Bostonia is published in print three times a year and updated weekly on the web.
A few early mistakes prevented the BU men’s hockey team from upsetting archrival Boston College in the Beanpot semifinals Tuesday night at the TD Garden. The Eagles scored on a power play early in the first period and on a turnover early in the second, and sealed their 3-1 victory with an open net goal in the final minute. But the Terriers were able to make them sweat.
Defeating BC would have been an incredible feat and an undisputed morale booster for the Terriers. The Eagles are currently ranked second in the nation and sit atop Hockey East with a 12-1-1 conference record. They are now undefeated in their last 13 games and their first line consists of two of the top three point scorers in the nation: Johnny Gaudreau and Kevin Hayes. The Eagles also started Thatcher Demko, the NHL’s number-one goalkeeping prospect.
The Terriers didn’t back down from the challenge, however, as they attacked that vaunted first line from the opening face-off and recorded the game’s first three shots. But when Patrick MacGregor (CGS’12, COM’14) was called for tripping, the Eagles immediately capitalized when BC freshman Ryan Fitzgerald flipped a shot past Matt O’Connor (SMG’16) just 13 seconds into the power play and 4 minutes into the game.
O’Connor kept the game close by making several beautiful kick saves, including a vital stop of BC’s two-on-one break. The sophomore goaltender finished with 29 saves, 25 of them in the second and third periods, but he was put in a tough situation on the two goals that slipped past him.
Early in the second period, the Terriers made another costly mistake by turning the puck over near center ice, and the nation’s best line made them pay. Gaudreau stole the puck and fed Bill Arnold, the third member of BC’s first line, who wove behind the net and deftly dropped the puck off to Hayes for a backhanded finish.
Things went from bad to worse for BU when Doyle Somerby (CGS’15) was hit with a controversial five-minute major penalty and ejected for checking Hayes from behind.
The Terriers managed to hold the Eagles scoreless during the penalty thanks to a heroic effort from Evan Rodrigues (SMG’15). With only six seconds remaining on the power play, the Eagles caught BU between line changes and were skating towards the net when Rodrigues came hurtling across the ice and dove to break up the attack.
Hustle kept the Terriers in the game, but they were unable to capitalize at first. At four minutes into the third period, Cason Hohmann (SMG’15) played the puck across the face of the goal, yet both Matt Lane (CAS’16) and Kevin Duane (CAS’17) failed to put it away with Demko out of position.
BU fans, who were noticeably outnumbered by Eagles fans across the rink, began to sound deflated after that missed opportunity. Yet less than three minutes later Danny O’Regan (SMG’16) skated around the back of the net, found Robbie Baillargeon (CGS’15) open at the top of the slot, and Baillargeon calmly blasted the puck past Demko’s glove to spark the Terriers to life.
The momentum began to shift from one side of the arena to the other and the Terriers seemed to feed off the energy emitted by their fans as they bombarded Demko with shots. BU came inches away from sneaking one past Demko, but was forced to pull O’Connor with 1:45 left to play and the empty net goal sealed the defeat.
The defeat marked the first time the men’s hockey Terriers have lost four consecutive Beanpot games, but they can take some satisfaction in a closer-than-it-appears loss to one of the top teams in the country. A squad that dressed only seven upperclassmen and nine players with previous Beanpot experience going into Tuesday night’s contest will likely learn from that defeat and come back stronger next year.
The BU men’s hockey team will take on the Harvard Crimson on Monday, February 10, in the Beanpot consolation game at TD Garden at 4:30 p.m. The game will be televised on NESN. The championship game pits defending champ Boston College against Northeastern at 8 p.m.