in the semifinals. Two nights later, Alber was celebrating a national title as BC defeated Wisconsin, 5-0, in the championship game.
Gazette reporter Ken Schott provides video coverage of Frozen Four press conferences held Wednesday. Click HERE.
Having gone through that 2010 title run has gone a long way in helping Alber deal with the pressures of trying to win another championship.
“The experience gets you ready for what to expect, with the bright lights and everything that’s going on,” Alber said. “The first year was a shock to the senses, going out there and all the craziness that was going on. Now, with the experience of already doing it [winning the title] definitely helps us get ready.”
Alber was still a walk-on player last season. He played in 34 games, and had two goals and seven assists.
Before this season, BC coach Jerry York awarded the 20-year-old Alber a full athletic scholarship. He rewarded York’s faith in him by playing in all 42 games this season. Alber has a goal and a career-high 13 assists with a plus-15 defensive rating.
“It definitely shows they have confidence in the way I play,” Alber said. “It helped me loosen up a little bit, and I just kind of played my game. This year, I tried to chip in a little bit more offensively than I had in years past. I’ve been trying to improve upon my sophomore campaign, and I’m just trying to get better than I was my freshman and sophomore years.
BC senior defenseman and team captain Tommy Cross admires the work Alber has put in.
“Patch is playing a huge role on our team this year,” Cross said. “He’s one of our best skaters. He’s great at going back at getting pucks and moving them out of our zone. For a smaller guy, he competes hard. He’s really strong on his skates. He brings a lot to the table on the ice. He’s a good penalty killer. He’s tough to play against.
“In the locker room, he’s a great character guy. He’s a really good teammate. Everyone looks up to him for his work ethic and compete level. In his three years here, we’ve seen him go from walk-on to playing a significant role. He plays well in big games. He had one of his best weekends [last] weekend [in the Northeast Regional].”
The Eagles are the hottest team coming into the Frozen Four. They have won 17 straight games, with their last loss being against Maine, 7-4, on Jan. 21. During the run, BC has outscored its opponents, 67-19.
They won the Hockey East regular-season and tournament championships, and then captured the Northeast Regional title by beating Air Force and defending NCAA-champion Minnesota Duluth by a combined 6-0.
“We’re on an unbelievable roll right now,” Alber said. “Everything’s just coming together for this team. “
If BC beats Minnesota, it could face Union in Saturday’s championship game at 7 p.m. Alber would love that.
“That would be awesome,” Alber said. “Growing up, I played at Union in the Sectional [II] finals when I was in high school [at Shenendehowa]. I was always excited to play in that rink. I watched them and RPI growing up. It would definitely be exciting to play against the hometown team.”