The last time Sean Fields played against Northeastern, he allowed three goals on ten shots and didn’t last through the second period. But with his 35-save performance in Boston University’s 5-2 win over the Huskies Monday night, he earned himself a place between the pipes for the Beanpot championship game for the third straight year.
In one sense, that was to be expected. Aside from BU’s mythical dominance in the tournament, Fields has been at his best at the FleetCenter. Last year alone, he earned tournament most valuable player honors during the Beanpot and Hockey East championships and, after Monday’s win, stands 6-2-0 lifetime with a .923 save percentage on Causeway Street.
But in another way, Fields’s scintillating stops came as a pleasant surprise to the Terriers. After a season in which he set the BU single-season record for saves and built a reputation for clutch big-game play, Fields has struggled through his senior year. He was yanked by coach Jack Parker in two games last month and surrendered eight goals to Maine in another.
His 3.16 goals-against average and .887 save percentage entering Monday were the worst season totals of his four-year career.
So after Monday’s game, as Parker listed off the things that pleased him about the win, it wasn’t a shock that he used the words “most importantly” before describing Fields’s efforts.
“Our goalie played great,” Parker said. “He made some huge saves in the third period.
“This was his best game in a while.”
Not that there wasn’t some concern early. Fields surrendered two goals in the first period, including one just 71 seconds in, making those of the scarlet-clad fandom squirm in their seats.
They weren’t alone.
“You kind of start wondering if this is going to be another eight-goal game,” Fields admitted. “It’s never good to give up an early goal.”
But Fields steadied himself, making masterful use of his glove and moving about his crease confidently. He played angles aggressively when the situation merited it, and knew when to hang back. One of his more spectacular saves came midway through the first, when he kicked aside a point-blank chance from Mike Morris, on a feed from Jason Guerriero.
“Sean Fields had himself a real good game,” said Northeastern coach Bruce Crowder. “The goaltending was a big difference tonight.”
At the very least, Fields was much better than his last outing against Northeastern, at Walter Brown Arena on Jan. 9. That night, he allowed three goals on four second-period shots and was pulled in favor of Stephan Siwiec, who earned a 4-3 overtime win in relief.
By contrast, in the second period Monday, he stopped all 14 Northeastern shots while his teammates built a 4-2 lead. He then finished flawlessly, standing tall in the third period while his teammates were outshot, 13-4.
“The way Fields played,” Crowder said, “those goals were tough to make up.”
Compare And Contrast
Once again, BU has provided occasion to present its unparalleled history in the Hub’s famed February festival … as well as Northeastern’s somewhat less illustrious Beanpot past.
If the Terriers win next Monday, they will claim their ninth Beanpot in the last 10 years, 12th in the last 15, and 26th in 52 tournaments.
BU has been especially dominant over Northeastern. The Terriers have won ten in a row against their Huntington Avenue rivals in the Beanpot, and six straight against the Huskies overall.
“We definitely get a big boost come Beanpot time,” Fields said. “BU’s always jacked up to play, and we’ve historically done very well in this tournament.”
Meanwhile, the last time NU beat BU in the Beanpot was the 1988 championship game — the Huskies’ last title — and it hasn’t beaten the Terriers in a semifinal since 1983.
“We try to coach our kids to just worry about one 60-minute hockey game,” Crowder said. “What happens on the ice has no bearing on what happened in 1952, or 1962, let alone 2002.”