BOSTON — It’s often been said that the Beanpot is the time for big players to shine.
Boston College agrees.
Led by its upperclassmen, college hockey’s youngest team advanced to the championship game for the 27th time in tournament history with a 5-2 victory over Northeastern in the opening game to the 54th annual Beanpot.
The Eagles scored in almost every way possible — even-strength, shorthanded, on the power play, off a faceoff — got four of its five goals from the senior class of Peter Harrold (goal, three assists), Stephen Gionta (goal, assist) and Chris Collins (two goals).
“We’ve got a senior class that is really second to none,” said BC head coach Jerry York, whose team dresses at least 14 underclassmen regularly. “When you’ve got that group of young players, you really need to have something from your top class.”
A major key to the game for the Eagles was getting off to a fast start. In its previous three games, two of which BC lost, the team has spent much of its time clawing back. Knowing that both Northeastern and BC had very few players with Beanpot experience further magnified the importance of getting out of the gate fast.
BC did exactly that, scoring three times in the opening period and forcing Northeastern coach Greg Cronin to pull starting goaltender Doug Jewer (10 saves).
Rookie Brock Bradford buried a perfect behind-the-back pass that caught Jewer looking the wrong way at 8:36. Harrold took the puck at the right point off the draw, skated down the wing and pushed the puck between Jewer’s legs as he cut across the crease at 11:48. And Collins fired a bad-angle shot from just above the goal line on a five-on-three power play at 17:50 to end Jewer’s night.
“It was really significant [to jump out to a quick start],” said York. “If you give [Northeastern] the lead that would be the worst-case scenario for us, giving them the confidence that they could beat us.”
Once BC had the lead, Northeastern didn’t roll over. In fact, Cronin said that he felt his team was playing well in the first but was just on the wrong end of the 3-0 score. After communicating that to his team between periods, the Huskies returned with to the ice to put pressure on the Eagles.
But it was the Eagles’ ability to respond every time Northeastern scored that won the game for BC.
The Huskies scored the only goal of the second period when Bryan Esner buried the rebound of a Ryan Ginand shot at 13:45. BC responded, though, early in the third to when Gionta deflected a Brett Motherwell shot past Northeastern replacement goaltender Adam Geragosian (20 saves) at 2:36 of third.
“Once we got ahead, we knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” said Bradford. “But we were able to respond every time they scored which really helped us out.”
A similar response came later in the period after Northeastern rookie Dennis Macauley made a nice move to corral a loose puck and drag it around Schneider to pull Northeastern closer at 4-2.
Schneider answered, though, was a stop in tight to maintain the two-goal lead, right before Collins scored a shorthanded breakaway goal at 9:51 to quiet the growing sellout crowd. The tally took the final wind out of Northeastern’s sails and accounted for the 5-2 final.
“You can’t give up a shorthanded goal with 10 minutes to go in the game when you’re on the power play,” said Cronin, coaching in his first Beanpot. “I mean that’s unforgivable.
“The fifth goal just killed us. The bottom line is they had two power-play goals, a shorthanded goal and a faceoff goal. A team like BC, when they get those chances, they’re probably going to score on half of them. It’s going to probably take us four times as many chances to get the same number of goals.”
Unfortunately for Northeastern, on Monday the Huskies had nowhere near four times the chances of the Eagles, and in fact were outshot, 35-30. The result was a return to the consolation game for the 42nd time in 54 years.
BC, on the other hand will head to the championship game for the third time in the last four years with the hope of skating with the Beanpot for the 14th time in school history.
“I’m very pleased that our kids will have a chance to win their second Beanpot in three years,” said York. “That’s a pretty good run for our group.”