Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Harvard Gets Elusive Beanpot Win

Peter Starrett (left, 14) celebrates his first collegiate point while teammate Danny Biega (center) celebrates his game tying goal in the 3rd period of the Beanpot consolation game. Photo courtesy of the Harvard Department of Athletics.

In years past, the consolation game of the Beanpot used to be a chance to test out the kids coming up through the ranks. Tales of the JV squad taking to the early game abound in Beanpot legend but JV has given way to club hockey (complete with its own club Beanpot) so the practice is no longer continued. Still, Ted Donato would have been forgiven if, in a not tremendously important nonconference game in front of friends and family at the TD Garden, he had gone with a youth movement and let players like John Caldwell, Dan Fick and Raphael Girard see the ice. The starting line-up, though, showed that would not be the tactic, as Donato mixed his starters to trot out a mostly senior starting line-up. Among the first six for the Crimson, it was the two co-captains, Michael Del Mauro and Chris Huxley, as well as P.O. Michaud and Michael Biega, with Ryan Carroll tending the net. The lone non-senior was underused Peter Starrett, with the junior making just his 17th appearance for the Crimson. It was clear that instead of a youth movement, Donato wanted to give his seniors one last chance for a Beanpot win. That decision ultimately delivered.

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As is often the case in the early game in the second round of the Beanpot, it was a lackadaisical affair in the first period. Both teams seemed content to just go through the motions, get in and out quickly, and let the BC-Northeastern championship game kick off in earnest. The lone goal came 05:42 into the period, as Alex Chiasson kept wacking at a loose puck on the power play on a rebound that Carroll couldn't corral and that the Crimson couldn't clear. Still, despite a flat first period for the Crimson, they only trailed 1-0. In other games, Harvard would be in trouble with that type of start but BU, in only their third consolation game in the past 28 years, just didn't seem used to playing in the consolation atmosphere and equaled the Crimson's apathy in the first. The game broke open with 00.2 seconds left, as Daniel Moriarty received a five and a game for hitting co-captain Joe Pereira from behind to nullify a Crimson power play. Despite losing a player and the daunting five minute major coming up after the intermission, it seemed Harvard had seen the stakes raised by the hit (or were aggrieved at the severity of the call) and decided to pick up the intensity.

As the second period got under way, both teams were down a man for 30 seconds and then BU went on the power play for a full four minutes and thirty seconds. Perhaps BU was still a little flat, perhaps they didn't feel enough urgency with that much of a power play, but it nonetheless looked only occasionally threatening. BU could have administered a knockout punch to a Harvard team that hasn't been consistently resilient- instead, Harvard delivered the blow as Alex Fallstrom held off a defender on the kill then fed the puck in front for Alex Killorn to rifle home, tying the game. Harvard did not waste any time as they killed off the remainder of the penalty and less than a minute after their previous goal, defenseman Ryan Grimshaw joined the rush and beat Kieran Millan off the feed from Colin Moore to give Harvard its first lead. Less than twenty seconds later, Killorn raced down the left wing and Millan cheated over to cover a potential pass to Marshall Everson in the slot. As Millan decided to re-commit to Killorn, the junior center slid his pass across and it went off the inside of the netminder's left pad and into the net for a 3-1 Harvard lead.

After three goals in a minute and thirteen second span, Jack Parker called timeout to remind his team that it was Boston University and that they were still a ranked team that still has a potential at-large bid to play for. It helped everyone on the Terriers squad but Millan, who spent most of the ensuing faceoffs hunched over in his net looking down at his skates. BU's improved play, though, prevented many Crimson chances and Harvard could not take advantage of a goaltender looking low on confidence. Instead, it was BU back the other way as defenseman Garrett Noonan slid down back door on the power play to put home an easy one timer and make it a game again. The Terriers would knot the score on a similar play less than a minute later as defenseman Adam Clendening slid to the back door and found a juicy rebound that he slammed home before Carroll could untangle himself from a mass of bodies in front and slide over. The two teams headed into the break and momentum seemed to be on BU's side.

