To be frank, the men’s hockey Terriers are on fire. But then, history shows that they tend to get hot around Beanpot tournament time, and the midwinter high temperature suits forward John Laliberte just fine.
“We are prepared to bring everything to the table in the Beanpot,” says Laliberte (SHA’06). The Terriers usually do just that: they have won 26 of the tournament’s 53 titles. BU has skated the ceremonial victory lap with the trophy 22 times in the last 36 years, and 9 in the last 11.
The Terriers face 20th-ranked Harvard in the tournament’s opening round on Monday, February 6, at 8 p.m. at the TD Banknorth Garden. The following Monday, the winner will play the championship game against either Boston College or Northeastern, who match up in the opening round’s earlier game, at 5 p.m. For those who cannot score tickets, the games will be televised on NESN.
The Beanpot means much more than bragging rights to a trophy. Every year, the tournament’s four schools strive to gain strength in February as the season reaches its home stretch. And for BU, a seven-game winning streak — currently the longest in the country — has been an antidote to mediocrity.
It wasn’t long ago that the Terriers were unranked and sinking under the .500 mark. With a 5-1 home loss to Providence on January 6, their record stood at 7-8-2. “Everybody on the team knew we had to step it up in the second half,” says Laliberte. The team hasn’t lost since. Now the Terriers are the number-eight team in the nation.
Coach Jack Parker says that the recent return of injured seniors David Van der Gulik (CAS’06) and Jekabs Redlihs (SED’06) has boosted BU’s cause. “We got them back, one right after another, and it really helped our depth and certainly helped our confidence,” he says. Parker (SMG’68, Hon.’97) also points to the stellar goaltending of John Curry (CAS’07), whose 30 saves at Boston College on January 27 propelled BU’s upset of the top-ranked team in the nation. “John Curry has been on a real streak,” he says, “and overall the freshmen have matured a bit.”
The end of some scoring droughts has also helped to rejuvenate BU, according to Parker, especially in the cases of forwards Kenny Roche (MET’07) and Pete MacArthur (SED’08). “Roche and MacArthur were playing well, but the puck wasn’t going in the net,” he says. “All of a sudden the puck started jumping for them.”
BU’s Beanpot dominance continued last year with a 3-2 overtime victory over Northeastern in the championship game. When it comes to the Beanpot, the Terriers have a knack for finding a way to win. “The Beanpot is important to us,” says Parker. “Everybody gets geared up and wants to play at their best, and we’ve been fortunate that our guys have been competitive enough and cool enough to be able to perform well at this level.”
Indeed, BU has advanced to the title game 11 years in a row and 22 times in the past 23 years. But make no mistake — the Terriers aren’t looking past Harvard, especially after struggling to tie the Crimson 2-2 on November 22, after being down 2-0. “They outplayed us in that game,” says defenseman Dan Spang (CAS’06). “Harvard will be looking for redemption.”