From the FreeP: Banner raising marks end of championship journey

By Cary Betagole, Daily Free Press Staff

Boston University men’s hockey coach Jack Parker has stressed it. So has junior captain Kevin Shattenkirk:

This is a new season. It’s time to turn the page.

But history wasn’t feeling submissive Saturday night inside Agganis Arena, wrestling for one last night in its six-month long monopoly of the BU consciousness.

Drunk with nostalgia, the BU hockey family hardly needed a nudge, as the unveiling of BU’s 2008-09 championship banners was met with an energy more commonly found at a religious service than a hockey arena.

“Just sitting on the goal line, you just get chills thinking back to how it happened and the journey we went through with the ups and downs,” junior forward Joe Pereira said, who watched with the rest of his teammates single file on the blue line.

“You think back on the players when you see the parents from last year’s team and you’re like, ‘Wow, we did something special and we’ll be remembered forever together.’ It’s pretty special –– definitely got goosebumps and chills.”

Parents of departed Terriers Brian Strait, Steve Smolinsky, Jason Lawrence, Chris Higgins and Matt Gilroy were on hand to manually unfurl, in order of their capture, canvases representing each of the Terriers’ main triumphs from a year ago: the Beanpot, the Hockey East regular season, the Hockey East Tournament, the Frozen Four and, finally, the NCAA Tournament championship.

“I thought it was nicely done,” Parker said. “It was nice to have all the trophies out there and let the fans see one more time what a great year last year was.”

Sitting at the head of a T-shaped red carpet arrangement, Athletic Director Mike Lynch led the ceremony with his assessment of last season’s run.

“It was one of the most remarkable runs by a team in the history of college athletics,” he said. “This building was built for one reason, and one reason only, to bring the national championship right back here.”

Then the lights were dimmed and a video played reviewing last season’s highlights. Applause grew to a roar as a slow-motion replay of Colby Cohen’s knuckler inched closer and closer to Miami’s net.

When the lights returned, each group of parents had aligned themselves underneath the banner they would drop.

A chant of, “Go BU,” broke out when Peggy and Frank Gilroy approached the coiled NCAA championship banner, and it continued to rise in volume as the canvas cruised closer and closer to the ice.

“I was real happy with the crowd,” Parker said. “I was worried about that because it was only an exhibition game.”

BU’s opponent, the U.S. National Under-18 team, watched the whole thing unfold from the opposing blue-line.

“I know it left an impression on me,” US-18 coach Kurt Kleinendorst said. “I wanted my guys to see that.”

Some of those guys will be at the University of Notre Dame, others at the University of Michigan or University of Denver or Boston College, and two are coming right here to BU.

For Matt Nieto and Adam Clendening, it was a sneak peak of the impossible dream realized — completing the spectrum of affect from old to young, as surely a couple of inner fires were stirred by the ceremony.

“The fact that we’re recruiting a couple kids from this team didn’t hurt,” Parker said about the timing of the ceremony.

On the other end, the banner raising was a symbolic contribution to BU lore, richer with the turnover of each storied roster.

“All our guys think they played on the same team. It doesn’t matter if you played in the ‘70s or the ‘90s, we all think we played on the same team,” Parker said. “They got a lot of calls, and we got a lot of calls from former players saying, ‘We’re really happy for you. We felt like we won it, too.’”

For 14 years, etched in scarlet banners were the years 1971, 1972, 1978 and 1995.

Now, 2009.

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