By Mary Paoletti
BOSTON -- The first Monday in February has only one meaning for college hockey fans in Boston.
2010 marks the 58th year of the Hub hockey tournament and both of the first night's games did well in adding to the events storied past.
The opener featured a face off between Boston College (14-8-2) and Harvard (5-12-3). That the score would favor the Eagles was a popular guess that proved true with the 6-0 final. The Crimson simply had no answer for BC's trademark quick-tempo style.
The scoring onslaught started when senior Ben Smith put the Eagles out front at 5:54 with a tip-in from the right post. The goal came on the man-advantage after Crimson defenseman Chris Huxley was tagged for interference. It was the first of three BC power play goals. It was also just the first of 16 Harvard penalties. By the time the third period started, the Eagles were up 3-0 and Harvard backstop Kyle Richter looked more than a little rattled. His team's frustration translated into a staggering 34 PIM in the third period.
Crimson coach Ted Donato did not defend his team's miscues.
"I thought BC was clearly the better team tonight," he said. "They beat us to all of the loose pucks and used their speed to force us into taking penalties. I don't think we gave ourselves a chance to win."
The Crimson did show signs of life in the second period. Harvard's defense put some solid pressure on BC, at times taking the puck possession game away from the Eagles and turning up the heat on goalie John Muse.
But Muse was up to the task. His 33-save performance was good for the first Boston College Beanpot shutout since 2002.
"I wasn't looking for a shutout," Muse said, "I was looking for a win. Luckily we scored a bunch of goals, that always helps."
A bunch of goals from a bunch of players.
Six different Eagles got the better of Richter. From the first line to the fourth, each Boston College grouping was able to find the back of the net in its impressive scoring spread. Head coach Jerry York gave specific commendation to the play of seniors Matt Price (1g), Ben Smith (1g, 1a), Carl Sneep (1g, 2a) and Matt Lombardi. But later York returned to the importance of everybody getting involved.
"We have much more balanced scoring this season and that's critical," he said. "Sometimes your top lines aren't going to score so I think whether it's Chris Kreider (1g) scoring or scoring from Ben Smith, it's going to help."
Northeastern coach Greg Cronin would have enjoyed even half of BC's offensive output.
Though not completely besieged between the pipes as Harvard was, the Huskies could not score when it mattered and fell to Boston University in the nightcap, 2-1.
It was a game that differed from the first in nearly every capacity. There were only 12 total penalties and three goals, yet the contest between NU and BU was gritty and action-packed. The scarcity of scoring actually created a tension that threatened to blow the roof off the TD Garden when the lamps finally lit.
After a scoreless first period, Colby Cohen was the first to release some pressure.
The Terriers found themselves with a power play at 11:30 when NU right winger Chris Donovan was whistled for holding. Goalie Chris Rawlings did a solid job fending off BU's attacks on net, but was overwhelmed when Nick Bonino fed a cross-box pass to Chris Connolly who got the puck to Cohen for a short angle score.
Northeastern returned the favor in the final frame on a power play of its own. At 12:10 BU's David Warsofsky was sent to the box for a monster open-ice hit that leveled Wade MacLeod. Kyle Kraemer used the man-advantage to fired a wrister past Terrier netminder Kieran Millan. An intense back-and-forth battle for the lead followed. Both squads had scoring chances, but Rawlings and Millan protected the pipes as well as their teammates could ask for.
One team would have to make a big play. Monday night, that team was Boston University.
Those up to snuff on their Beanpot history were probably not surprised when a BU forward broke the 1-1 tie with 5:47 remaining in regulation. The win advances the Terriers to the championship for the 42nd time in the last 48 years. As for the Huskies, theyve failed to beat BU in the Beanpot since 1985.
But Cronin doesnt care about the burden of Beanpots past. After all, Alex Chiasson, the Canadien-born freshman who stifled NUs hopes, didnt even know the tournament existed until he was in prep school.
Cronin instead sees the dropped contest as all too explainable.
"We had six chances with the puck on our stick right in front of BU's net and we refused to shoot, he stated. "In a game like this with a playoff type of atmosphere, when you get scoring chances in the slot you better shoot the puck.
If the first round was predictable, it was nonetheless entertaining. The outcome of next Mondays final showdown between BU and BC is harder to forecast. The Eagles lost a tight one to the Terriers in front of 38,472 people at Frozen Fenway on Jan. 8. They dropped the rematch, too, in a 5-4 overtime game. Boston College is consequently out for blood. History, however, is once again on the side of Boston Universitys tourney-best 27 titles. Perhaps it was in the safety of this advantage that coach Jack Parker surprised the post-game crowd with this statement:
"The Beanpot is losing its luster a little bit if its constantly going to be BC and BU winning this tournament.
There is probably some truth in Parkers sentiment. But when either team is crowned with the Hub's highest college hockey honor next Monday, don't look for it in the attendance. In the end, even Parker can admit.
"Nothing compares to a Beanpot final."