BOSTON – The rivalry turned 250, and it’s hardly ever looked so young and energetic. Boston College outlasted Boston University 4-3 in a thrilling Beanpot championship Monday night at the Garden, and the teams’ 250th meeting was every bit as good as most of the rest.
The Eagles built a 4-1 lead with 15:38 remaining in the third period, but with the amount of scoring chances being generated by the Terriers, it still seemed far too early to declare a champion. BU rallied for a pair of goals in the final 11 minutes – cutting it to 4-3 with a six-on-four power play – and had the puck on the doorstep a couple of times in the final 60 seconds.
When the buzzer sounded and the puck dangled harmlessly in the neutral zone, the BC bench was finally granted a long-winded sigh of relief.
“If there was a classic Beanpot, that would be one of them,” said Jerry York, who won his fourth Beanpot as the BC coach. “I’ve been involved in a lot of good matchups here, but this particular one was quick. It was fast. Even at 4-1, none of us thought the game was finished yet. BU put a terrific surge on there at the end.”
Boston College claimed its 15th Beanpot in the tournament’s 58-year history, which still pales in comparison to the Terriers’ 29 titles. But the Eagles have won two of the last three ‘Pots to put a dent in BU’s Garden armor.
“It was a great game to watch,” BU coach Jack Parker said. “I thought it was a fabulous game to watch as a college hockey game. It’s the 250th time we’ve played each other. Where better to play each other than the Beanpot final? Other than the outcome, I thought it was a fabulous game.”
BU leads the all-time series, 125-108-17, and also remains ahead of BC in Beanpot games, 27-12. BU dropped to 13-7 in Beanpot championships. The teams have also split their four meetings this season, and each has added a feather to its cap. Boston University took a 3-2 victory at Fenway Park last month, and now the Eagles have the Beanpot banner hanging from the Garden rafters. Even sweeter, they got to take down BU’s 2009 banner.
“It’s what we all strive to do, put a really good college hockey team on the ice,” York said. “I think BC and BU have done that for years and years, but particularly this year, we’ve got two very good hockey teams.”
York believed there was even more significance in this win for his young club – only nine of BC’s 26 current players were on the team during their 2008 title run – because they got to experience the feeling of winning a championship, and that will pay important dividends in March and maybe April. After all, the last two Beanpot winners have gone on to win the national championship.
And the Eagles won the Beanpot in exciting fashion. Freshman Chris Kreider and sophomore Barry Almeida scored highlight-reel goals to bump BC’s lead from 2-1 to 4-1. BU answered with a pair of big-money strikes of their own, as sophomore David Warsofsky’s driving backhander cut the margin in half and Colby Cohen’s six-on-four conversion at 17:14 validated Parker’s aggressive move.
Even the goalies – BC’s John Muse (31 saves) and BU’s Kieran Millan (28) – were fantastic in net. The box score will never indicate their brilliance, but this thing could have wound up with a football score if either netminder was off his game.
With Hockey East getting ready to begin its final four weekends, the Eagles have placed themselves in strong position for the national tournament, while the Terriers will need a Terrier-like second-half surge if they want to defend their national hardware. Eventually, it’s only natural to think BC and BU will meet for a fifth time. Since three of their four meetings this season have been decided by one goal, there’s no reason to believe an encore wouldn’t be just as tremendous.
“We’ve played BU four times this year, and they’ve all been really outstanding college hockey games, two of which have been on big, big stages, and we’re split 2-2,” York said. “There’s not a heck of a lot of difference between these two clubs.
“Maybe we’ll play them again at some point.”
MONDAY NIGHT WAKEUP CALL
It’s not always easy getting up for a game like the Beanpot consolation affair, since the cobwebs outnumber the fans in the Garden for the matinee matchup. Suffice to say, Northeastern handled the letdown and quiet barn better than Harvard on its way to a 4-1 victory.
