BOSTON — The stage was set. Northeastern would follow the lead of the 2004 Boston Red Sox and mount a heroic comeback to defeat a hated rival. The Huskies would win the 2005 Beanpot in a thriller, silencing the taunts of their tormenters.
At least that’s what the script called for. And for 74 minutes, Boston University and Northeastern followed the script.
Playing the role of the villainous New York Yankees was, of course, BU. When it comes to the Beanpot, the underdog is whoever plays the Terriers. Many, if not the majority, of BU fans would be loath to equate their team with the Bronx Bombers. Early in the season the Terrier band even played the Red Sox theme “Dirty Water” frequently, always to loud applause.
Nonetheless, while it is decidedly unfair to consider BU the Beanpot’s Evil Empire, the Terriers’ success rate begs for the comparison. This championship game appearance was their 21st in the last 22 seasons, their 38th of 42, and 44th of 53. They had won 25 of 52 Beanpots, including 21 in the last 35 years and eight of the last 10.
Such were records that would turn George Steinbrenner green with envy.
At the same time, Northeastern’s limited success had plenty of Red Sox parallels. Like the baseball team in the years prior to 1918, Northeastern was the Beanpot Team of the ’80s, winning four titles from 1980 through 1988. Since that last Husky ‘Pot, however, the drought has bordered on Red Soxian.
None of which was lost on BU fans. At 7:51, 18 minutes before the puck was dropped, they began their first chant of, “1988!” Change the “8″ to a “1″ and it was Yankees fans of past seasons reminding Sox diehards of their 86-year drought.
For their part, many Northeastern fans embraced the cross-sport comparison, at least in the wake of last October’s role reversal. One sign which read, “Why not NU?” clearly drew its inspiration from the Sox’s slogan “Why not us?”
Would the Huskies be the Beanpot equivalent of the 2004 Red Sox, silencing chants of “1988!” forevermore? After 60 minutes, it sure looked like it.
The night didn’t begin auspiciously, however. In the opening minutes, Jimmy Russo fed Bryan Esner on the doorstep, but instead of grabbing an early lead there would only be clanged iron.
At the 6:45 mark another opportunity, this time the game’s first power play, turned very sour when BU’s Bryan Miller picked off an errant pass, broke in and with a Husky defender draped all over him beat goaltender Keni Gibson.
If there was no comeback in store, this was Bucky Bleeping Dent all over again for Northeastern fans. Just as the Punch-and-Judy hitter’s home run had done in the Sox in the 1978 single-game playoff with the Yankees, so, too, would the Terrier defenseman’s shorthanded goal be the fatal blow. Shorthanded? Bryan Bleeping Miller!
A second BU goal just nine minutes later, this time on a Brian McConnell deflection of a Kevin Schaeffer shot on the power play, had the potential to take the wind out of the Northeastern sails. Instead, it just set the stage for underdog’s comeback.
First, John Awe got the Huskies within striking range with a second-period blast to make it 2-1. They failed to capitalize on a 53-second, five-on-three advantage minutes later, however, and time began to tick away until scant minutes remained in regulation.
John Curry became Mariano Rivera in Game 4. The impregnable stopper who would, according to conventional wisdom, close out the win couldn’t put the Huskies away, surrendering the tying goal to Jared Mudryk with 2:05 remaining in regulation.
And when referee Scott Hansen’s arm went up for a delayed penalty at 12:54 into overtime, Northeastern fans had to be thinking that their Red Sox-like liberation was near. No more chants of “1988!” or “Where’s your Beanpot?”
The script, however, had a plot twist unauthorized by the Huskies. A stick just a little too high allowed for the expected man advantage to instead become matching penalties and four-on-four play. Little more than a minute later, Chris Bourque put in a rebound to secure yet another Beanpot for Boston University in the longest title game in the tournament’s history.
Instead of following the lead of the 2004 Red Sox, the Huskies had unwittingly taken the path of the 2003 edition, losing in a fashion even more excruciating than their predecessors.
“We really dodged a bullet tonight,” BU coach Jack Parker said. “For 60 minutes I thought we got outplayed…. Northeastern certainly deserved a better fate. They had a helluva game.”
Of course, that eased the Huskies’ agony not one bit.
“It’s another tough way to lose here in the Beanpot,” NU coach Bruce Crowder said. “I know I’m not the first coach to be disappointed by BU here in the finals.”
So in the end the Huskies were not the 2004 Red Sox.
And the BU Terriers are not the Evil Empire. But you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone on Huntington Avenue right now who views it that way.