April 3, 2012
If you were to ask Boston College freshman forward Danny Linell, for his personal definition of "surreal," he would use the following as examples:
1) Winning the Beanpot against Boston University with only 6.4 seconds left in overtime.
2) Playing in head coach Jerry York's 900th win.
3) Securing the Hockey East regular-season crown and then BC's record third-straight Hockey East tournament championship title.
4) Making it to the Frozen Four, of course.
Linell, like his teammates, has been living a dream this year. But there's nothing irrational about this dream. It's very real, and he's trying to soak it all in while he lives it out.
"It's a pretty surreal experience, especially when you grow up in the New England area and you know a lot about the Beanpot and the Hockey East tournament and all of that," he said. "To actually go through it and experience it is a dream come true."
The dream, along with a 17-game win streak, hasn't ended just yet. The men's ice hockey team is set to play a fast, deep University of Minnesota squad, which BC hasn't faced since 2008, in the Frozen Four. With a championship berth on the line, Linell knows that this game will be unlike anything he's experienced so far.
"I think I'm really just going to try to take in the whole experience," he explained. "We have great leadership with our seniors and juniors, and I'm just going to try to learn from them throughout the whole experience. I'm just trying to go out there, play my role and try to help us win a national championship."
As a winger on the all-freshman fourth line, Linell's role is to be defensively responsible during the minutes he plays. The trio of Linell, Quinn Smith and Michael Sit also try to create energy by delivering big hits and keeping the tempo up. Their success comes down to the hard work they put it in to adjust to the speed of the game, their willingness to take advice from the veterans and coaches and their friendship off the ice.
"We just go out and we work as hard as we can," Linell said. "We have a lot of chemistry because we're always with each other. Michael's my roommate and Quinn lives right down the hall so we have a lot of chemistry with each other off and on the ice, which really helps us with our play. We always have time to talk about the game."
In many ways, it's pretty surreal that Linell is even here at BC. During his junior year of high school, he had committed to Harvard, but he ended up de-committing during his MVP senior season at Choate Rosemary Hall to come to BC.
"I was looking for more of a hockey-oriented organization, and I felt this was a much better one from that standpoint," Linell noted. "I've always heard about the winning BC tradition, and it's really living up to that expectation."
Of course, Linell pointed out many times that this whole year has all the makings of a dream--not just a dream, the dream that he has worked so hard to be a part of.
The 5-foot-9 forward out of Long Island went to Choate because he "needed to get to a place where there was hockey." There, he won a New England Prep Large School title as a junior, a win. Most importantly, in his mind, going to Choate prepared him both athletically and academically to make the leap to the college level.
Before coming to BC, Linell took part in a New York Islanders mini-camp where he got his first taste of playing against his future Division I competition. It was the highest level hockey he had ever played at that point and it made him realize that he could do it.
Flash forward to now and Linell has played in 38 of BC's 42 games this season, missing time only because of injury. He's tied for second on the team in freshman goal-scoring with Destry Straight and he netted his first collegiate goal against Boston University. He's played in the Beanpot, played in the Hockey East championship game, and will now play in his biggest game yet.
And, while he wants to enjoy the unbelievable big-game atmosphere in Tampa, Linell also wants to learn and grow to help the team now and in the future.
"It's been a great learning experience," Linell said. "It's definitely going to help me build off what happened this year going into next year and the rest of my years here. What I've learned from everything, I'll make sure to pass down to the guys coming in."
After all, how many freshmen, or any collegiate hockey player for that matter, have experienced what Linell and his BC teammates have this year? Passing along the winning tradition, a tradition rooted in lessons learned from winning on college hockey's biggest stages year in and year out, is part of what makes the surreal consistently become the real for this storied program.
And hopefully by the end of this week, Linell will have another illustration of surreal to add to the list to go with all the others from this season.
Written by Jen Dobias