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Saturday, December 1, 2012
Jerry York ties wins record

By Brion O'Connor
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- One win at a time. Win after win after win. Finally, after 40-plus seasons behind the bench, Boston College hockey coach Jerry York has reached a milestone many hockey observers thought was beyond reach.

With the Eagles 5-2 victory over rival Boston University before 7,884 fans at BC's Conte Forum on Saturday, York tied the collegiate mark of 924 wins set by Ron Mason.

"It's an honor to be part of this experience, and to play for coach York here at BC," said BC's Bill Arnold, who led the Eagles with two power-play goals against the Terriers. "He won't talk about it, but he's obviously changed the lives of all the guys on the team. To be able to give something back to him, and get this record for him, is something we all wanted to do."

It was York's 457th win behind the bench of his alma mater, where he has coached four national champions since 1994, justifying the banner that hangs in the corner of Conte Forum, "In York We Trust."

Just as importantly to York, the win allowed the top-ranked Eagles (11-2-0; 10-2-0 Hockey East) to take the season series against their archrivals, bouncing back after the No. 9 Terriers (8-5-0; 6-4-0 HE) grabbed the front end of the weekend doubleheader, 4-2, on Friday.

"He deserves all the accolades," said BU coach Jack Parker, who sits third on the all-time win list, with 884. "It's hard for people to believe this, because he's been around so long and been so successful, and he's won so many games, but I still don't think he gets the credit he deserves.

"He's a very good coach who's run great programs at three different places, and has done an unbelievable job making this program the best it's ever been," said Parker, adding that he was glad he didn't have to congratulate York on setting the record against BU. "This is a place where they've had two other coaches who've won 500 games. It's had a lot of good hockey for a long, long time. And he's the best they've ever had."

For BC captain Pat Mullane, bouncing back from Friday's loss at BU to win on Saturday was indicative of the character that York instills in his teams.

"One of Coach's best attributes is the way he can bring a team together, and bring guys together," said Mullane. "It first starts with the guys he recruits. There's a lot of guys on our team that play fourth- or third-line duty that could be playing first-line duty at a lot of other schools, but they come here because they're willing to put the notoriety on the backburner and play for a championship team, and play for a team whose main goal is team first, me second.

"There's no place for selfishness or 'me' attitude at BC," he said. "It's everything for the team and this university."

Saturday's game started with chants of "Jerry! Jerry!" among the BC faithful anticipating a record-tying win, and it ended the same way. York's first opportunity to set the record comes Friday night, in Rhode Island, against the Providence Friars.

It's a record that Greg Brown, a BC alumnus and one of York's two associate head coaches, calls "mind boggling." BC's other associate head coach, Mike Cavanaugh, who has been at York's side for two decades dating back to York's tenure at Bowling Green, called the achievement "incredible."

"I look at it from my standpoint now. I'm 44 years old. If I were ever to get a head coaching job, I'm thinking if I coach for 20 years, that would be a lot," said Cavanaugh. "To get 500 wins, I'd have to average 25 a year."

Which is almost the pace that York has maintained for four decades, first at Clarkson, then at Bowling Green, and since 1994, at Boston College.

"Essentially," said Cavanaugh, York's victory haul represents "coaching for 40 years, and averaging almost 25 wins a year, which is remarkable. The benchmark for most schools is if you have a 20-win season, that's a pretty good season. You look around at all the top coaches, and see how many 20-win seasons they have. That's a pretty good season when you can get to 20." According to Brown, the record befits the man who he said embodies the school's motto, "Ever to Excel."

"He's the most positive coach I've ever been around, as far as positive reinforcement," said Brown. "No matter how things are going, if it's on the ice and it's not a lack of effort, he'll keep a positive attitude. He's very good about making the guys feel comfortable that they can go out and perform at the top of their game."

Like Parker, Cavanaugh acknowledge that Boston College typically gets blue-chip recruits, but few programs can get the same consistent results.

"The hockey program itself has a long, storied tradition. They've had great players for years, from the Red Martins and Jim Logues and Joey Mullins and Brian Leetches, it goes on and on, forever," said Cavanaugh. "No matter who the coach was here, you're going to get good hockey players. But what makes this special, is being able to take those players and make them feel like they're part of the community.

"So when you're going out to play a game, you really are proud to be part of Boston College," he said. "When you have an emotional attachment to the mission that you're trying to achieve, great things can happen."

True to himself, York said little about his accomplishment after the game.

"I try to block that stuff out, and stay in the moment," said the 67-year-old York. "But sometimes, when I have a chance to reflect, I started pretty slow at Clarkson, and thought I might not stay in this profession. And then Dave Taylor came to Clarkson and changed everything around for me. I think more of the players. We got Rob Blake to join us at Bowling green, and Brian Gionta here. And Nathan Gerbe. A lot of top-end guys. So I really reflect more on them."

After the game and the handshakes between the teams, the Eagles surrounded their coach, as the Boston College alma mater played. Then, with a quick wave to the BC fans, with his trademark notebook in hand, York quietly exited the rink without any additional fanfare.

"It's so hard to talk about it, because of the emotions," said York. "We always tell our players, if you put yourself above the team, good things are not going to happen. So whether its the coach is think about personal records, or the players are thinking about All-American or Hobey Baker, you don't succeed very often, you certainly don't win a lot."

Asked, though, if he took just a moment to enjoy the win, and tying the record, York chuckled.

"It's been a long time," he said, smiling. "A lot of Zambonis. A lot of busses."

Brion O'Connor is a regular contributor to ESPNBoston.com's college hockey coverage.