BOSTON — A year after the Beanpot’s golden anniversary, Boston University struck silver.
The Terriers won the prestigious local tournament for the 25th time Monday night, riding a 31-save performance by MVP Sean Fields to beat Boston College 3-2 for a compelling win in a classic battle witnessed by 17,565 FleetCenter fans.
Despite losing all three hotly-contested games against their Commonwealth Avenue archrivals this year, the Terriers brought home the one that mattered the most — despite being outshot 33-18 and struggling mightily to clear the puck through many of the Eagles’ eight power plays.
Terrier fans also had to hold their breath in the closing minutes as BC scored a late power-play goal and threatened to tie it in the final seconds.
“It was absolutely the game we wanted to play up until the penalty in the last few minutes of the game,” BU coach Jack Parker said. “The game should’ve been in the burlap by then; we self-destructed a few times taking some stupid penalties … We got some timely goals; we got some bumps.
“Brian Collins did a great job of taking Ben Eaves out of the game, and obviously Sean Fields came up big for us when he had to,” added Parker.
Eagle coach Jerry York also praised Fields while lamenting his team’s inability to capitalize consistently with the man advantage.
“I thought the keys to the game were Fields’ ability to stop the quality shots that we did have over the course of the game but also our failure to really execute well on the power play,” said York.
Offensively, Terrier Brian McConnell — benched for two games after taking a costly penalty against UNH a few weeks ago — emerged from the doghouse with a goal and an assist, while Ryan Shannon picked up a goal and an assist in a losing effort for the Eagles.
“Last week was tough watching it from the stands,” admitted McConnell. “It just made me want to be part of the Beanpot and everything about it even more. … I can’t imagine not winning it. I’ve been here two years, and we’ve won it both years. Last year was nice against Northeastern, but this year it was a much bigger reward, beating a team like BC.”
Given that the Eagles swept the regular-season series and toppled No. 2 Maine on the road on Friday, the game could be considered a minor upset — even though BU had won seven of the last eight Beanpots coming into Monday.
“It is pretty frustrating right now because our team has played well of late,” Eagle captain Ben Eaves said. “We were feeling really good about our chances of coming in here and getting a win. But BU played their game a little better than we played ours.”
It was a chess game for much of the early going with cautious play and few scoring chances. BU didn’t manage anything close to a shot on goal until 8:14 — and that was from the blue line. Then the Terriers scored on their second shot less than two minutes later.
Fighting off a defender, Terrier centerman McConnell teed up the puck for Justin Maiser. Last year’s Beanpot MVP took advantage of the traffic, winding up for a shot that Eagle goalie Matti Kaltiainen could not have seen from its release point. The shot grazed the glove-side post for a startling 1-0 lead at 9:59.
The action escalated dramatically for the rest of the period. After a Freddy Meyer penalty, the Eagles dominated territorially on the ensuing power play. With the Terriers unable to get the clear, Whitney got called for a second penalty, and Tony Voce appeared to bury the equalizer on the delayed call. However, referee Scott Hansen had blown the whistle, possibly believing that bouncing the puck off a Terrier constituted possession.
With the Eagles on the five-on-three advantage for 1:18, suspense peaked until Terrier Dave VanderGulik blocked Andrew Alberts’ shot at the point and then was pulled down by Alberts to negate the two-man edge. The Terriers survived the major threat and the rest of the period.
“The penalty killers did an unbelievable job,” said Fields. “VanderGulik, Magowan, Meyer … they were all blocking shots.”
The second period was almost a carbon copy of the first — at least for the first ten minutes. BC dominated with shots, only to have the Terriers get the goal halfway through the period again.
“I thought we were both playing a little cautious in the first period,” Parker said. “5-3 in shots is just unbelievable for a BU-BC game. It was 15-11 BC in the second period, so I wasn’t displeased with that: It was a close-checking game, and we had to kill off some penalties.”
Two minutes in, the Eagles once again set up camp in the BU zone on the power play, possessing the puck for long stretches in the Terrier zone. With the exception of a Brian Collins shot at the four-minute mark, BU couldn’t get the puck on net.
Yet at 9:03 the Terriers made it 2-0. Coming out of the zone on a power play, Terrier senior John Cronin made a nice leading pass to spring VanderGulik breaking in on the right side of the slot. VanderGulik fluttered a 15-foot shot into the far side of the just above the goalie’s blocker.
Twenty-three seconds later, the Terriers electrified the crowd with another goal. McConnell picked the puck up off the left-wing boards and raced in before nailing a slapshot to beat Kaltiainen through the five-hole for the 3-0 lead.
Playing with confidence, the Terriers had a few more chances — though their fans roared more when McConnell leveled Chris Collins with a punishing check at the red line at 15:45, bringing to mind then-Terrier Mike Grier’s big Beanpot hit several years back.
But the Terriers allowed the Eagles to get back into it with penalties. Inevitably, BC capitalized with a goal at 17:29. Andrew Alberts’ slapshot from the right point trickled through Fields’ pads and went wide, but Ryan Shannon got the rebound behind the goal line and cleverly caromed it off Fields’ back and in to make it 3-1.
The Terriers received yet another penalty 34 seconds later but survived the critical kill to go into the locker room with the two-goal cushion.
Early in the third, BU seemed content to kill time in the corners in the BC end, but a careless high-stick by Ryan Whitney forced the Terrier faithful to agonize through another penalty kill. Ben Eaves set up Tony Voce for one grade-A chance, but the Terriers lived through it.
After a lull with no opportunities of note, Fields had his best save of the night on Stephen Gionta at 16:20, sticking a toe out to deny the forward on the doorstep.
BC faced its last gasp on a power play shortly thereafter. Fields blocked Alberts’ hard slapper and then covered it. On the ensuing faceoff, York pulled Kaltiainen to make it a six-on-four situation with 1:09 left on the power play and 2:42 left in the game.
After a near-miss by Shannon and Voce, BC brought the crowd to life with a goal to make it 3-2 with just 1:33 remaining. Cycling the puck, Shannon slipped it to Eaves low in the left-wing faceoff circle. Eaves fed it to Dave Spina, who gave it a one-time nudge to beat Fields low.
Off a rush in the dwindling seconds, Forrest put a hard slapshot on net. Fields stopped it, and the Beanpot belonged to the Terriers for the 25th time.
“When you have a school with that tradition and history, you want to follow through with that tradition and keep on winning and working hard so all the alumni and former hockey players can feel proud of winning the Beanpot,” McConnell said.
“It’s unbelievable,” Fields said of winning both the MVP and the Eberly Trophies. “The Eberly is just based on save percentage, and you can stop the pucks when the forwards keep all the shots to the outside. As far as the MVP goes, anyone on the team could have gotten it. It was a gutsy effort by everyone.”
Both teams return to conference action this weekend. The 11th-ranked Terriers (18-10-2) play a home-and-home pair against UMass-Lowell Friday and Saturday, while the fourth-ranked Eagles (18-7-3) do the same with Merrimack.