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Beanpot: Tonight’s the night

The rivalry continues: BU faces Hockey East nemesis Boston College

Dave Spina celebrates Ryan Murphy’s overtime goal that gave Boston College a 2-1 victory over BU in the 2004 Beanpot championship. On the left are Jekabs Redlihs (SED’06), Kevin Schaeffer (CAS’07), and goaltender Sean Fields (CAS’04), who made 50 saves. Photo by Albert L’Etoile.

“We say every year that we don’t play in consolation games,” says men’s hockey cocaptain Brad Zancanaro (MET’06) of the Beanpot tournament.

Indeed, coach Jack Parker (SMG’68, Hon.’97) said the same thing last year. And the year before. “That’s one of our mottos,” he said in 2004. “Before we got in here, I said, ‘Boys, we don’t play in consolation games.’”

Boston University will play its 12th straight Beanpot championship game tonight, Monday, February 13, at the TD Banknorth Garden. The Terriers, who defeated Harvard 5-3 in last week’s tournament opener, will face off against archenemy Boston College at 8 p.m. The game will be televised on NESN.

BU has lost only two Beanpot title games in the past 11 years, and the last defeat is still fresh on many minds from Kenmore Square to Chestnut Hill: BC’s 2-1 overtime victory two years ago, avenging a 3-2 BU win in 2003. Still, the Terriers, with a 25-10 record in head-to head competition in the tournament, have more than a slight edge against the Eagles. In the past 23 years, BU has met BC in the Beanpot 15 times, and BU has won 13 of those games.

 Earlier in the season, on December 2, BC squeaked by BU at the Conte Forum, but the Terriers responded by blasting the Eagles the following night 9-2 at Agganis Arena. In the latest shootout between the Hatfields and the McCoys of Hockey East on January 27, the Terriers got the best of the top-ranked team in the nation, 4-3.

As a result of that defeat, the Eagles saw their winning string stopped at seven games, and combined with a 3-2 loss to UMass on February 3, their ranking drop to number three, and the team is clearly not happy about it. The Terriers also foiled BC goaltender Cory Schneider’s bid for the all-time longest regular season shutout streak, which was set by fellow Eagle Scott Clemmensen in 1998 and spanned a five-game period. Schneider’s streak came to an end just short of that record when defenseman Kevin Schaeffer (CAS’07) put the puck between his legs. In a cruel twist of fate, the puck sat near the goal line, and Schneider kicked it into the net when he closed his legs. Since that game, BU’s ranking has risen from 13th to 6th.

Forward John Laliberte (SHA’06) says that he and his teammates weren’t really focusing on stopping Schneider’s quest for the shutout record. “The coach mentioned it a little bit, but we weren’t thinking about it too much,” he says. “It was obviously nice to get a couple of goals in the second period to break the streak, but mostly we were just focused on winning the game.”

BU goes into its 22nd Beanpot championship game in the last 23 years (39th of the last 43) trying not to think about almost blowing a 4-1 lead against Harvard in the first round. The Crimson roared back to make it 4-3, but goaltender John Curry (CAS’07) bailed his team out with a season-high 38 saves — 23 in the third period — before David Van der Gulik (CAS’06) scored an empty-netter with six seconds left.

Curry “has been picking up a little steam, and hopefully he will continue that,” says Laliberte, who credits him, and fellow Terriers, with turning a dismal 7-8-2 record in early January into a 17-8-2 mark. “We knew we had to pick up our game for the second half of the year,” he says. “We’ve responded pretty well. We’re starting to get hot now, and we can only hope that it continues into the playoffs.”