BOSTON — Boston College skated onto the ice last night with the swagger of a No. 2 team in the nation. Harvard entered the FleetCenter confines with heavy legs and the weight of an eight-year Beanpot drought on its shoulders. There was no doubt who the better team was; there was no doubt which team was one step closer to capturing the elusive Beanpot title next Monday night.
In front of a late-arriving, Noreaster-deterred crowd, the Boston College Eagles sent a clear message to the Boston hockey faithful as they dominated and dismantled the Harvard Crimson, 4-1. And they did it without high-scoring Kris Kolanos, who will undergo a CAT scan tomorrow afternoon for his injured right shoulder.
“It was very sore during practice yesterday and the doctors didn’t like what they saw on the x-rays,” said Boston College head coach Jerry York. “That’s an opportunity for someone to step in, though. We have an excellent team and the freshmen have contributed a lot, but the senior leadership — that has been the nuts and bolts of our team this year.”
From the start, the Eagles took advantage of the lethargic Crimson, which was no doubt fatigued and bruised from a physically demanding two-game set against ECAC foes Cornell and Colgate this past weekend. Tired legs may have also been the culprit, as the team lost sophomore Brett Nowak midway through the second period with an ankle sprain. Still, you won’t hear much from the Harvard camp about the ongoing scheduling debate.
“That’s not an excuse for us tonight,” said Harvard head coach Mark Mazzoleni. “We didn’t have our edge. We needed to play much better defensively than we did. We knew what we had to do to win. We just didn’t have it tonight, and I can’t really sit here and blame that on playing three games in four days.”
The Eagles wasted no time jumping on the board first. After just four minutes of play, freshman Tony Voce — playing on the Eagles’ top line in place of the injured Kolanos — broke free deep in the Harvard zone and ripped a low shot which was deflected behind the net by Harvard goaltender Oliver Jonas. Sophomore Bill Cass quickly collected the puck, cycled behind the net and slid a soft pass in front, where Brian Gionta one-timed a blast over the right shoulder of Jonas. That goal marked Giontas 11th goal in the past six games and his fourth in Beanpot action.
“I thought that our team had a lot of jump tonight,” said York. “We were explosive offensively and we were cycling the puck very well. I thought [goaltender Scott Clemmenson] was very solid in goal. That’s a good combination to have.
Freshman Chuck Kobasew, who had one of his best games of the year, increased the Eagles lead to 2-0 in the waning minutes of the first period when he tipped home a shot by senior Rob Scuderi with his team on the man advantage.
“They jumped out to such a quick lead and our experience showed up at that point and time,” Mazzoleni said. “We didn’t buckle down and regain the flow of the game. They continued to play at their pace, and we were never a threat to them.”
Forty seven seconds into the second period, it appeared as if things had gone from bad to worse for the Crimson. With a man advantage carried over from the first period, Marty Hughes took control of a Ben Eaves pass and exploded over the Harvard blueline. Four strides later, Hughes was able to deke Harvard freshman Tyler Kolarik and lift a high wrister past Jonas’ stick side for the 3-0 lead.
Despite the quick offensive explosion and 5-on-3 chances for both squads during that period, the two teams remained scoreless through the next 19 minutes of play.
“I didn’t think that we really provided much resistance,” said Mazolenni. “We didn’t play anywhere near where we were capable. You have to give them credit, but we just didn’t have any type of edge. We gave them way too much space. Our decisions with the puck were not wise. That was due to their pressure, but we still didn’t make correct decisions and they exploited that.”
Voce closed out the Eagles scoring at the 6:16 mark of the third period when he one-timed a pass from Gionta. Harvard freshman Kenny Turano took matters into his own hands two minutes later when he pounded home the Crimson’s lone goal of the evening. It was an unassisted tally and it was indeed too little too late.
By that time, the Eagles had secured a birth into the Beanpot finals and inched closer to their ultimate goal of capturing the town’s most cherished trophy. Despite some great seasons lately, BC hasn’t won the title since 1994.
“Before the game our strength coach said something really great,” said Boston College senior Bobby Allen. “He told us that we can’t win the Beanpot tonight, but we can lose it tonight. We knew that we had Harvard first, so it was good for our club to take the big game atmosphere out of it and just play hockey. I think that we did that.”