BOSTON — After the two teams battled evenly for the first 52 minutes, this Beanpot semifinal came down to a 75-second stretch.
Boston University goalie Sean Fields made an amazing kick save on a two-on-one to preserve a 1-1 game, and the charged-up Terriers responded with Freddy Meyer’s game-winner just over a minute later. The 2-1 win gave BU a berth in the Beanpot final for the ninth year in a row and the 19th time in the last 20 years.
With the score tied at 12:11 of the third period, Harvard had a slow-developing two-on-one break with Ryan Whitney back, as Charlie Johnson went in on the right wing and waited for Noah Welch to catch up on the rush. Johnson made an excellent last-second pass, and Welch briefly had the whole far side of the net open. His shot was ticketed, but Fields made an incredible kick save to take it away.
“Normally the defenseman just gives me the shot, but the guy made a good move and forced Whit to play him,” Fields said. “Whit played him pretty good, but the guy got a pass off. I just tried to stretch out and take away the low part of the net. Luckily, it hit my toe and went wide.”
“I had the whole net and just couldn’t finish it,” Welch lamented. “I had a chance to put it away; they make the big save, and the momentum goes to BU. They come down and score a goal.”
Seventy seconds later, the game-winner came off a faceoff in the Harvard end. On the draw, David Klema managed to kick the puck back to Meyer at the point. Meyer teed up a slapshot and nailed one to the far corner past a helplessly screened Dov Grumet-Morris.
“It was a good shot,” Grumet-Morris said. “At the last second I picked it up as it was passing me. I think it was just inside the post, so give him credit. … We battled hard — a bounce here, a bounce there, and we could have won.”
As much as celebrating, Meyer was breathing a sigh of relief, given that he had taken two penalties earlier in the period and watched as the Crimson peppered the net with good chances.
“I took a few penalties, and I was just praying that we’d come through on the penalty kill,” Meyer said. “Sean made some big saves for us; I was just waiting for a chance to get out there and redeem myself.”
The interlude capped a dramatic finale to a game that featured a tepid pace early on before gradually heating up as the FleetCenter stands filled.
“The thing that jumped out at me was that it seemed like a very slow game,” Terrier coach Jack Parker said. “I don’t know if it was the lack of a crowd for the first half of the game or all the TV timeouts. We’ve been before in these situations, but …
“I was playing four lines a lot — maybe I should have gone to three. A lot of guys on the bench were complaining about not having their legs and not feeling very quick. We’re very fortunate to not have our ‘A’ game as far as skating ability and get a W. I think the reason we did was we played great team defense; we killed penalties well, and we got great goaltending.”
For Harvard, which dropped to 1-6 under coach Mark Mazzoleni in the Beanpot, it was another disappointing finish.
“I don’t know that we deserved to be in the final the first three years,” Mazzoleni said. “I think this was our best team so far; that’s probably why the disappointment is greater. We felt very much coming in that we had the team to beat BU and get to the finals.”
The first period passed without anything terribly dramatic happening; the teams appeared to play cautiously. BU enjoyed a strong advantage territorially — outshooting Harvard 10-3 — though there were no grade-A scoring chances.
The excitement level increased in the second period. Just as a Terrier power play elapsed, Harvard’s Tyler Kolarik intercepted a Bryan Miller pass from the left point and raced in on the right wing before firing a shot on Fields. The netminder squeezed it between his pads for the save, but it set up a fateful faceoff.
Tom Cavanagh won the draw back to Kenny Smith at the left point, and the Maryland native threw a wrister at the far side of the net. Badly screened by traffic, Fields didn’t seem to see it, and it was 1-0 at 6:59.
It was nearly dj vu a minute later, as Grumet-Morris never saw a Mike Bussoli wrister from the left point, but the puck didn’t find the netting. Seconds later, Justin Maiser cruised down the middle of the slot and fired a shot ticketed for the net, only to have Grumet-Morris flash the glove.
The Terriers notched the equalizer at 11:19, just as an otherwise anemic power play expired. Bryan Miller took a Mark Mullen pass as he crossed the blue line on the right-wing side, then slipped the puck between the skates of Welch before firing a wrister that beat Grumet-Morris high on the glove-side corner.
BU’s fourth line almost got the go-ahead goal 40 seconds later, when Gregg Johnson’s pass from behind the goal line teed up a dangerous one-timer for Matt Radoslovich, but the Harvard goalie made the save. At 16:10, Magowan had a good rebound chance off a Skladany shot, but he couldn’t convert it. The teams looked to the third period to decide it.
The opening minutes didn’t seem to bode well for BU, as Harvard got the first six shots of the period –including three in short order by Kolarik, who pestered Fields with several rebound shots while the Terrier defense watched. Ironically, a Harvard power play helped BU get it going; Radoslovich and Dave VanderGulik broke in on a shorthanded two-on-one at 3:31; they didn’t score but drew a penalty.
With Meyer off for his second penalty of the period, Harvard turned up the heat on Fields. Terrier fans’ hearts skipped a beat when a Tim Pettit shot hit the post at 9:20, then Fields juggled and dropped a Welch shot, and the Terriers just could not get a whistle for the longest stretch.
They survived it, though, and almost scored as Meyer came out of the box. The Terrier captain raced after a loose puck going into the Harvard end, and Grumet-Morris came way out of his net to clear the puck. He didn’t get it out of the zone, and Mark Mullen blindly threw a shot from the boards that went under the goalie’s arm and hit the side of the post.
This set the stage for the game’s most dramatic moments.
It was a deflating goal for the Crimson, which didn’t have a grade-A chance from there on in, despite pulling Grumet-Morris in the final minute.
The Terriers (16-10-2) play at Massachusetts on Friday before returning to the FleetCenter for the Beanpot final Monday night at 8 p.m. Harvard (13-7-1) travels to Rensselaer on Friday before playing in the consolation at 5 p.m. Monday.