BOSTON — Coming into this tournament, Northeastern was the definitive longshot. Playing against three ranked teams, no one gave them much of a chance — especially against the perennial Beanpot champions in tonight’s final.
In the end, David went toe-to-toe with the Beanpot’s Goliath but couldn’t quite pull off a historic win.
In the longest championship game in Beanpot history, Terrier freshman Chris Bourque won it at 14:10 of overtime. Playing on the home ice where his father was renowned for his professional heroics, Bourque buried the rebound of a Bryan Miller shot. His flailing, falling backhanded sweep clinched the program’s 26th Beanpot victory, beating Northeastern 3-2 in front of a sellout crowd of 17,565 at the Fleet Center.
“Millsy was coming down the wing, took a shot,” Bourque said. “He got his own rebound and just threw it out front. I don’t know where the goalie was, but he wasn’t in the net. I saw the puck sitting there, and my eyes just lit up; I got excited and put it in.”
The Terriers have now won nine of the last 11 Beanpots. It was their seventh championship game win over Northeastern and the 18th championship for BU Coach Jack Parker.
For Terrier seniors Miller, Brian McConnell and Matt Radoslovich, it was their third Beanpot title in four years.
“Somebody asked me on the ice before which one feels best, and it’s obviously this one,” Miller said. “It’s our last year and with only three seniors, it feels pretty good right now — can’t say enough about it. An overtime win is really sweet.”
Bourque’s goal was the only goal not scored by a senior for either team, as Miller and Brian McConnell scored the first two goals for the Terriers while Jon Awe and Jared Mudryk notched the Husky goals. Terrier goalie John Curry made his first start since suffering a separated shoulder on January 27 and made 33 saves for the win, while Husky senior Keni Gibson clinched the Eberly Award for save percentage in his two games, stopping 26 of 29 shots tonight.
Through regulation, the Huskies simply were the better team, outshooting their Commonwealth Avenue counterparts 31-18.
“I think we really dodged a bullet tonight,” Parker said. “For 60 minutes, we got outplayed. And we got outplayed because we were trying not to lose. We were jumpy with the puck; we almost reverted back to the way we were playing in early January. I was really uptight with the way we were playing, but I didn’t know how to get the team over that without making them more nervous.
“I thought we were going to win it 2-1, and if we had, we probably wouldn’t have deserved to win it. … The best period we had was in the overtime. We came out of our zone better, and we had some pressure down in their end. And lo and behold, after we finished by playing it right, we got the winning goal.”
According to BU hockey historian Sean Pickett, tonight’s championship game was the longest in Beanpot history, lasting 74 minutes, 10 seconds. The previous record was the 1994 Boston College-Harvard final, which lasted 68 minutes, five seconds. Last year’s BU-BC final is now third at 66:07. Last week’s semifinal between Northeastern and Harvard is still the longest Beanpot game ever at 82:01.
One week after the overtime gods favored the Huskies against Harvard, they were not as kind this time around.
“I’m so proud of the way these guys played tonight; you couldn’t ask for anything more out of 18 skaters and one goaltender,” Husky Coach Bruce Crowder said. “Obviously, we would like to have won, but it wasn’t in the cards for us.”
Gibson looked especially crushed after surrendering the game winner.
“What you saw on the ice from Keni is what he feels,” Crowder said. “He left it all out there just like our other seniors. It’s a little devastating, because we knew we had a chance to win this game, and they didn’t quit.”
Before the game even started, the BU section started the “1988″ chant, referring to the last NU Beanpot Championship. All the same, NU had the first close call of the night at 1:30, when right wing Jimmy Russo set up Bryan Esner in the slot. Esner’s shot hit the post on Curry’s stick side.
At 5:14, the Huskies threatened again. On the power play, Tim Judy — hero of last Monday’s semi-final win over Harvard — threaded a cross-ice pass from the left point to star forward Jason Guerriero at the far post. Curry made the pad save and managed to keep the puck out as Yale Lewis crashed the net for the rebound.
