BOSTON — The late author and Boston University professor Saul Bellow once wrote a novel entitled More Die of Heartbreak.
It could easily be the title of a book about Boston University’s opponents in the Beanpot.
After falling behind early, Boston College took control of Monday’s championship game halfway through the second period and outshot Boston University 26-10 through the last 40 minutes of regulation.
“We looked like we were waiting to lose,” Terrier coach Jack Parker said.
But in overtime — after playing relatively little through the last two periods following an injury to Eric Thomassian — junior Brian McGuirk picked an opportune time to score his first goal of the season, burying a high wrister glove-side off a faceoff at 5:06 of overtime to give BU a 2-1 win and yet another Beanpot championship.
“John McCarthy made a great play off the faceoff,” McGuirk said. “The puck floated right to me, which allowed me to get a good shot off.”
It was a stunning loss for the Eagles, who perhaps deserved a better fate. “I thought that was the best game we played all year as far as emotion and intensity,” BC coach Jerry York said of the contest, played before a sellout crowd of 17,565 at the TD Banknorth Garden.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow,” senior co-captain Brian Boyle said. “It’s playoff hockey, where anything can happen. Unfortunately, tonight we didn’t get the bounces we needed … You have to give credit to John Curry. He played a heck of a game.”
In addition to praising his goaltender, Parker admitted that he was counting his blessings after this win.
“I told everyone on the Boston College team that they deserved a better fate; they played very well,” Parker said. “Over the course of the second period, and almost the entire third period, we were waiting for something bad to happen. Once they scored we came back a little bit, but after that flurry we were still back on our heels.
“I can’t say enough about John Curry; I can’t say enough about our team’s ability to hang in there. It was like the Battle of the Bulge: We were bending pretty good there for a long time, but we didn’t break.”
Terrier goalie Curry made a superhuman effort between the pipes, stopping 37 of 38 shots from the determined Eagles. He set a tournament record with a .984 save percentage this year and was a no-brainer for Most Valuable Player.
Chris Higgins scored the first Terrier goal, while Nathan Gerbe got the equalizer early in the third.
BC almost scored 15 seconds into the game. From behind the goal line, Brock Bradford fed it to Gerbe all alone with Curry, and Gerbe made a nice backhand move but was stoned.
Despite that ominous opening, the Terriers got the game’s first goal at 2:33. Off a BC turnover along the boards, left wing Peter MacArthur tapped the puck to Chris Higgins, who zipped it to Eric Thomassian in the slot. It looked like an obvious shot, but Thomassian surprisingly returned it to Higgins, who knocked it from a sharp angle on the right-wing side.
“We had a pretty good give-and-go play, and I thought he was going to turn and shoot,” Higgins. “I didn’t even call for the puck; he just saw me and gave me the puck, and I beat Schneider. [Thomassian] definitely comes up big in the BC games, so I definitely would call him a BC killer.”
The teams traded nominal chances as the game settled down over the next 10 minutes. A BC power play produced a decent bid at 13:00, when Gerbe took a sharp-angle shot of his own off a feed from Benn Ferriero at the point. Curry made the save and then another on Andrew Orpik in tight, the puck going just wide.
Terrier d-man Matt Gilroy had the next good chance at 16:00, when he received a cross-ice pass on the left wing and blasted a one-timer, only to have Cory Schneider stretch his right leg across the crease for a great save on a ticketed shot.
Ferriero almost had a golden opportunity a minute later when Eric Gryba fell down, but the right winger skated over Gryba’s dropped stick and went down. If that weren’t enough to irritate BC fans, Nathan Gerbe got called for a trip in the corner at 18:30, though the replay on the Jumbotron had Jerry York pantomiming a dive in response. Fortunately, the call didn’t factor in the scoring.
The two teams played cautiously through the first half of the second stanza. BU had a brutal power play in the early going, but a great pass by Kenny Roche almost sent Jason Lawrence home free for the Terriers at 7:45, only to have the puck bounce over his stick.
The Eagles had a couple of wild scrums in front of the BU net during the period but to no avail. Playing four-on-four, Gerbe hit the outside of a post at 9:52 but then was called for tripping moments later. BU had great possession on the four-on-three but no terrific chances.
Nail-biting was in fashion for Terrier fans at 17:13, when John McCarthy knocked down Brian Boyle in the crease, giving the Eagles a five-on-three for 1:21; BC moved the puck well but never got good wood on a shot. Still on the power play, Boyle blasted a point-blank shot but Curry was in position. Despite being outshot 13-6 in the period, the Terriers clung to the 1-0 lead.
BC finally got the equalizer at 2:40 of the third. An Anthony Aiello pass from the left point found Gerbe all alone at the far side of the slot. With all the time in the world, Gerbe shifted the puck to his backhand and flipped it in high, glove side. The goal ended a 116:16 shutout streak in Beanpot play for Curry, dating back to last season.
The energy level took off from there as Eagle defenseman Mike Brennan leveled John McCarthy with a huge hit when the sophomore broke into the BC zone at 4:10. Coincidentally or not, BC dominated the rest of the period. Carl Sneep had a great chance at 7:00, but Curry made the huge save. Terrier captain Sean Sullivan buried Gerbe with a hit, but moments later Brock Bradford was mano a mano with Curry and almost scored.
BU managed to survive a steady onslaught and even came close to scoring at 16:17. Roche got the puck in tight with his back to the goal and backhanded a shot that hit Schneider’s arm, then the post, then Schneider’s back before the goalie fell on it. The play was reviewed: no goal.
The Terriers looked surprisingly jumpy, even with a few power plays late in the period. They failed to connect on passes and made some uncharacteristically poor decisions. Then they almost lost with just 10 seconds left when Ferriero nearly knocked in a rebound of a Boyle shot, only to have Curry pull it right off the goal line.
“Oh yeah, that was so close,” Curry said. “He looked me off as if he was going to pass, throw it out front. He end up flipping it on net, and my glove was at an angle where it hit off my glove and glanced off the post, dropped right there. I think it was closer than a lot of the fans knew.”
“As you describe it, I’m getting nervous,” Parker quipped. Curry insisted that he knew it was not a goal and was not remotely concerned about the video review: The puck touched the goal line, but no part of it went over. That sent the championship game into overtime for the ninth time in Beanpot history.
“In between periods our captain stepped up and he realized that we hadn’t played our best hockey,” Curry said. “He showed leadership and stated that we are where we are and haven’t lost the game yet, and if we stepped it up we could take home the hardware.”
That set the stage for McGuirk’s improbable game-winner.
“You couldn’t have picked a better guy to get the goal,” Higgins said. “Brian’s worked so hard this year on all the little things, and I’m just so happy to see him get rewarded with a big goal like this — just an absolutely unbelievable shot.”
No. 7 BU takes on league-leading UNH in a home-and-home series this weekend, while No. 13 BC hosts Maine for a critically important pair of league games on Thursday and Friday.