BOSTON — Not long ago, Harvard teams came to the FleetCenter seeking season-saving wins, respect, recognition, or some combination thereof. The Crimson had surely lost clunkers to Boston College and Boston University in November, maybe two more to Cornell, maybe another to Maine.
This year was different. The Crimson arrived with a 5-2-0 record against ranked teams, and a No. 10 national ranking. Harvard had beaten BC. It had beaten BU. It had beaten Cornell. It had beaten Maine.
The Crimson had played rookie coach Ted Donato into Penrose consideration. Harvard had made alums proud. So Monday was for them — the guys in the dressing room, especially the seven seniors — to do something no Harvard varsity had since 1998.
Instead, they departed quietly after a 2-1, double-overtime loss to gritty, pesky Northeastern. Noah Welch, Dov Grumet-Morris, and Tom Cavanagh — All-America candidates, all — will never take the ice to a packed house on Championship Monday, let alone hold the hallowed hardware aloft.
The Beanpot comes but four times a career. As Tim Judy’s screened snapper sailed beneath the crossbar after 82 minutes and 1 second of Monday hockey, so went the last of their chances.
“Four consolation games,” Welch lamented. “Not something I had planned.”
Gone are the days of the 2002-2003 season, when Harvard reached the NCAAs despite an 0-7-1 record against fellow tournament teams. Forgotten was the Crimson’s ghastly 0-13-1 stretch against Hockey East teams, from November 2000 to February 2003.
Harvard was ready for Monday. It had won four straight games, its longest streak entering the Beanpot since 1993, the year of its last title. But as Cavanagh said, the Crimson “just didn’t execute.”
“We knew this was our last crack at it,” Cavanagh said.
“I’m disappointed, especially for our senior class,” Donato said afterward. “A large part of me wanted them to experience a Beanpot final.
“This is heartbreaking.”
This year’s seniors have advanced to three NCAA tournaments — going on four, with the team tied for No. 7 in the PairWise Rankings — and will likely depart Cambridge as the most decorated class in more than a decade.
But they never won a Beanpot semifinal, despite twice playing Northeastern, which has an even longer title drought (1988).
In 2002, Harvard was dead-legged after trip to Cornell and Colgate two days before. Northeastern was ready to play. The Crimson was not. The Huskies won, 5-2, behind a Mike Ryan hat trick.
In 2003, Harvard and BU were tied in the third. Welch nearly put the Crimson ahead late, but Sean Fields — the February Dryden — kicked his shot away. BU won, 2-1.
In 2004, Harvard knocked two pucks into its own net against BC. Grumet-Morris was yanked. The final tally was 4-1.
On Monday, Grumet-Morris was sensational (34 saves), but the Crimson went more than four periods without a goal after Kevin Du’s nifty swipe-and-score 59 seconds into the first.
“The games were all different,” Grumet-Morris said. “Unfortunately, the end results weren’t.”
There were shortcomings. The power play was 0-for-5, including two chances on which the first unit had no shots on goal.
There were near-misses. Dan Murphy — brother of Maine forward Ben Murphy, who scored the last overtime winner in a college game here, the 2004 Hockey East championship — was a foot from redirecting in Tom Walsh’s point shot, 30 seconds before Judy scored.
There were lost opportunities. ECAC Hockey League referee Tim Kotyra whistled NU for three overtime penalties — one a carryover from the third — compared to one against Harvard.
“It was a tough no-call at the end,” Welch said, referring to Yale Lewis’ takedown of Jon Pelle during the final scoring play, “but we shouldn’t have let it get to that point.”
At least Harvard’s seniors have this much: Never before have they been in such strong position for a regular-season ECACHL title, Ivy League title, and NCAA berth at this stage of the season.
“We’re in contention for everything,” Grumet-Morris said.
Harvard may go on to a trophy March. Maybe even a memorable April. But for the 12th straight year, the Crimson won’t enjoy a Beanpot.
Grumet-Morris pointed out that, regardless of the BC-BU victor, his team would play a ranked opponent in the consolation game. Good for the team’s Ratings Percentage Index, of course. But not what Harvard came for.