Despite getting outshot early, BU scored first at 6:45. Coming out of the Husky zone during the waning seconds of the man advantage, a Husky made a cross-ice pass at the blue line that Terrier senior Bryan Miller intercepted. Miller raced toward the net, holding off Husky defenseman Donny Grover in the process, and then fired a shot that glanced off of Keni Gibson’s glove-side arm and in for the shorthanded goal and the early lead.
“When their defenseman came around the net, I saw his face looking to the left side the whole time,” Miller said. “As soon as he passed the puck, he telegraphed it. I just stepped up and picked it up and went in. The defenseman gained a lot of ground on me; all I wanted to do was to get it on net.”
With Kenny Roche in the penalty box halfway through the period, NU came close to notching the equalizer, twice. Given how the period generally had gone in terms of scoring chances, it had to be demoralizing for NU to surrender a second goal at 15:32. On a power play, Kevin Schaeffer took a slapshot from the point. With his back to the net, Terrier captain Brian McConnell deflected the puck down and in to make it 2-0.
After a relative dearth of scoring opportunities for several minutes in the second stanza, there was some end-to-end action at 10:45. After a shorthanded rush by Mike Morris, McConnell collected the rebound and raced in for a chance of his own.
At 12:38, Northeastern finally lit the lamp. After a curious non-call by Scott Hansen when BU’s Ryan Weston pulled down Guerriero, the Huskies kept the puck in the Terrier zone. Ultimately, senior defenseman Jon Awe blasted a 25-foot slapshot that beat Curry, glove side. The crowd erupted. It was Awe’s first goal of the season and just his fifth in 103 career games.
This set the stage for 53 seconds of five-on-three play for the Huskies at 16:30. It was a dramatic, tense series of chances for Northeastern, as Guerriero set up shot behind the goal line, teeing up shots. The pucks whistled around the BU net, and BU looked frantic at times but got the job done.
BU picked it up to some degree in the third, but Jekabs Redlihs buried Morris in the crease at 12:27, and NU picked up a critical power play — dominating territorially once again, to no avail.
As the clock run down, BU appeared to be content to bend but not break, taking icings when necessary, trying not to yield grade ‘A’ chances.
Finally, the Huskies caught a break with just 2:05 remaining. Curry blocked Tim Judy’s shot from the right point, and the puck was right next to him as he lied on the ice. He didn’t realize it at first, and mighty mite Jared Mudryk charged the net as Curry tried to lie back to cover it. Somehow the puck squirted under the goalie and in. The snake-bitten Huskies had tied it at last.
With shots standing at 31-18 Huskies through regulation play, it remained to be seen whether BU’s offense could get in gear to go for the win in overtime. At first, it seemed doubtful, as a Guerriero backhander went just wide in the first minute.
“I know I’m not the first coach to be disappointed by BU here in the finals,” Crowder said. “You get to the point in the game where you have to throw the kitchen sink at them, and we had plenty of opportunities — even after we tied it.”
At 4:52, Gibson made a huge save when Laliberte teed one up for Brad Zancanaro on the left wing. Zancanaro had another chance, and BU had a 6-3 edge in shots halfway through the period. At that point, both teams started to look exhausted after such a tense, physical game.
BU Freshman Brian McGuirk very nearly won it at 12:30 when parked at the far post, only to have Gibson make a stellar save to keep his adversaries from hoisting the Pot … momentarily.
Predictably, Bourque was given Most Valuable Player after scoring the winner, although Parker acknowledged that Miller could be considered “co-MVP” for his two great rushes leading to goals.
“The Beanpot’s one of the main reasons I came to BU,” Bourque said. “It was an unbelievable experience these first two games.
“And scoring the game-winner in overtime to win it; that wasn’t a bad feeling either,” said Bourque, the master of understatement. “We just had fun out there. We won it for our seniors — that was our main goal.”
“We took them to overtime this time and knocked on the door,” Crowder said. “Next time we’ve just got to keep plugging away, and hopefully it will be a win.”
Both teams get back to conference play this weekend. BU (18-10-2) plays a home-and-home series with Massachusetts, while the Huskies (12-14-4) host Merrimack and New Hampshire.