Two impressive streaks were on exhibit in the late semifinal of the 54th annual Beanpot, and by the end of the night Boston University’s stellar freshman class had a hand in both.
The first one began in Matthews Arena on January 7 with a 4-0 BU win over Northeastern. Including their 5-3 triumph over the Crimson Monday, the Terriers have rolled off nine straight wins, the longest winning streak in the nation.
Along the way, freshmen Jason Lawrence, Chris Higgins, Brandon Yip, and Matt Gilroy have played crucial roles.
Gilroy has risen from walk-on to his current spot alongside senior Dan Spang as the pair of blueliners upon whom coach Jack Parker most often relies. And Lawrence, Higgins and Yip form the all-freshman third line that has accounted for 20 goals this season.
Those four have made substantial contributions to the Terriers’ nine-game winning streak, but until Monday they had had no role in BU’s other streak.
That’s the one that matters most on the first two Mondays every February, an important one to BU coach Jack Parker and his players. Twelve in a row — that’s the number of wins Boston University has collected in opening night of the Beanpot. Going back further, the Terriers have 22 wins in their last 23 Beanpot semis.
“And 39 of 43, but who’s counting?” asked Parker.
Now BU’s talented freshmen have a hand in that streak as well. Three figured into the scoring for the second goal of the game, which came at 9:08 of the first period as the result of a fantastic individual effort by Higgins.
After taking a pass from Yip, Higgins skated hard with the puck, passed by Harvard forward Jimmy Frasier and quickly cut to the outside around defender David MacDonald. He quickly cut towards the middle, deked goaltender John Daigneau, then pulled the puck back and slid it past Daigneau’s outstretched pad.
“[The Higgins’ goal] was a great individual effort and I’m sure a couple of our guys would like to have that play back,” said Harvard coach Ted Donato. “In a game like this, big plays like that can certainly influence the mindset of a team.”
The mindset of his players, specifically his freshmen, was a worry that occupied Parker before the game. Given the long history of the Beanpot, the importance attached to it by every Boston school (especially BU), and the capacity crowd that is always in attendance, there are a number of factors that could give a first-year player pause.
“I’m always worried about how freshmen will react in the Beanpot,” Parker said. “Give them credit, though, for not being freshmen anymore — for not losing their poise.”
For his part, Lawrence said that he when he sneaked a peek around the arena during the Boston College-Northeastern game, the size of the crowd and the noise of the fans gave him butterflies. But he settled down once the game began.
“You just have to go out there and get used to your surroundings,” Lawrence said. “Once we got over that, it was just like playing a regular game. We got into the groove of things and started rolling our lines.”
From that point on, it was hard to tell who the first-timers were. Yip and Lawrence were credited with the assists on the Higgins goal, and Lawrence added both a goal — the eventual game-winner — and an assist while on the power play.
Though Parker was a little bit worried about how his freshmen would react to the pressure of playing in the Beanpot, his fears proved groundless. Gilroy, Lawrence, Higgins and Yip excelled with their opportunities; they’ve helped BU extend its streak of Beanpot success, just as they’ve helped the Terriers assemble the best winning streak in the nation.
And come next Friday against Massachusetts and next Monday in the Beanpot championship against Boston College, the four freshmen will look to do more of the same.