title in hockey classic
BU beans BC in 3-2 thriller
If there were such a device as a hype-detector, and if someone had brought
one into the FleetCenter on February 10, the readings would have been
off the charts. The BU-BC Beanpot showdown was an important game on several
levels, as the fans of both Commonwealth Avenue teams demonstrated, vociferously.
For the men’s hockey Terriers, there was much more than a tradition-rich
annual tournament -- and a title defense -- at stake. The game was a milestone
in their season, and a true gut-check. It was a sure-to-be-intense affair
where they knew they would have to make a statement. And they did, with
their biggest victory of the year, a 3-2 win over their chief rival.
BU’s victory laps around the rink with the trophy celebrated the
University’s 25th Beanpot title in 51 years and its 8th championship
in the last 9. It also marked the first time all season the Terriers had
beaten the Eagles.
“We’ve won a lot of games in this tournament because we’ve
had a lot of guys rise to the occasion,” says BU coach Jack Parker.
Indeed, instead of skating like an underdog team fighting for its life,
BU played with confidence, poise, and aggression. Justin Maiser (CGS’03)
got BU on the board with a goal 10 minutes into the first period. The
Terriers made great defensive plays, especially freshman forward David
VanDerGulik (CAS’06), who frustrated BC repeatedly by blocking shots,
drawing a penalty, and scoring BU’s second goal. BU also doled out
tremendous checks throughout the game. VanDerGulik started the hit parade
early in the first period, and a collective murmur of wonder was heard
in the stands when Brian McConnell (CGS’03), who had a goal 23 seconds
after VanDerGulik scored in the second period, decked BC’s Chris
Collins in the final stanza. McConnell also had an assist. Goaltender
Sean Fields (CAS’04) stopped 31 of 33 BC shots, winning the Eberly
Trophy as the goaltender with the best save percentage in the tournament
(.950), as well as the MVP. BC coach Jerry York described BU’s play
The Terriers’ backs weren’t exactly against the wall going
into the title game. It’s simply far too early in the schedule to
characterize the Beanpot championship as a must-win. Those kind of situations
occur in March. But a Boston College crowd chanting “Sweep”
as the clock ticked down would have been a damaging defeat to BU, a near-fatal
blow to the self-esteem of the Scarlet Nation.
In an alternate universe, one that saw BU suffer its fourth straight loss
to BC, there might have been a nagging feeling among Terrier fans -- just
a silent notion they would never dare utter -- that BU had a talented
team, but it just wouldn’t do much in the postseason. That’s
what happened last year, after the Terriers followed a nine-game winning
streak by losing to Maine in the Hockey East and NCAA tournaments.
Now, unbridled optimism is breaking out on the Charles River Campus. Perhaps
for a moment BU fans even took their minds off a cold winter, a bad economy,
an elevated terrorism risk, and a possible imminent war with Iraq. In
the words of the Beatles, “It’s getting better all the time.”
There is joy in the BU area of Beantown: its team has defeated the Eagles,
who are in first place in Hockey East and ranked sixth nationally.
“Every BU team wants to win in tournament play in the regular season,”
says Parker, pointing out that BU captured the Ice Breaker tournament
in October, and the Great Lakes tournament in December, beating the likes
of RPI, Michigan State, and Michigan. “We’ve played three
tournaments this year, and we’ve won all three,” he says.
“Obviously, the Beanpot is the biggest one. But we also want to
get home ice advantage in the Hockey East playoffs. With six games to
go, we’ll see what we can get. We want to be selected to the national
tournament as well.”
McGowan (CAS’04) (upper left) and Mark Mullen (SHA’04)
(lying on the ice) try to score in the Beanpot final. Photo by Vernon
For days before the much-ballyhooed matchup, both teams tried to downplay
the significance of winning the Beanpot, and focus on their Hockey East
games, with Eagles players insisting that their 5-2 win over second-ranked
Maine February 8 was more important. BU players echoed those sentiments
in describing their 2-0 victory over UMass-Amherst on February 7. But
don’t be fooled. The UMass game was by no means an automatic win,
but no one will dispute that the Beanpot victory was really the ultimate
The hard-fought win saw BC come within a goal with 1:33 left. During a
time-out with 32 seconds to go, and the BC goaltender pulled for an extra
attacker, Parker says he told his team that “we want to make sure
to win the face-off. I said, don’t try to score a goal, just drop
the puck in center ice. They have six players, we only have five, so we’ve
got to make sure we’re not running around, playing what we usually
play: our usual defensive-zone coverage. We need a little bit more protection.”
After all, if BU tried to score and missed
the empty net, an icing call would bring the face-off to the Terrier end,
and give BC another shot at the unthinkable: overtime.
Fields, who remained on the ice during the time-out (goaltenders are a
superstitious lot, always reluctant to leave the crease), says he told
himself, “Just don’t let in a goal. There are 30 seconds left
and we’ve got a Beanpot. Just go hard for 30 seconds.” And
that’s what he did, stopping a blistering slapper from J. D. Forrest
as the buzzer sounded.
“Really good hockey teams win big games,” says Parker. “Sometimes
it’s just the Beanpot. But great teams win something at the end
of the year. Right now, we’re a good team. We’re playing well.
But if we want to be a great team, we’ve got to win something big
at the end.”
To be sure, come March, it will be time to dust off the old hype-detector