BOSTON — Entering the 55th edition of the Beanpot, many thought that either Northeastern or Harvard, or potentially even both clubs, could advance to the title game.
For the 19th time in the 55-year history of the tournament, Boston College and Boston University will meet to decide to the Beanpot champion by virtue of a 3-1 victory for the Eagles over Harvard in Monday’s second semifinal.
Boston University shut out Northeastern, 4-0, in Monday’s first semifinal.
Nathan Gerbe’s shorthanded goal early in the second period turned out to be the game-winner as Cory Schneider finished with 21 saves to cement the win. Brian Boyle’s empty-net goal with 18.9 seconds remaining accounted for the final score.
The game saw Boston College’s defense play a key role, particularly limiting the Crimson’s offensive opportunities in the game’s final 20 minutes when the Eagles were protecting a 2-1 lead.
Part of that BC coach Jerry York attributes to his club’s solid play. Part, though, he feels is a function of the scheduling process that saw BC play just one league game over the past weekend, while Harvard was forced to play two games over the weekend and three games in four nights.
“I think it’s a really difficult task,” said York of Harvard’s schedule. “I thought we had a little more jump in the third period and that might have been the difference.”
The other deciding factor was Boston College’s penalty kill. Not only did the Eagles successfully kill all four Harvard power plays, allowing just five shots, but the aggressive pressure in the defense zone led to a Harvard turnover and a BC shorthanded goal, its ninth of the season.
“On the penalty kill, we always want to be a pressure team,” said the shorthanded-sniping Gerbe, who now has four shorthanders on the season. “We key on trying to block shots and getting our guys going offensively.”
The way that the game’s opening period went, you’d have thought it was split into two separate halves. The Crimson controlled the first 10 minutes and took a 1-0 lead at 8:12 on senior captain Dylan Reese’s fifth goal of the season, a wrister through a diving BC defender that beat Schneider clean between the legs. At that point, Harvard led in shots, 7-4, but Reese’s goal was the Crimson’s last shot of the period.
“I wasn’t surprised that Harvard came out with so much jump,” said York. “I saw them play against RPI last Saturday and they came out with the same jump.”
With the Eagles dominating the second half of the frame and eventually holding a 12-7 lead in shots through one, they were able to grab the equalizer just before intermission. Brad Rooney’s pass through the middle found Benn Ferriero at the offensive blueline. His low slapper from 60 feet at 17:27 beat Harvard goaltender Kyle Richter (29 saves) to knot the game at one.
In the second, the Eagles extended the lead on the penalty kill at 6:22. After taking a pass from Ferriero, Gerbe cut to the middle and wristed a backhander that seemed to catch Richter by surprise, beating him five-hole for the Eagles’ first lead of the night at 2-1.
Harvard had ample opportunities to even the score before the second period ended, most notably back-to-back shots by Jimmy Fraser at 16:36. Schneider made the first stop and was forced to recover quickly to stop the rebound attempt and maintain BC’s lead heading to the third.
In the third, BC’s defense tightened and Harvard’s only quality bid came off the stick of Brian McCafferty with 3:10 remaining, a shot from the low slot that Schneider almost routinely turned aside.
“We try to use Cory as our real game-breaker,” said York. “We know if we have a lead in the third period he’s going to make some real big saves for us.”
The victory advances Boston College to the title game for the 28th time. Next Monday’s game with BU will be the 37th all-time Beanpot meeting for the Commonwealth Avenue rivals, with the Terriers holding a lopsided 26-10 advantage in the series.
For Harvard, Monday’s loss is a disappointing setback as many thought the Crimson was the hottest team entering this year’s Beanpot.
“Our mindset was pretty positive,” said head coach Ted Donato. “I felt like we were capable of winning the game. I just thought we didn’t play with a lot of jump.”