Boston University had a goal coming into the 51st Beanpot championship game — stay out of the penalty box. Hockey East’s most-penalized team, the Terriers were facing one of the country’s best power play in the Boston College Eagles.
Measured against that goal, the Terriers failed miserably.
BU took nine minor penalties that accounted for eight BC power plays. The Terriers were doomed from the get-go under that scenario, according to most in the know.
Those people, though, underestimated the ability of the Terriers’ penalty kill.
Many who left the FleetCenter on Monday will remember the names of BU heroes like Brian McConnell, Justin Maiser and tournament MVP Sean Fields.
Maiser got the Terriers going with an early goal, his third in only two Beanpot finals. McConnell scored what turned out to be the winning goal when his second-period slapper put the Terriers up 3-0. And Fields basically did his usual — stood on his head to stop 31 of 33 BC shots to earn the Eberly Award as the tournaments top ‘tender in addition to his MVP honor.
But BU coach Jack Parker knows that if he needs to thank anybody for the win besides the aforementioned, he can shake the hands of Mark Mullen, Dave VanderGulik, Brian Collins, John Sabo and every other BU player who helped stifle the BC power play.
Those players limited the potent Eagles power play to just one goal on eight attempts as BU captured its 25th Beanpot with the 3-2 win.
— MVP Sean Fields, on what he saw in the Terriers’ penalty kill Monday.
“You can give a lot of credit to [BU],” said Eagles captain and leading scorer Ben Eaves, who was held to just one point in the game thanks to a shadow by McConnell. “They were blocking a lot of shots on [the penalty kill] and clearing the shots so we couldn’t get the them.
“We still had a goal on the power play, but in big games like this you need more than one goal.”
The key to limiting the Eagles power play of late has been shutting down defenseman Andrew Alberts. Earlier in the season, Eagles head coach Jerry York likened Alberts to a three-point shooter in basketball who opens up players below the hoop for rebounds. At the same time, Alberts has had his share of power-play tallies with one of the hardest one-timers in Hockey East.
“In big games, your special teams have to produce some goals,” said Eagles head coach Jerry York. “Andrew Alberts generates a lot of offense from the outside with the one-time shots and [BU] did a good job of blocking those shots tonight.”
“When [Alberts] is shooting the puck you can’t let him have an open lane to the net because he can really kill you,” said Parker. “We also had to put a lot of pressure on them because they have [Tony] Voce sitting on the far post as low as you can possibly go, which opens up the points.”
Fields, though most deserving of MVP honors, was the beneficiary of the great play of his defense and penalty kill on the night. He was forced to make a handful of testers, but without any doubt, his favorite stat of the night was 19 blocked shots for the Terrier defenders.
“I saw the back of VanderGulik going into shots. I saw the back of [Kenny] McGowan going into shots. I saw Freddy Meyer blocking shots,” said Fields. “Our whole penalty kill did an unbelievable job of blocking shots and getting into the passing lane.”
VanderGulik, specifically, was heroic. He scored his sixth goal of the season on the power play, but more importantly, his penalty-killing efforts turned the tide in the game at its most crucial point.
After Ryan Whitney was whistled for crosschecking at 17:29 of the first, BU’s Mark Mullen went off for high-sticking at 18:38, giving the Eagles a critical 5-on-3 power play, trailing at that point only 1-0.
Pressuring the point, VanderGulik blocked a one-timer by Alberts and then chased the loose puck, pressing the Eagles defenseman into hauling VanderGulik down, taking a penalty for interference and momentum away from the Eagles.
“Once the puck goes in front you have to get in the shooting lane and that’s what VanderGulik did, ” said Parker. “He’s a real smart player for a freshman who logs an awful lot of ice time for us. I can’t remember the last time I had a freshman killing 5-on-3s for us, and he does a good job.”
Strategy-wise, Parker changed very little from the penalty kill that held BC to 1-for-8.
“We changed our forecheck a little to come after them more,” said Parker. “We thought we could do a pretty good job, we just wish it was 1-for-3 instead of 1-for-8.”
Parker, though, still will admits that his team, as he said, “dodged a bullet.” Regardless, the Beanpot will stay with the Terriers for the second straight year, the eighth out of the last ten and 13th out of the last 20 seasons.
Though the penalty-killers saved the day, one of BU’s most likely penalty suspects, McConnell, said it best.
“I just can’t imagine not winning the Beanpot,” said McConnell, who is now two-for-two in his attempts.
And if the BU penalty kill has more nights like Monday, McConnell and his Terriers should have plenty more.