Isaac MacLeod is off to his first Frozen Four this week and with his Boston College Eagles heading to Florida as the number one ranked team in the nation, anything less than a national championship would be a disappointment.
“The team is all really excited for the opportunity to win another national championship,” the Nelson Minor Hockey graduate told the Star. “We’re confident in our game and things are really clicking right now. We haven’t peaked yet and we’re improving every game, so we think we have a very good shot at winning.”
MacLeod is in his second season with the Eagles. Last season Boston College entered the NCAA tournament as one of the favourites, but were upset in the first round by Colorado College who relied heavily upon St. Louis Blues’ first round draft pick Jaden Schwartz.
In this year’s first round the Eagles were matched up against Air Force. With the number-one ranking confirmed just before the tournament opened on March 23, all the pressure was on the favourite.
“Obviously there were a lot of concerns going into the game from the media and outside influences talking about the same thing happening with Air Force as with Colorado College,” said MacLeod, who plays defence for the Eagles. “But in the dressing room everyone was really positive. We knew going into the game it was going to be a close game. Air Force has made the NCAA tournament five of the last six years and every year it has been a tough team to beat. They beat Michigan one year and just about every other game has gone to overtime or been a one-goal game. We felt confident in our game and our ability.”
As expected Air Force gave the Eagles a solid challenge.
“Air Force did their best to keep the game close and give themselves a chance to win, but at this time of year it doesn’t matter if you win by one goal or five, it’s all about advancing,” said MacLeod, who played for the Kootenay AAA Midget Ice, the Nelson Junior Leafs as a 16-year-old and then the Penticton Vees.
The Eagles then advanced to the Frozen Four with a convincing 4-0 win over Minnesota-Duluth on March 25.
“The Air Force game had way fewer offensive chances for both teams and was more about capitalizing on your chances,” said MacLeod, who was drafted by the San Jose Sharks in 2010. “The M-D game had more of a flow with chances either way and we were able to capitalize on ours, and our defense and goaltending were able to shut down M-D.
“None of the games at this time of year are easy though, the score might be a little one sided but the games feel close the whole way through no matter what.”
The win secured the Eagles spot in the Frozen Four which begins in Tampa Bay on Thursday.
“It’s a really exciting and surreal experience going to the Frozen Four,” said MacLeod. “There are a ton of NCAA hockey players who never get a chance in their careers to make it to the Frozen Four, so it’s pretty special. Boston College has been extremely fortunate to maintain its level of excellence over the past couple of years and our team is really looking forward to the opportunity this week.”
This will be Boston College’s 23rd appearance in the NCAA tournament’s Frozen Four. It also marks the program’s fifth Frozen Four appearance in the last seven seasons and its 10th in the last 15 seasons. The Eagles rank second in all-time Frozen Four appearances, just one behind Michigan. Since 1998, the Eagles have advanced the tournament’s Frozen Four more than any other team in the country.
The Eagles will take on University of Minnesota on Thursday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
“I don’t know a ton about them other than that they are a really strong team,” MacLeod said of the next test. “We’ve spent the week tuning up a couple of things and going over some film to help prepare for the game so we can be fully prepared come Thursday.”
The extra pressure of bringing home a national championship is compounded by the fact MacLeod and his teammates are also full time students.
“It can be a bit of a struggle, but it’s something that as a college athlete you have to be able to do,” MacLeod said. “I had a couple of tests last week which I had to study for and it wasn’t fun, but it was nice to get them out of the way so when I get to Tampa I won’t have to be worried about anything else other than hockey.”
Growing up, MacLeod has been on championship teams and said the feeling in the Boston College dressing room is one that bodes well for success.
“The major thing with our team is that everyone has bought into the program and what it’s about here at BC,” he said. “We have a lot of guys that could be playing major roles on other teams, but are willing to sit back and do what the team needs instead. Guys are willing to sacrifice for the betterment of the team, which creates a great environment to play and be a part of.”
Now all that awaits is the puck drop.