BOSTON — Harvard may have a 6-12-3 record against every other team in college hockey, but it now has a 2-0 record against local rival Boston University this season.
In a battle of two young teams that have been on the wrong side of .500 for much of the season, Harvard beat BU 6-2 in the Beanpot consolation Monday night.
Semifinals: Feb. 3
• Third place: Harvard 6, Boston University 2
• Championship: Boston College 4, Northeastern 1 | Once again, Boston College finds another gear to extend Beanpot stranglehold | For Northeastern, more than a quarter-century of close calls but no Beanpot titles
“I think we’re happy to get the win,” Harvard coach Ted Donato said. “I thought our guys battled for a lot of pucks at the net. Our hard work got rewarded with a couple of bounces as well, so we’re happy to get the win and hoping it will help us down the stretch.
“Obviously, nothing that happened tonight will erase last week’s tough memory [of a 6-0 rout by Northeastern], but I thought our guys came out, worked hard and enabled us to get the victory. It’s a momentum builder for us.”
For BU, it was a significant step backward in effort after playing great in a tough loss to Boston College last week and then earning a tie against another top-10 opponent in Massachusetts-Lowell on Friday.
Despite a long record of dominance in the Beanpot, tonight’s game also marked the first time ever that BU has finished fourth in the February tournament for two years in a row.
“Disappointing for us,” BU coach David Quinn said. “I thought we made a lot of progress the last few weeks. The wins and losses didn’t show it, but you could feel a little bit of momentum, a little more purpose to our game. Tonight, I thought we really reverted to what we looked like three weeks ago.”
Harvard dominated the scoring chances and enjoyed a 10-5 shot margin in the first period, only to find itself down 1-0 by the time the first intermission came.
At 10:42, freshman centerman Robbie Baillargeon got the puck behind the Harvard goal line and set up Evan Rodrigues with a pass between the dots. Rodrigues beat Steve Michalek for his third goal of the season.
To their credit, the Crimson came out even stronger in the second period and were rewarded with three goals in the first seven minutes. At 1:14, Esposito passed to Criscuolo racing in on the right wing. Without breaking stride, the sophomore blasted a slap shot that beat BU goalie Sean Maguire, top shelf.
Just over two minutes later, BU made it 2-1. After a weak clearing attempt by the Terriers, sophomore Brian Hart ended up with the puck on stick low in the right-wing circle, where he beat Maguire with a low shot.
At 6:59, Harvard’s second line struck again. Junior defenseman Max Everson carried the puck into the BU zone along the left-wing boards before throwing the puck on net. Maguire made the pad save, but Esposito was there to bang home the rebound.
By the end of the period, Harvard had outshot BU by a 20-11 margin – the third time this year BU has given up 20 or more shots in a period.
Asked to explain what went wrong, Quinn said, “A lack of urgency. Too often we’d get a puck and have no idea what to do with it.”
Quinn went on to say that the Terriers often looked “a half-second too slow” in any number of aspects of the game.
With the teams playing four-on-four at 7:20 in the third, BU finally got a second goal. From the right wing, Rodrigues crossed the puck to defenseman Ahti Oksanen sneaking on the left wing and the Finn beat Michalek to make it 3-2.
But after the long battle to get the game back to a one-goal deficit, BU gave one right back to Harvard just 37 seconds later. To be fair, it was just bad luck: From behind the goal line, Esposito backhanded a blind pass toward the slot, only to have the puck carom off of the stick of co-captain Patrick MacGregor and go into the net.
“It’s unfortunate,” Quinn said. “He gets his stick on it and it goes top shelf.”
BU showed some signs of life as the period wore on. Quinn ultimately used his timeout and pulled Maguire with 2:40 left, but just 21 seconds into the extra-attacker situation, Jimmy Vesey buried a shot launched from just inside the blue line to seal it.
In a nice gesture, Quinn put Anthony Moccia in net at that point, just the second collegiate game for the senior.
Unfortunately, Moccia gave up a goal when Tyler Moy tipped in a shot from the point.
“I don’t read too much into it,” Donato said of sweeping BU this season despite Harvard’s poor record overall. “I think coming into last week, eight of our 11 losses were by one goal and in many of them, we shot ourselves in the foot.
“We’re young; we’re learning. We learned a tough lesson last week, but I do think we’re improving and if we continue to do so, we could be a tough out at the end of the season.”