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College Hockey:
A Sign Of The Apocalypse?

— For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.

Wedding vows? Yes.

But also Boston University’s Beanpot track record. If it’s a year that the Terriers rank among the best teams in the country, they advance to the Beanpot championship where they almost always take care of business. If instead it’s a rare down year, the Terriers still advance to the Beanpot championship where they almost always take care of business.

In the one case, the first two Mondays in February serve as a perfectly timed springboard to even greater things in March and April. In the other, they revive a team bordering on life support.

This year’s Terriers didn’t come into the tournament their fans like to call “The BU Invitational” on life support, but they weren’t in robust shape either.

A sweep at the hands of New Hampshire the previous weekend prompted head coach Jack Parker to say, “We’re in bad shape now because team-wise we don’t feel very good about ourselves, we haven’t got any confidence, we just let four points slip away that were very important to us and now we’re two games under .500 in the league. We’ve got to dig ourselves out of a hole again just to make the playoffs, never mind get home ice.”

With an 8-13-4 record, this year’s edition had to draw on inspiration from similar teams in 2003-04, 2000-01, and 1998-99, all of whom would finish with losing records and fail to win a league title or qualify for the NCAA tournament. Even so, those teams still got to the Beanpot title game.

Over the past 24 years, the Terriers have always avoided the dreaded Beanpot consolation game save for 1994. And while they might occasionally lose in the title game, they still claim 11 of the last 13 championships.

Not a single consolation game since 1994 and only that one since 1983!

Archrival Boston College hadn’t defeated BU in an opening round since 1981, an eye-popping statistic made even more impressive when considering how many of those Eagle squads were legitimate national championship contenders.

So when on this night the third-period score stood at 3-3 and BC scored a goal that on first viewing looked as though it would be held up under instant replay review, it didn’t seem shocking when the goal was disallowed.

Such things always happened to BU Beanpot opponents.

When the game went into overtime despite a significant third-period territorial advantage for BC, the mind’s eye still saw BU somehow coming up with the game-winner.

Even when BC spent a disproportionate amount of the overtime in the BU end, the decisive counterattack still seemed up Parker’s sleeve.

Until, that is, Nathan Gerbe scored the game-winner and banished the streak that dated back to the early Reagan administration.

“I always say it’s like flipping a coin,” Parker said. “We’ve had an unbelievable run. It’s not the first time we’ve gone a long, long time without having to play in a Beanpot consolation game. We’ve been very, very fortunate to come out with great efforts in the first game of the Beanpot to get ourselves into the final.

“It’s uncharted territory for us to be in that consolation game next week.”

Uncharted territory? How about a sign of the apocalypse?

At least, that is for the Terriers. They had, after all struggled at times this year with their confidence. How good could their self-image be when it was relegated to the unthinkable, a Beanpot consolation game?

“I don’t think we’ll have a problem with it,” Parker said without even the hint of whistling past the graveyard. “We played very well on Friday night and we played well again tonight. It’s not like we didn’t give ourselves a chance to win.

“All our young defensemen are playing much better. Bennett is playing better. So we should be in pretty good shape as we head down the stretch. Losing this game obviously won’t give us momentum, but it won’t knock us back on our heels.”

BC coach Jerry York seconded that emotion. “BU is going to go on a run here late in the season. They’re a very good team. I wouldn’t be fooled by their record.”

So perhaps college hockey hasn’t just seen a sign of the BU apocalypse. Perhaps the Terriers will rebound and go on a torrid stretch run.

Without a doubt, though, they’ll be in for a rude surprise next Monday night. As they take the ice they will hear the painful, unaccustomed roar … of silence.


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