BOSTON — It was billed as a consolation game, but it was more than that for the teams involved.
With future NCAA positioning at stake, No. 2 Boston College scored a pair of power-play goals and outshot No. 9 Harvard, 42-24, en route to a 4-1 victory in the early game of Monday’s Beanpot action.
“This was important because of Harvard,” said BC coach Jerry York. “Quality wins out of conference are important for getting a higher seed at the nationals. It was important for our goals to compete for a national title.”
Harvard enjoyed two early power plays in the first period, but much like in last week’s Beanpot opener, the Crimson could not convert, generating just two shots over the four minutes.
What had been a strength of the club throughout the season failed it on consecutive Monday nights and, despite connecting once in four opportunities against BC, Harvard was a combined 1-for-9 with the man-advantage in the two Beanpot contests.
“They got the game headed in the direction they wanted to play,” said Harvard coach Ted Donato about the Eagles.
Despite the early chances, the Crimson were outshot 15-7 in the opening stanza.
It only got worse in the second period as the Eagles registered 18 shots to the Crimson’s three and, more importantly, converted their advantage into goals early and often.
“The first period was up and down,” explained BC senior Ned Havern, “it was pretty open. In the second, we capitalized on a couple of plays and tightened up defensively.
“We refocused on the things that make us a good hockey team.”
Just 1:15 in, while Harvard’s Noah Welch served the remainder of a first-period penalty, Havern tallied his seventh goal of the season. Defenseman Greg Lauze eased a shot from the right point through a crowd that Havern redirected while skating through the bottom of the right faceoff circle, catching Crimson goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris by surprise.
The Eagles tacked on another exactly three minutes later on a hustling play — and a bit of luck — by rookie Dan Bertram. Classmate Mike Brennan dumped the puck deep into the Harvard zone from center ice, but as the disc sailed into the left corner it hit a glass divider and bounced out to the faceoff circle. There, an alert Bertram, after beating a Harvard defenseman to the puck, flipped a shot by Grumet-Morris for his eighth of the season.
“As a group,” admitted Donato, “we let a bad bounce on the second goal get to us.”
The Crimson finally managed its first shot of the period on the wrong side of the 10-minute mark. Until then, Harvard had been outshot 30-7.
“I don’t always agree with looking at the shot chart to see who’s won or lost,” said Donato, “but they outplayed us for most of the game.”
BC extended its lead to 3-0 at 15:10, once again on the power play.
The Eagles won a faceoff to the right of Grumet-Morris and quickly moved the puck back to the point. From there, Lauze ripped a slapshot that junior Stephen Gionta redirected just inside the far post while strolling through the slot. It was his sixth of the year, but, once again, Lauze’s strategically placed shot was the difference.
“With [Andrew] Alberts out of the lineup,” explained York, “we were looking for someone to play the point on our second unit. Lauze probably has not played five minutes on the power play in his career at BC.”
Yet, there was the senior leading the way on two critical goals and an even bigger victory.
Just over two minutes later, the Eagles’ undefeated (9-0-4) rookie netminder Cory Schneider, who had a relatively uneventful night to that point, twisted his knee while moving untouched through his crease. The result was a sprained left knee — similar to the recent injury suffered by Alberts against Merrimack — that will keep him out of action for three to four weeks.
Schneider was replaced by senior Matti Kaltiainen, who went on to have a strong game in relief of the freshman, making several key saves in the third period as Harvard tried to mount a comeback, launching 14 shots at the BC net.
“Matti came off the bench like [Keith] Foulke for the Red Sox,” said York in reference to the World Series champions’ closer. “It is very difficult. You’re on the bench not expecting to play and are cold.”
The Crimson pulled within 3-1 when junior Tom Walsh’s point shot hit the post, bounced off Kaltiainen’s back and trickled across the goal line. The marker, at 6:01, was the blueliner’s third of the season and gave Harvard some life.
Under three minutes later, it appeared that the Crimson would be getting another chance on the power play, but the delayed penalty was nullified when sophomore Ryan Maki retaliated with a punch to BC defender John Adams after the whistle.
“I didn’t get a good look at it,” said Donato. “There was the first call and then a scrum. I’m not going to play official or discredit anyone, but I see it through rose-colored glasses and I thought we should have stayed on the power play.
“But, we put ourselves behind the eight-ball early.”
Junior defenseman Peter Harrold added an empty netter — his third goal of the season — at 19:45 to round out the scoring.
“When you start the Beanpot,” said Havern, “all four teams envision playing in the late game on the second Monday. That’s the goal. As of this Monday, we knew we couldn’t win the Beanpot, but there are other titles we want to win. For the team to do well tonight, we needed to focus.
“We grind away all year and let the pucks fall where they may.”
The Eagles finished the contest 2-for-4 with the man-advantage. Grumet-Morris made 38 stops, while Schneider, who earned the victory, made nine saves. Kaltiainen stopped 14 shots in relief.