BU would come out in the third and make a hefty shot margin even larger as they seemingly peppered Carroll from every angle while the Crimson struggled at times to get the puck out of their zone, much less actually get a shot through on net, but Carroll held tough. The pace picked up for both sides as the consolation malaise seemed to wear off after all the goal scoring of the second frame. Millan picked up his confidence as well, as he was still hunched in his net, but was now keeping his head and eyes up while waiting for the faceoff, and it seemed like the Crimson had wasted a chance to face a rattled goaltender. Then, visions of 2009 played out as BU scored again on the power play, with Chiasson, the leading scorer on the Terriers, showing why with his second goal of the night. Harvard would answer back, reminiscent of Friday night versus Princeton, and they knotted the game at four when Danny Biega rifled a point shot through heavy traffic to beat Millan at the 15:57 mark and level the game at four. Despite it not being a bad goal, Millan was back to having his head down, looking at the ice during stoppages, and in the booth, it seemed like Harvard just needed some shots on a goaltender sans confidence. Harvard followed the prescription to the T, as Conor Morrison's drive got kicked out by Millan straight to the stick of Michael Del Mauro, who had a wide open shot on the bad rebound, and the co-captain duly delivered the game winner less than two minutes later. Harvard displayed some resiliency once again and built up some momentum heading into three straight ECAC road games with trips to Cornell, Colgate and Brown all on deck. There was tangible relief for the Crimson as they skated off as the buzzer sounded and the seniors got one last Beanpot win. It wasn't the championship they wanted but it was a win Harvard and their fans will take.

  •  In the championship game, Boston College defeated Northeastern 7-6 in overtime.
  • The last time Boston University finished last in the tournament was February 11, 1980 when they lost to the Crimson 7-4.
  • It is also the first time since 1993 that the last place finisher was not Harvard or Northeastern. BC was last in the 1993 Beanpot. 
  • 1993 was also the last time that a team other than Boston University or Boston College won the tournament, as Harvard won that year. Northeastern has failed to capture a Beanpot title since 1988, despite appearing in two of the last three finals, losing both times to Boston College.
  • This was the third time Harvard and Boston University have met in the consolation game in Beanpot history. Harvard won in 1980 and 2011, BU won in 1983
  • This was Harvard's first victory over Boston University since the tournament moved to the TD Garden (nee Fleetcenter) from the old Boston Gardens. BU was 6-0 against the Crimson before tonight at the new building.
  • Harvard snapped a six game losing streak in the Beanpot. Their last win in the tournament came in the opening round of the 2008 edition when they beat Northeastern. The Crimson had not beaten a non-Husky team in the Beanpot since 1998 when they beat Boston College. Harvard last beat Boston University back in 1994, a 4-2 win for the Crimson in the opening round.
  • Harvard's starters accounted for 4 of the last 6 Crimson points, including the game winning goal, as well as 45 saves.
  • In his previous 16 career appearances, Harvard junior Peter Starrett had yet to record a point. Tonight, he recorded two, picking up assists on Harvard's game tying and game winning goals in the third period.
  • Next year will be the third straight year that Harvard's opening round of the Beanpot will be a rematch of the previous consolation game. Harvard lost to Boston College in the consolation game in 2009 and faced the Eagles in the opener in 2010. Harvard lost to Northeastern in 2010 in the consolation game and faced the Huskies in this year's opener. Harvard will face Boston University next year in the 60th edition of the tournament.
  • As is always the case, Harvard as the lone ECAC squad is usually the fan favorite among the schools not playing. This was particularly noticeable in the third as the Huskies fan section drowned out the Harvard band taunting Milan on the Crimson's fourth and fifth goals. From the booth, it looked like most of the early arriving BC fans also joined in cheering against their Hockey East rivals as Harvard skated to the late victory.
  • Chris Rawlings of Northeastern won the Eberly Award for the best save percentage of the tournament (.920) while Ryan Carroll (.890) trailed him. In third was BU's Kieran Millan (.884) while champion goaltender John Muse finished with the worst save percentage (.873). Harvard's Kyle Richter was the only other goaltender to make an appearance in the tournament, stopping all seven shots he faced in relief.
  • Chris Kreider of Boston College was selected as the MVP of the tournament.
  • Harvard returns to ECAC play with three straight road games, including visits to rivals Cornell and Brown, while Boston University returns to Hockey East to play a home and home versus Providence. Boston College and Northeastern play a home and home this weekend against one another in Hockey East action as well.
  • With no more non-conference games left, the ECAC finished with a 9-10-4 record (.478 winning %) against Hockey East, as well as finishing 8-8-4 (.500) vs. the WCHA, 6-10-2 (.389) vs. the CCHA and a 27-6-5 (.776) record against Atlantic Hockey and independents. Harvard went 2-5 in non-conference play with wins over Army and Boston University and losses to Merrimack, Vermont, Boston University and Northeastern twice. The Crimson had not previously won a regular season non-conference game since 2008.
  • The Beanpot champion has gone on to win the national championship during the same season for the last three years. The trend started in 2008 with champion Boston College also winning the national title. Boston University replicated the feat in 2009 and Boston College did so again in 2010. Currently, the Eagles are the unanimous number one team in the country according to USCHO.

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