BOSTON — Fans at the TD Garden didn’t see the most exciting semifinal in the 60-year history of the Beanpot Tournament Monday night, but they did see a familiar sight – Boston University in the championship game.
Hours after being named the No. 1 team in the country for the first time this season in the USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll, the Terriers muddled along to a 3-1 victory over Harvard in front of a fairly small and low-key crowd.
Semifinals, Feb. 6
The win added that much more luster to BU’s history of playing in the Beanpot championship. The Terriers will now play in the final for the 16th time in the last 18 years and for the 26th time in the last 29 years.
BU coach Jack Parker is now 33-6 in first-round games.
Meanwhile, Harvard will now play in the consolation game for the 13th time in the last 14 years. Harvard has not won the February tournament since 1993.
“Obviously, we’re frustrated,” Harvard coach Ted Donato said. “I give BU a lot of credit. They were able to get out ahead of us early. We were in the box far too often for the first half of the game and Millan made it awfully tough for us to get back into it.”
Despite the kudos from his counterpart, Parker was underwhelmed by his team’s showing.
“First of all, I don’t think either team played their best game tonight,” Parker said, noting that he had been very impressed with the Crimson’s speed and power play when watching their last three games on tape. “Neither team seemed to be that engaged. There were some good plays and some nice goals scored, and Harvard stormed us in the last few minutes, but in general, it was a sleepwalk.”
“I think it’s tough playing in the afternoon game,” Megan said. “Not a ton of fans, so you have to kind of make your own energy.”
At 8:14 of the first period, BU took the lead on a great play by Matt Nieto. Attacking the net from the left-wing circle, the sophomore got Harvard goalie Steve Michalek to go down in anticipation of a shot. Then he circled the net for a wraparound, banking a shot off of the skate of Crimson defenseman Ryan Grimshaw for the goal.
BU had three power plays during the period, but Harvard had the best chance to score while BU had those man advantages. With 1:15 left, freshman right wing Colin Blackwell had a clear breakaway and a great opportunity to tie it up. He faked the shot from 20 feet and then tried to stuff it in low, but Millan came up with the save of the night to preserve the lead.
“Typical breakaway shorthanded, seems to happen pretty often,” Millan said, drawing chuckles from Megan. “He made a good move and probably could’ve put it around me for the goal, but fortunately, I was able to make the save.”
The Terriers finally capitalized on a power play at 7:30 of the second period. Gill intercepted an errant pass near the left point and he slipped the puck to Megan down low at the far post. Megan’s shot bled through Michalek’s pads to make it 2-0.
“We had the puck in full possession,” Donato lamented about the turnover.
Gill and Megan were at it again at 14:02. Gill won the offensive-end draw and then ended up collecting the puck along the boards, shoving it down to Megan behind the goal line in the left-wing corner. Megan powered toward the net – “I thought our ‘D’ got hooked in the corner,” Donato said – and the other Harvard defender opted to cover Cason Hohmann at the far post, allowing Megan to go one-on-one with Michalek. Megan backhanded a shot past the goalie on the far side.
Parker noted that Megan has been playing great all year, but likely would still be on the third line if not for the departure of Charlie Coyle and the dismissal of Corey Trivino. Megan now leads the team with 14 goals.
Harvard needed a goal desperately and got one on a power play less than 90 seconds later.
Marshall Everson made a nice pass from the right point, springing Killorn in the slot for the shot and score.
Eyebrows were raised when Donato pulled Michalek late in the period.
“It wasn’t pointing the finger in any way,” Donato said, explaining that he thought Raphael Girard’s superior stickhandling might give the team a boost. He also may have been recalling that his team had rallied with three third-period goals to beat Quinnipiac last Friday after the same substitution.
In any event, Girard managed to stop all eight shots he faced.
At 2:29 of the third period, BU momentarily appeared to seal the deal, only to have a goal waved off. Senior Kevin Gilroy got off a great shot from the left wing, and the red light went on, but the video review clearly revealed that the puck had only hit the crossbar.
Harvard pulled their goalie in the last few minutes and had a few chances, most notably when Alex Fallstrom picked up a loose puck and shot through a crowd of players with 49 seconds left, but Millan made the save and now will look to win the Beanpot as a senior, just as he did as a freshman.
In the meantime, BU (17-8-1) will host Massachusetts on Friday night before next Monday’s championship game. Harvard (7-7-9) plays at home against Rensselaer on Friday.