BOSTON — After waiting nine years to recapture the Hockey East Championship, Boston University didn’t mind waiting the better part of an overtime to make it a reality.
Fourteen minutes and 22 seconds into overtime, BU’s freshmen line of Jason Lawrence, Chris Higgins, and Brandon Yip teamed up for a gorgeous game-winning goal to give the Terriers a 2-1 victory over defending champion Boston College in front of a crowd of 16,433 at the TD Banknorth Garden.
Lawrence picked up the puck in his own end, banked it off the boards to himself through neutral ice, and raced in on the left wing before crossing to Higgins on the right-wing side. Higgins passed to Yip at the far post, and the British Columbia native reached from behind the goal line to tuck the puck off of Eagle goalie Cory Schneider’s extended pad and in, setting off a massive Terrier celebration.
Schneider made 37 saves in a losing effort, while BU’s John Curry stopped 29 of 30 shots — including ten in an overtime that ironically was dominated by BC for the most part. BU’s David Van der Gulik was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament, although Curry might have won the honor if the voting occurred after the game instead of midway through the third period.
“The game itself had ebbs and flows,” Terrier coach Jack Parker said. “At times it was wide open, and at other times it was close-checking and close to the vest.
“I felt that the game was the game we wanted to play for the entire three periods. We did a pretty good job in the first period, and in the second and third periods we were playing exactly the way we wanted against BC. When we got to the overtime, they were all over us … We were really back on our heels and about to change our forecheck when Brandon and his linemates went up and got the game-winning goal.”
It was a bitter defeat for BC coach Jerry York, whose team had every opportunity to finish off the No. 1 seed throughout the overtime. “We had two pretty good teams out there, battling,” York said. “There was a stretch where we took three penalties in a row and that put us on our heels in the second period, but we were able to get back in the game in the third and in overtime.
“It was a terrific effort for our Eagle team, and I’m very proud.”
Although winning the Beanpot is a familiar feeling for the Terriers, capturing the league crown was a new and emotional experience for the victors. “This doesn’t compare to the Beanpot Championship,” Curry said. “Winning your first Beanpot is maybe in the ballpark, but to win a championship in March is something you work for all year. It’s so special to have that finishing touch on a great year so far with more to come hopefully.
“It’s unbelievable. When he scored out there, that’s the most incredible feeling I’ve ever had.”
The teams generally traded solid but not spectacular chances in the first period. Shortly after a John Laliberte rush gave BU a bid at 2:45, BC struck first with a goal at 3:24. Collecting a pass high in the BU zone, sophomore defenseman Mike Brennan was basically unmarked as he skated through traffic toward the BU net. Brennan waited for Terrier goalie John Curry to commit before roofing a forehander on the stick side after Curry went to his knees a bit early. It was Brennan’s first goal of the season and just the third of his career.
The teams each had a pair of first-period power plays and enjoyed some nominal chances but nothing too amazing. Shorthanded at 12:09, BC senior Chris Collins took a sharp-angle shot that Curry blocked, only to leave a nice rebound in front for Stephen Gionta. But the Eagles did not capitalize.
At the 16-minute mark, BU’s Dan Spang took a left-point shot into a dangerously crowded slot, but Eagle goalie Cory Schneider made the initial save and then got a quick whistle with the puck still loose. Less than two minutes later, Terrier Kenny Roche took a shot off of a faceoff that was partially blocked by a BC defender and almost caught the corner of the net on Schneider’s stick side. The end result was a 1-0 BC lead through one despite a 10-7 shot advantage for the Terriers. BU could only hope that recent history would hold up. The Terriers had won the last two games against their archrivals in spite of yielding the game’s first goal both times.
The second period featured more shots and scoring chances. BC captain Peter Harrold had a wraparound bid at 3:12, then three consecutive Eagle penalties set up several opportunities for BU. Pete MacArthur set up Brandon Yip with a cross-ice pass for a one-timer try at 4:30, then MacArthur had a pair of power-play shots less than two minutes later.
One too many passes by John Laliberte negated a good chance at the seven-minute mark for BU, but in general the Terriers seemed to gain momentum after far too many shaky passes betrayed a lack of focus in the earlier going. BU’s fourth line stood out — even before they notched the equalizer at 14:30.
From behind the goal line, Brian McGuirk slipped a pass in front. Centerman John McCarthy had to reach for it but then fired a 12-footer that caught a part of Schneider before trickling over the goal line just before Brennan could sweep it away.
This sets the stage for a suspenseful five-on-three for 39 seconds in the last two minutes of the period. Again, fourth-liner McCarthy was on the spot as the lone forward for the Terriers. BC had many chances, but BU held them off, and the championship game went into the third period 1-1.
It was a tense, tightly-played period with a fair number of shots but not so many grade ‘A’ chances. Laliberte had a sharp-angle shot that Schneider snared at the 18-second mark, then there were no real chances till Brad Zancanaro had a backhanded bid on the doorstep at 11:20. It started becoming apparent that the next goal would win.
Harrold made a dazzling move to set up a chance at 15:15, maneuvering his way toward the net before shooting. There was a scramble, but BU cleared the puck. Going the other way, Brandon Yip picked up a loose puck and made a neat little move before shooting wide at 16:30. As the period ran out, both teams had nominal chances, but the game moved on to overtime for the sixth time in the 22-year history of Hockey East.
BC proceeded to dominate. First came a good shot for Benn Ferriero at 4:16 when Spang and Matt Gilroy failed to clear the zone. Then — after Curry gloved a Joe Rooney shot off the boards for a faceoff at 6:27 — BC knocked the puck into the BU net … just after the whistle blew.
Brett Motherwell had a high shot at 7:15, then Stephen Gionta had a wraparound a minute later. Parker called a timeout after the flurry. BU looked more poised subsequently but still almost lost at 10:06 when an innocent shot caromed off a defender’s skate and almost in. That set the stage for Yip’s game-winner.
“I think there was one play in OT where it went through John’s pads almost — I don’t how it stayed out,” York said. “It looked like it was going to be a red light for sure. He made two or three terrific saves in the OT.”
“This is probably the biggest goal of my career,” Yip said. “Jason made a great play coming across the blue line and fed Chris. I just went to the net, and he fed the pass right on my stick. I think it hit the post and then Schneider and went in, so I was a little lucky, too.”
“It was probably the biggest goal of your career?” ribbed Parker.
“Oh, definitely!” Yip said.
Both teams now wait for the Sunday morning announcement regarding the NCAA Tournament. BU (25-9-4) definitely will be in Worcester and should be a No. 1 seed; BC (23-12-3) is a lock to be in but does not where they will play next weekend.
For the moment, BU will savor their sixth Hockey East title. “I think this qualifies us as a real great BU team because that’s the measurement. Last year we had a real great season, won the Beanpot and then lost in the semi-finals to UNH and lost in the NCAAs. That’s not what we’re all about: We want to see if we can win something big at the end of the year.”
“You win something in the postseason, and you’ve had a great year. You couple that with the Beanpot championship and the regular-season championship, and this is one of the best BU teams on record.”