BOSTON — Harvard did not have a lot to play for — its only chance at a spot in the NCAA tournament will be through the ECAC Hockey tournament and this wasn’t a conference game.
No. 13 Boston University had a lot to play for — a chance to halt a skid and remain in the thick of the NCAA tournament conversation.
Yet the play on the ice showed the opposite. BU came out flat and did not play great hockey while Harvard showed some fire and got a Luke Greiner hat trick in a 7-4 victory Monday in the Beanpot consolation game.
“Despite the fact that it wasn’t in the finals, we took it with a lot of excitement and we saw it as an opportunity to improve,” Harvard captain Danny Biega said.
The senior added that this could be what the Crimson needs to turn around its season and repeat, and maybe top, last year’s run to the ECAC tournament finals.
“It has the ability to turn the team around,” he said. “It hasn’t been too great of a run through the first half of the season, but everyone makes the playoffs and we can just start to pick up and roll off of this.”
Greiner doubled his season goals total with his three on Monday, and Marshall Everson added a pair for the Crimson (6-15-2).
BU (13-12-1) got on the board first, but coach Jack Parker said the Terriers were playing poorly and just managed to score a few goals. Harvard responded to tie the game up 2-2, the tying goal coming from Biega with 14 seconds left in the first period.
When BU took the lead again in the opening minutes of the second frame, Harvard responded with goals by Everson and Greiner in the span of 47 seconds and didn’t look back after that.
The first of the pair was a wrister from Everson on one knee in the slot. The second was a one-timer tipped past BU goaltender Sean Maguire by Greiner on a pass from Conor Morrison from behind the net.
Much of Harvard’s offense on the night came from plays started behind the net as forwards planted themselves in position to tap in a pass or at least pressure Maguire.
“We’ve been trying to work the puck down low and get some guys in front of the net,” Biega said. “Tonight, we did a good job of getting behind the net and springing some guys out front.”
Harvard’s Peter Traber, a freshman making only his second start, later made a nice save in a seated position on a hard deflection that clearly rung through the quiet TD Garden. His forwards rewarded him with another goal as Greiner threw a rebound through Maguire’s five-hole with 3:27 to play in the second.
Traber made 43 saves to earn his first win. Coach Ted Donato said the decision to start stemmed from Raphael Girard playing Sunday in a 1-1 tie with Dartmouth and Traber working hard in practice to earn the opportunity.
“I think the first goal he’d probably like to have back but he made a lot of huge saves and looked strong in there,” Donato said. “It’s nice to see him get his first win with 43 saves at the Boston Garden.”
The seven goals were the most for the Crimson since an 8-7 consolation game loss to Northeastern in 2001. Greiner completed his hat trick with an empty-netter with 8.6 seconds to play. Dan Ford also scored, getting Harvard started at 13:00 of the first period.
BU alternate captain Ryan Ruikka pointed to the number of goals allowed as the Terriers’ biggest problem.
“We’re not playing defense,” he said. “You can’t win a game when you give up six goals.”
Parker took it a step farther, saying his team lacked a competitive drive and effort — and has for much of the second semester. The Terriers are in danger of missing out on home-ice advantage in the Hockey East tournament and an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
“It’s almost like they’re waiting for something bad to happen,” Parker said.
Maybe placing fourth in the Beanpot for the second time in the past three years — something that has happened only once before — is that something bad.