In only his second season of college hockey, Isaac MacLeod reached the summit when his Boston College Eagles defeated the Ferris State Bulldogs in the NCAA Frozen Four final on Saturday night in Tampa Bay.
“It was pretty special, I was looking around just trying to take it all in,” MacLeod said of the final seconds of the 4-1 title game. “I couldn’t really believe it was actually happening. It was just a totally unreal moment.”
MacLeod grew up playing Nelson Minor Hockey, was a member of the Kootenay Ice Major Midget team, played with the Nelson Junior Leafs as a 16-year-old and then went onto play two seasons with the Penticton Vees of the BCHL. This is the defenceman’s sophomore season with Boston College.
The Eagles entered the NCAA Division I post season as the number-one ranked team in the United States after a great campaign that saw them enter the tournament on a 15-game winning streak. After a close 2-0 win over Air Force in the opening round of the tournament, the Eagles clamped down and powered their way to the title with a 4-0 win over Minnesota-Duluth and a 6-1 semi-final victory against the formidable University of Minnestota Golden Gophers.
“We just played within ourselves and stuck to our game plan,” MacLeod said of the dominant play the Eagles displayed in the final three games of the season. “We knew that if we did what we had been doing for the last number of games we would give ourselves a great chance to win. Everyone was excited and were stars in their own specific role which contributed to a great team effort.
“Obviously our goalie Parker Milner was a huge part of our success and he made this whole run possible.”
Milner — who has yet to be picked up by an NHL team — was named tournament MVP.
Despite the roll the Eagles found themselves on, MacLeod said there were some pre-game jitters heading into the final against Ferris State.
“Definitely,” he told the Star. “You try and play down the game and push the butterflies away, but as soon as you are getting ready to go on the ice you realize that this is it. You only get one shot so you have to make the most of it and that makes your stomach tighten a little, knowing you might not get another shot at this.”
MacLeod has been on championship teams before. He was a key part of the powerhouse Nelson Junior Leafs team that won the KIJHL title in 2009 under the coach Simon Wheeldon. MacLeod said the two teams had a lot in common.
“It’s definitely a special group of guys,” MacLeod said of the champion Eagles. “This year’s team and my team back in Nelson when we won are similar in how close we were as a team. Everyone on the team is great friends and it helps build the family atmosphere. Everyone becomes accountable and it makes you want to help the team win not only for you but for your teammates.
“It makes it really special.”
Part of what makes college sports south of the border are the fans. On Tuesday in Boston, students, alumni and fans gathered for a huge rally on campus to celebrate the team’s achievement. MacLeod said all along the support from Eagles’ fans has been tremendous.
“The support we receive is phenomenal,” he said. “The students and the band are a huge part of what makes college sports so special. They’re are a number of fans that live and die with the Eagles and we really appreciate that. It makes us want to do well that much more. It’s always more fun to play in front of a packed stadium and the students chants and cheers are a big part of what makes it so special.”
With two more years of college eligibility left, MacLeod hopes this is not the last time he tastes NCAA ultimate victory.
“There’s always next year, right now we get to enjoy the moment and celebrate but next year we’ll be back at it trying to repeat,” said MacLeod, who was drafted by the San Jose Sharks two years ago. “We’ll have a special opportunity in that we’ll be the only team in the nation with the chance to repeat. We’ll just try to continue our success and build on the legacy BC has been building.”
One of the perks of being an NCAA champion is a visit to the White House. In the fall, MacLeod and his Boston College teammates will pay a visit to President Barack Obama.
“It’s going to be quite the experience,” said MacLeod. “The trip will be next fall so that’s definitely going to be something I look forward to.”