B.U. Bridge is published by the Boston University Office of University Relations.
5, BU 3
By Brian Fitzgerald
A 2001 Beanpot championship victory would have put BU in seventh heaven. Another Terrier title, however, would have banished Boston College, Northeastern, and Harvard, the other players in the tournament, to the seventh circle of hell. They were that sick of Boston University's stranglehold on the title.
It was BU against the world on February 12 at the FleetCenter. To be sure, area college hockey fans, unless they wear maroon and gold, have no great love for Boston College either. But the prevailing opinion was that it was high time for a new champion. The hockey gods, along with Boston College freshman forward Ben Eaves, decided that BU's string of six BU Beanpot trophies was enough.
BU Coach Jack Parker pointed out at the beginning of the tournament that Boston College, ranked second in the country, was the team to beat in the Beanpot. "I was right, wasn't I?" he says. BC is "the best team in the nation, and far and away the best team in the league."
And the Eagles played like the tournament favorite when they stormed out to a 3-0 lead. Halfway through the second period, however, BU chose to make it a game. Just as a pressuring Boston College threatened to turn the game into a rout, BU killed off a BC power play, and then Frantisek Skladany (MET'04) scored at 9:22. With just 4:19 left in the period, goaltender Jason Tapp (CAS'02) fed Kenny Mcgowan (MET'04), who streaked down the ice, somehow regained his balance while in the clutch of an Eagle defenseman's claws, and found the net. After BU stifled another BC power play, the Terriers, down 3-2, went into the locker room thinking about a way to get to Upset City.
But between periods, BC captain Brian Gionta and fellow seniors gave their teammates a pep talk. The BC players responded by scoring at 2:19 into the third. Tapp had gotten a piece of the puck, but it popped up and seemed to float in slow motion over his head. A goal by Mike Pandolfo (MET'02) just 1:19 later brought BU back to within one. The BU partisans in the crowd were whipped into a frenzy by superfan Brian Zive (CAS'94), also known as Sasquatch, but BC's Eaves put in a backhand and silenced the Terrier faithful with 7:29 left. Time became a factor, and so did Boston College's defense, which is ranked second in Hockey East.
As the clock ticked down, it became apparent that BU was about to lose a Beanpot title game to BC for the first time since 1976. "All good things must come to an end," says Parker. BC Coach Jerry York made it clear that the victory was no piece of cake. "The champion goes down hard," he says. "They made it difficult for us. BU really hung in there. They don't give you the trophy. You've got to earn it."
The six-year BU Beanpot reign -- which actually began in the Boston Garden, before the FleetCenter opened -- had to end sometime in the new millennium. But captain Carl Corazzini (CAS'01) didn't want it to happen in his final year. "We didn't want to be the [senior] class that ended the streak," he says.
Parker is disappointed, but he puts the loss in perspective. He recalls his team's fourth straight Beanpot championship, in 1998 -- at the time the tournament record -- and thinking such dominance was a bit odd. Three years and two trophies later, it was "almost eerie," he says. "I don't think you'll see that happen again, by us or anybody. I think it's good to have another champion. I certainly didn't want it to happen tonight, but I think people get tired of seeing BU do it every year. There are only four teams in the tournament. It's good to have different champions."
Parker is thinking about future games and tournaments -- namely, the Hockey East playoffs in March. Elimination from that tourney will mark the end of the Terriers' season. With a 12-14-2 record, BU can no longer count on an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The Beanpot loss "will hurt for a while, but we've got to get back into the league race," says Parker. "We've come back from a 2-8-2 record in a fight for respectability." Along the way, BU has beaten several top-10 teams: second-ranked Boston College, third-ranked North Dakota, fourth-ranked Colorado College, eighth-ranked Providence College, and ninth-ranked New Hampshire. Is BU better than its record indicates?
Last year BU was picked to finish fifth in the conference, but ended up losing in a record fourth overtime to St. Lawrence, 3-2, in the NCAA Eastern Regional. The Terriers were that close to playing Boston College in the Frozen Four. It remains to be seen how the 2001 edition will match up in the postseason.
"I don't think this team knows how good it could be," Parker says.