BOSTON — For the second day in a row, the Eagles went down in defeat to a team looking for its third title in a four-year span.
Yesterday it was the Philadelphia Eagles getting the worst of it against the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. Today it was the Boston College Eagles falling to those indomitable forces of the first two Mondays in February, the Boston University Terriers.
In front of a raucous crowd of 17,565 at the FleetCenter, No. 13 BU bested top-ranked BC behind two John Laliberte goals and a heroic performance by netminder Stephan Siwiec, who stopped 36 of 37 shots while filling in for injured goalie John Curry.
For the Terriers, the victory gave them an astonishing 21 trips to the Beanpot championship game in the last 22 years and 38 semifinal wins in 42 seasons. Archrival BC has not beaten BU in the semis since 1981 — a year before Siwiec was born.
“I thought we played the game we wanted to play,” Terrier coach Jack Parker said. “We got great goaltending from Stephan and some opportunistic goals from [Laliberte], but I thought the best part of the game was how well we played in the third period once we got the lead. Instead of sitting on it we went after it pretty good, and the time of possession in their zone for us was real good.
“In general, I thought it was a real well-played game by both teams: physical, real quick, but real smart: There weren’t big mistakes made by either team.”
BC coach Jerry York was struck by how little has separated these two teams in their numerous games this season. “It’s the fourth time we’ve played this year, and in each instance the goaltender’s been pulled,” York said. “From our vantage point, clearly we have to score some power-play goals: One goal is not going to be enough to win hockey games.
“We had a number of opportunities, but we didn’t play with the jump that I’m accustomed to watching our team play [with]. Even though we had 30 some-odd shots on goal, I don’t think we had more than a half-dozen really good ones.”
With the exception of Patrick Eaves undressing Kevin Schaeffer for a scoring chance in the opening minute, the Terriers looked good early on, dishing out some punishing hits and enjoying a territorial advantage.
The Eagles started to turn the momentum around in the eighth minute, when David Spina’s rebound bid off a Ryan Shannon shot got BC going. The Eagles dominated most of the rest of the period.
After an ineffectual power play expired at 14:18, the top-ranked Eagles made it 1-0. Eagle captain Shannon did a nice job of keeping the puck in the zone before fluttering a knuckleball toward the net from pitcher’s-mound distance. The puck wobbled over Siwiec’s leg and past his glove for a soft goal.
“I saw it go through Schaeffer’s legs, and I think I jerked my arm a little too quick,” Siwiec said.
Thirty seconds later, BC almost made it 2-0. On a two-on-one break, Ryan Murphy set up Steve Gionta, but Siwiec made the save.
As the period waned, BU looked a team desperate for the intermission, until the Terriers got a momentum-changing goal with 15.2 seconds left.
Rushing through center ice, David Van der Gulik led Laliberte with a pass into the zone, and the junior drove hard toward the net with a backhanded shot. Matti Kaltiainen made the save, but Laliberte crashed into him as the puck sat in the crease. Dan Spang took a whack at it, and when the ice chips settled, the puck was in the net. Referee Scott Hansen immediately signaled for video review, but the goal stood up.
Laliberte never doubted that it would.
“I saw it go in the net when I was on my back going into Kaltiainen, so I knew it was a goal,” Laliberte said.
Heartened by their reversal of fortune, the Terriers were stronger in period two. A Schaeffer slapshot in the opening minute trickled through Kaltiainen, who reached back to cover it behind him. The Terriers then enjoyed four power plays in a row, keeping the Eagles on their heels — except for a Shannon shorthanded bid that hit the post at 3:50.
On one of those power plays at 6:40, BU took a 2-1 lead. With the puck loose in the slot, Van der Gulik and Laliberte swung and whiffed before Laliberte finally got the handle and put a shot on Kaltiainen’s pad. Collecting his own rebound, Laliberte squeezed one between the goalie’s stick and the post for the goal.
Within two minutes, BU had a chance to add to its lead, as penalties to Ned Havern and Ryan Murphy gave the Terriers a five-on-three power play for 1:10. They couldn’t convert. In fact, the Terriers had a better chance at 18:30, when a give-and-go between Brian McConnell and Kenny Roche set up Roche for a scoring chance. Kaltiainen made the key save, and Bryan Miller whiffed on the rebound trailing the play.
Through two periods, BC had more than doubled BU’s shot total, but the Terriers had doubled their goal total.
The tension mounted in the first five minutes of the third period, but with no great chances. That changed at 6:15, when a pass from behind the goal line hit Eagle forward Joe Rooney low in the right-wing faceoff circle, only to have Siwiec make another big save.
“Surprisingly — even to myself — the whole game I just felt like I was in the zone, just focused,” Siwiec said.
BU’s first line of Brad Zancanaro, Laliberte, and Van Der Gulik dominated at the 12-minute mark, cycling the puck behind the BC net. Perhaps the Eagles were flustered, as they ended up getting called for too many men on the subsequent overdue line change. BU couldn’t convert on the power play, but precious time was running out for BC.
Over those last few minutes, BU seemed to set an unofficial record for killing time by tying the puck up on the boards behind the BC net.
With Kaltiainen pulled, Patrick Eaves had a sharp-angle shot with 25 seconds left, but Siwiec gloved it. Soon the celebration began.
“It hurts, but more importantly we got a good look at our team and what we bring to a big venue,” Shannon said. “We got a lot to learn from this experience. We have the Hockey East tournament and the national tournament ahead of us. We’ve got a chance to make changes and work harder. But the Beanpot is awesome: I don’t think there’s any other place in college hockey like this.
“I just think that this particular team needs to learn how to play in a big venue with all these people watching and being able to execute under those high-pressure situations.”
BU (16-10-2) travels to Providence on Friday before facing Northeastern in the 53rd Beanpot championship on Monday night. BC (17-4-5) hosts Merrimack on Friday and then faces another ranked foe in Harvard in the consolation game.