BOSTON — Call it destiny, call it divine intervention, call it whatever you want. No. 2 Boston College and Boston University will once again meet in the final of the 52nd annual Beanpot.
It was obvious from the get-go against Harvard on Monday night that the hockey gods looked for a BU-BC title game, as the Eagles used two fluke bounces and a soft goal to skate past the Crimson, 4-1, in the second semifinal.
BU knocked off Northeastern, 5-2, in the tournament’s opening game.
“I thought we played extremely well in the first period in a lot of different facets of the game, and with that we had two lucky, fortunate goals,” said BC head coach Jerry York of an opening period that saw the Eagles hold a 2-0 lead at the close despite the fact that they, themselves, never put a puck past Harvard starting netminder Dov Grumet-Morris (eight saves).
Both goals for BC went off Harvard players: BC’s first at 4:25 when Patrick Eaves centered a pass that Harvard’s Tom Cavanagh literally one-timed into his own net; and a second a lucky seven minutes later when Ned Havern’s hard wrister wide of the right post hit a stanchion in back of Grumet-Morris, bounded back over the net — hitting the goaltender in the back — and trickled in.
“When you play well and then you also get two breaks like that, it’s certainly a deciding factor in the game,” said York. “It’s a difficult way for Harvard to start.”
Harvard head coach Mark Mazzoleni felt that the mishaps made his team play tentatively, something he wasn’t shy to criticize.
“Especially in the first period, we played extremely tentative,” said Mazzoleni. “I thought in the second and third we played with more determination but we dug ourselves a hole so deeply you’re not going to recover against a team like that.”
Mazzoleni recognized that Murphy’s Law worked against his club but was hesitant to seek sympathy.
“It wasn’t a good start for us, but that’s not an excuse,” said Mazzoleni. “You have to respond to that.
“I just wasn’t real happy with the way that we responded to the adversity because we played too tentatively.”
Trailing already, 2-0, Mazzoleni’s Crimson saw bad go worse when a harmless-looking shot by BC fourth-line winger Justin Dziama hit Grumet-Morris in the left shoulder, bounced in the air and trickled over the goal line for a virtually-insurmountable deficit.
That goal, 3:01 into the second, was the end of the night for Grumet-Morris, who was replaced by John Daigneau (18 saves).
“It wasn’t a good goal,” quipped Mazzoleni. “We had talked about some things between periods to try to put some energy into our guys and then we come out and [there's] a shot from the top of the circle, and [Grumet-Morris] doesn’t control the rebound.”
Harvard continued to struggle and twice again nearly buried pucks into its own net, but the tide finally turned for the Crimson. Nearing the end of the second, after Daigneau was forced to turn aside a bobbled puck from his own defenseman, the Crimson rushed down ice and Charlie Johnson fired a shot past BC netminder Matti Kaltiainen (19 saves), to make the game interesting.
The Crimson kept things heading in the right direction and, with 5:39 seconds remaining, drew a five-on-three man advantage for 38 seconds. Immediately, the Crimson isolated Kevin Du at the left post, but poor luck reared its head again as the centering pass hopped over the stick over Du, allowing BC to clear and eventually finish the penalty kill.
“[BC coach] Ronny Rolston talked to his brother [Boston Bruin] Brian Rolston about how NHL buildings, for the most part, the ice isn’t going to be smooth and crisp,” said York. “When you play the second game at the FleetCenter like we did tonight, the puck is going to be jumping around a lot because the ice is pretty choppy. I think that helps the penalty kill.”
York’s club finished the game only 1-for-7 on the power play while killing 5-of-6 Harvard man-advantages.
BC’s one power-play goal came in the closing minutes as Tony Voce buried his team-leading 18th goal, firing a pass from Stephen Gionta into the top corner and accounting for the 4-1 final.
The result is, once again, a BC-BU championship game. It’s the 17th time the clubs have met in the title tilt, with BU holding a 10-6 advantage, including nine of the last 10 meetings.
Harvard will face Northeastern in the consolation game for third time in the last four years. Neither club has won the tournament since 1993, when Harvard beat BU, 4-2.
This season, BC has won all three meetings against the Terriers, most recently sweeping a weekend series January 16 and 17.
According to BC junior Ned Havern, who watched his club fall the last two years to BU at the Beanpot — including last season’s championship — that doesn’t carry much weight.
“We have had good success this year with [BU], but I think anytime you play BU you’re in for a dogfight,” said Havern. “We’ve played them enough to know their tendencies and they know ours. So we pretty much need to put our best foot forward and let the chips fall where they may.”
Havern and the Eagles wouldn’t mind a little more puck luck as well.