CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — To cap one of the longest games in Beanpot history, Anna McDonald scored in triple overtime to lift Boston College to a 4-3 win over Harvard.
McDonald, playing in her first game after being out four weeks with a groin injury and with only four days of practice, survived almost six periods of hockey before she stuffed and stuffed at the puck, finally sliding it under the pads of Harvard goalie Brittany Martin (48 saves).
“When a game gets so late, it becomes a mind game,” said BC coach Tom Mutch. “I think we’re mentally tough. Sometimes in overtime games you see defensive breakdowns, which is a sign of mental lapses, but we didn’t have many of those. To be able to focus for that long is phenomenal.”
The game was a seesaw affair, with two BC goals in an Eagle-dominated first, two Harvard goals in a second period that was all Crimson, and a goal for each team 12 seconds apart in an even third. Two scoreless overtime sessions set the stage for the dramatic game-winner.
At 114:13, the game clocks in as one of the longest in women’s hockey history, though it was still two periods short of the 1996 ECAC championship game between New Hampshire and Providence that lasted 145:35. It is the longest game in Beanpot history since Northeastern and Harvard played to five overtimes in 1982.
“That was definitely the longest game I’ve ever been in,” said BC goalie Molly Schaus, who finished with 73 saves, just one shy of the school record of 74. “I can’t explain it. It’s the best feeling in the world.”
Predictably, that feeling didn’t extend into the other lockerroom.
“We’re very disappointed that we didn’t win tonight,” said Harvard coach Katey Stone. “We had every expectation of advancing to the championship game. There’s no win here. No feel good, no moral victory. The bottom line is that we play in a consolation game next week.
The BC victory sets up a BU vs. BC clash in the title game, which is the first meeting of those teams for the women’s Beanpot title since 1981. BU and BC will be playing for the men’s Beanpot title next week as well.
The victory is also crucial to BC’s hopes of securing the first NCAA berth in program history.
The game was a rematch of last year’s Beanpot championship game, which BC won 2-0 to secure its first-ever ‘Pot title.
The defending champs didn’t take long to start a title defense.
At the midpoint of the first period, BC captain Deb Spillaine found a wide open Allie Thunstrom, who took her time, and scored with a shot in the upper corner of the net over the shoulder of Martin. It was Thunstrom’s team-leading 23rd goal of the season.
BC shocked Harvard with a second goal toward the end of the frame, as Kelli Stack shot from traffic and got one past the goalie. Martin immediately tried to appeal to the referees, but the goal stood.
The second period was a magnified mirror image of the first. BC displayed excellent puck-handling skills in the first, and Harvard came out skating and shooting in the second. The Crimson racked up 24 shots and scored two goals, all the while dominating territorially.
“We really tried to block shots,” explained Mutch, referring to Harvard’s 44 attempts in the period. “That was really our goal, to get sticks and bodies in the shooting lanes. We had to weather the storm in the second, but a lot of those shots came on the power play, and were kept on the perimeter.”
Harvard made a statement early in the frame. Lindsay Weaver took a bouncing shot from the point, which was tipped by Liza Solley and then again by captain Jennifer Sifers.
Crimson skaters were peppering the net, and when BC’s Cristin Stuart headed to the penalty box for holding, a goal seemed almost inevitable. It came just 40 seconds into the power play, as Caitlin Cahow ripped a shot from the top of the face-off circle that Schaus handled with the glove, but didn’t completely stop. The puck trickled toward the goal-line and was knocked home by Katie Johnston.
“We had multiple opportunities to win this game,” said Stone. “But the puck didn’t bounce for us, it bounced for BC.”
The third period was much more even, as BC capitalized on Harvard’s first penalty of the night with 8:04 left in regulation. Harvard answered back just 12 seconds later.
With Sarah Vaillancourt off for holding, freshman Kelli Stack skated across the mouth of the crease and roofed a shot into the upper reaches of the net.
The BC lead was short lived, however, as Harvard caught BC celebrating the goal and tied the game again when Jenny Brine added to her team lead in goals with her 22nd. Vaillancourt, fresh out of the penalty box, gained the zone before dishing off to Brine.
BC had a slight edge in the first overtime session, which featured a BC power play. The Eagles had a 10-7 shot advatage in the period, despite being outshot 52-26 in regulation. The momentum in the crowd of 723 shifted BC’s way as well, as the Harvard band departed at the end of the first overtime. Meanwhile, members of BC men’s hockey team trickled into the rink as word spread of the women’s achievement.
In the second overtime, Boston College had more scoring attempts, but the best single scoring chance came when Julie Chu picked off a BC clearing attempt, held the zone and dished to Jenny Brine, who spotted Vaillancourt all alone at the corner of the BC net. The pass just missed Vaillancourt’s stick, and the game continued.
“Once we got into overtime, I really had a feeling that it was just a matter of time,” said Mutch. “It was just a question of when we were going to catch a break. We finally did.”
Both coaches praised the unique nature of the Beanpot tournament.
“Nobody in the country did what these four teams did tonight,” said Mutch. “Nobody. We played for a championship in February — that’s what makes this so special.”
Stone concurred. “The Beanpot is playoff hockey. It always has been. There are no excuses — not that it is on a Tuesday, not that it is in the middle of the week. Play or go home.”
The Beanpot concludes next Tuesday, February 13, as Harvard (17-5-2) plays Northeastern in the consolation game at 5PM, and Boston College (19-7-2) and Boston University square off in the nightcap, at 8.