BOSTON — Their names of late had become synonymous with one thing: dumb penalties. Not just dumb, but so mind-bogglingly stupid that BU coach Jack Parker had to act.
After Brian McConnell and Justin Maiser unwittingly conspired to doom BU’s chances against New Hampshire on Jan. 25, Parker said, “It’s difficult to watch how stupid we are. It’s difficult to watch how undisciplined we are.”
Parker didn’t just talk. He benched Maiser for the next game and meted out an even harsher penalty to McConnell, a repeat offender. McConnell would sit two games, one of which was last Monday’s Beanpot first round.
“Nobody is telling anybody that they can’t be aggressive, but there’s a fine line between being aggressive, being physical and being real stupid,” Parker said. “If you want to take cheap, stupid penalties to put us down, we’re not going to let you do that. Ice time is always the ultimate convincer. If you don’t want to do it my way, then don’t.”
Maiser sat out the Jan. 30 win over Merrimack, but returned for the Beanpot opener against Harvard.
“I hurt the team a couple games with penalties and I sat for that and I suffered from that,” he said. “I just wanted to get back the last couple games and help out as much as I could.”
For McConnell, though, the latter half of the two-game benching was tough to take. As the Terriers struggled early in the third period against Harvard that evening, the Massachusetts native felt the frustration of a top athlete unable to help his teammates in a major game. Worse than being sidelined by injury, the self-inflicted separation left him determined to make a difference one week later.
“It was frustrating to watch from the stands,” he said. “It made me want to be part of the Beanpot and everything about it even more.”
Maiser and McConnell indeed became a very big part of the Beanpot championship game.
Maiser scored the ever-crucial first goal, criss-crossing with his sin bin buddy, McConnell, to beat BC goaltender Matti Kaltiainen. For Maiser, this was old hat. He’d scored twice in last year’s title game, including the game winner with 1:12 left in regulation, to earn the MVP.
“It’s all luck,” he said of his Beanpot magic touch. “I was just thinking, ‘Shoot like a man!’”
In the second period, his linemate had a similar thought process, one which gave BU a 3-0 lead. McConnell fired from along the left boards and beat Kaltiainen five-hole for the eventual game winner.
“Coach was just talking about shooting like a man and driving it as hard as you could, so that’s all that was going through my mind,” McConnell said.
The Terriers still took too many penalties, giving BC’s dangerous power play eight opportunities. Only a terrific performance on the penalty kill allowed BU to dodge the bullet. The sin bin twins, who along with Freddie Meyer easily lead the team in penalty minutes with over 50 each, were not totally without blame. McConnell stayed out of the box, but Maiser took a cross-checking minor late in the second period with BC rallying that could have given the Eagles a major momentum boost.
Nonetheless, Parker kidded the two in the post-game press conference, asking, “You guys been in the lineup lately?”
He went on to explain that the two needed no redemption in his eyes; the prior penalty problems were now water under the bridge.
“It’s not like I have grudges against them,” Parker said. “They took the penalties; they sat out. We’re back to normal again. I’m not aggravated with them anymore. They paid the price.
“If I thought they were punks, we would have taken their names off the back of their shirts. They’re good guys. They just get a little too aggressive and sometimes they get frustrated and the frustration comes out the wrong way.”
Not on this night, however. The penalty posse didn’t shoot themselves in the foot this time. Instead they shot “like a man” and put pucks in the back of the BC net.
The result? A 3-2 win and BU’s eighth Beanpot championship in the last nine years.
Not bad for a couple guys who were sitting in the stands just three games ago.