BOSTON — The tournament is nicknamed “The BU Invitational.” Terriers dominance is part of expectations in the annual Beanpot, with the always-favored Terriers simply expected to win the championship, regardless of the situation.
So if you wondered why anyone associated with Boston College might have been nervous, even with a 4-1 lead late in Monday’s championship game of the 58th Beanpot tournament, you now have an explanation.
Not surprisingly, BU nearly proved those nerves completely justified, scoring twice late in the third period to pull within a goal and pressing the Boston College defense, led by goaltender and tournament MVP John Muse (31 saves), to the absolute edge before the Eagles held on for a 4-3 victory. The win gives BC its 15th Beanpot title, even though the thrilling finish may have given BC head coach Jerry York heartburn.
“It would’ve been easier if we could’ve kept it at 4-1,” joked the veteran bench boss. “The momentum can swing so easily.”
It did, as BU began its rally with a short-handed tally by defenseman David Warsofsky with 11 minutes remaining and then raised the intensity when Jack Parker’s gamble to pull goaltender Kieran Millan with more than three minutes to play resulted in a Colby Cohen power-play goal at 17:14.
From there, the Eagles proved they weren’t to be denied. York called timeout immediately after BU’s third goal to calm his troops a bit.
“You take the timeout to settle your team down a little bit,” said York. “Their eyes were focused pretty well on the prize, but I think at times it’s nice just to settle us down a bit. They handle it pretty well.”
Even in a game where seven goals were allowed, solid goaltending from both sides was the major story line. Millan, though surrendering three goals in the middle period, made some incredible saves to keep things within striking distance.
For Muse, Monday’s performance, combined with last Monday’s shutout in the semifinals, earned him the Eberly Award, given to the goaltender in the tournament with the highest save percentage. It also might have canceled out the memory of last year’s Beanpot semifinal, where Muse was pulled for the first time in his career in a 6-1 loss to Northeastern.
“If there’s one thing about John [Muse], it’s that he’s a competitor,” said BC captain Matt Price. “He wants to win, he wants to get in those [pressure] games. He’s been playing unbelievably and we don’t expect anything less.”
BU scored the only goal in a fast-paced opening twenty minutes. BC rookie defenseman Philip Samuelsson made an ill-advised pass from behind his net that went directly to Kevin Shattenkirk in the high slot. He had plenty of space to walk in and fire a shot over Muse’s glove at 13:36 for the 1-0 Terriers’ lead.
At the end of the frame, BU took two penalties in a 36-second span, giving the Eagles and extended five-on-three power play. The good news for BU, if there was any, was that the advantage was spread over two periods. When BU killed off the first penalty at the start of the second, it looked like it might escape.
BC, though, got one final rush before the second penalty expired and made the most of it. Cam Atkinson made a pass from his knees to Steven Whitney, who was pinching from the point. Whitney fired a tight-angle shot that hit BU defenseman Sean Escobedo’s stick and popped over Millan into the net.
The goal, at 1:01, gave BC momentum that it held throughout much of the middle frame.
“I think just with the atmosphere, we kind of got caught up in what happened out there,” said Shattenkirk of the second period. “It was a tough period that we let some distractions get in our way.”
The Eagles grabbed their first lead at 12:33. After BU had trouble clearing its zone, the rebound of Price’s shot ended up at the right point on Carl Sneep’s stick. He blasted a seeing-eye shot far side off the left post and in for the 2-1 Eagles’ advantage.
At 15:48, rookie Chris Kreider atoned for a hitting-from-behind penalty with a highlight-reel goal. Just seconds after leaving the penalty box, Kreider took a long feed from Jimmy Hayes, made a nifty move through the legs of BU rookie blueliner Max Nicastro, and tucked a shot inside the far side post on Millan to give BC a 3-1 lead heading to the third.
In the third, it looked like the Eagles had iced things. As BU got aggressive in the offensive zone, Barry Almeida chipped a puck past Shattenkirk at BU’s offensive blue line and raced end-to-end, firing a shot over Millan’s glove for the 4-1 lead.
BU never said die. With BC on the power play, Zach Cohen made a behind-the-back feed to Warsofsky at the offensive blue line that the sophomore defenseman took around a BC defender, roofing a pretty backhander over Muse.
When BC’s Tommy Cross was whistled for cross-checking with 3:22 remaining, Parker saw the opportunity to climb within a goal and seized it, pulling Millan at the start of the power play for a six-on-four advantage. Nick Bonino made a nifty move from the right wing corner, cutting to the net and putting a shot on Muse that bounced to a wide open Colby Cohen, who buried his 11th goal of the season.
That was as close as the Terriers would get, and with it, the Pot of Beans returns to the west side of Commonwealth Avenue and the Eagles.
“The significance of this game was that we had a lot of players — freshman and sophomores — that have not won a trophy at BC,” said York. “To win a trophy is a catalyst for our club. That’s a really important phase of our program.”