“It’s an interesting dynamic, the consolation game,” Northeastern coach Greg Cronin said. “You go after the afterglow of the Monday night [semifinal] game with a big crowd, a lot of energy and the enthusiasm is sky high. It’s tough for both teams to go out in a big arena like this when there’s nobody in it. We tried to refocus after the BU game, keep our eyes focused on making progress as a group.”
The Huskies used the win to continue their 2010 momentum and build their confidence before their vitally important Hockey East stretch run. Northeastern is 5-2-0 in its last seven games and closes the regular season with home-and-homes against UMass, Boston College, New Hampshire and Boston University. NU sits in eighth place in the conference standings, but they’re a mere point behind BU, Lowell and Vermont.
At this point in the season, any win is truly an important win, despite how many people are in the building to witness it.
“We went into this game not really worrying about the fans or anything else like that,” said Northeastern junior forward Tyler McNeely, who scored the first goal of the game. “It was just that we needed to win, and we pulled that out.”
SEEN AND HEARD AT THE TD GARDEN
• Greg Cronin spent some time praising freshman goalie Chris Rawlings, who stopped 60 of the 63 shots (.952 save percentage) he faced in the Beanpot. “Brad Thiessen will go down as one of the best goalies in Northeastern history,” Cronin said. “Brad’s been known as a poised goalie and level-headed. I’ve really felt that Chris has made some incredible strides, particularly after the Vermont game when he had his worst outing of the year. Going into the Beanpot, that first game for a freshman, particularly against BU in the 8 o’clock game when there’s 17,000 people here is probably one of the most pressure-packed games a goalie in college hockey can face outside of a national championship game. I thought his poise and his consistency, his aggressiveness in that BU game was outstanding. He backed it up with a great game in Merrimack and then again tonight. I think the one common thread that’s visible when he’s on his game is how aggressive he is, how square to the puck he is. If you notice tonight, there were very few second shots because he was really controlling the rebounds well. … His future looks extremely bright. I always tell the goalies I have a very short-term memory, so he puts this one in the bag and then moves forward to the UMass series.”
• Harvard lost its legs in the third period, which was a byproduct of an ill-timed schedule. The Crimson played their third game in the last four nights, which is an extremely rare occurrence for the Beanpot schools. “In the third period, it was a combination of Northeastern wearing us down and us running out of gas,” Harvard coach Ted Donato said. “I give Northeastern a lot of credit, but for us, the bench got too short too soon. Playing a lot of hockey over the last four or five days kind of caught up to us.”
• Cronin echoed the sentiment. “I thought Harvard battled hard. One of the backdrops of the game is Harvard played three games in four nights,” Cronin said. “I think we were fortunate that we had a lot of energy in the third period.”
• The BC student section went to the well with their “BU football” chant in the first period, to which the BU students – each fan base was located directly behind the nets – replied with an “undefeated” chant. Isn’t that just admitting defeat?
• The BC student section’s best chant of the night was “Jesus loves us.” The majority of the rest were, well, curious. In the spirit of equal reporting, the BU student section was off its game, too, but there weren’t many things for them to cheer about anyway.
• Jack Parker concluded his opening comment in the postgame news conference with a stern demand. “I have instructed my players not to make any comments whatsoever about the refereeing. Don’t ask any questions about the refereeing. They will not answer any questions regarding the refereeing.”
• BC goalie John Muse was the Beanpot MVP and Eberly Award winner, which is given to the goalie who had the highest save percentage over two games. Muse stopped 64 of the 67 shots (.955) he faced and became the first player to double up on the awards since BU’s John Curry in 2007.
• BC captain Matt Price praised Muse’s offseason work ethic to recover from a torn labrum and get himself back to form from his stellar freshman season. “Some guys use it as an offseason,” Price said. “John didn’t. He was working as hard as ever, and it’s showed. He’s been playing unbelievable.”
• Price was eventually asked if the win was any more special because the Eagles had to hang on to get it. “From my standpoint, a win’s a win,” he said. “A championship’s a championship. You never go into a championship game expecting it to be a cakewalk. Tonight was case in point. You know it’s always going to be a battle.”