Elliot Olshansky, NCAA.com
The Boston College Eagles started this season as the No. 1 team in the USCHO.com and USA Today/USA Hockey polls. They returned to that status on January 31, and have been there ever since.
Along the way, the Eagles have traveled to Denver, site of their 2008 NCAA Championship victory, and swept a Denver team that is locked in a battle for the WCHA regular-season title. They traveled to Notre Dame, and dropped a 2-1 loss to the Fighting Irish. BC has gone 4-0 against its fiercest rival, Boston University, and dropped two of three games to a Merrimack team that has risen up from the Hockey East cellar.
However, at no point during the Eagles’ 22-6-0 season have they been tested the way the way they were on Monday night at TD Garden, when No. 1 BC faced Northeastern in the championship game of the 59th Annual Beanpot Tournament.
Over the course of 60 minutes of hockey, each team led three times, but the longest any of those leads lasted was just under eight minutes, from the time Tommy Cross scored to make it 1-0 Eagles at 9:12 of the first period to the moment Luke Eibler scored for Northeastern to tie the game at 1-1 with 2:56 remaining in the opening frame. When the third period ended, the game was tied at six goals apiece, and one week after beating archrival Boston University in overtime to reach the championship game, the Eagles once again headed to OT in pursuit of the Beanpot.
Six minutes later, they got what they came for.
Junior forward Jimmy Hayes scored his 14th goal of the season with six minutes gone in the extra session to give BC its third Beanpot championship in four years.
“I thought last Monday, the BU game was pretty exciting,” said Eagles head coach Jerry York. “This was almost double the level of excitement.”
“I have been in a lot of games,” Huskies head coach Greg Cronin said, “National championship games. I have been to the Gold Medal games in the world juniors and Stanley Cup playoffs games. That game had more drama, back and forth, character for both teams. I said to myself after the third period, it is a shame that somebody has to lose this.”
Sophomore forward Chris Kreider, who scored twice during regulation before assisting on Hayes’ game-winning tally, was named the tournament MVP. While Kreider has already won a World Junior Championship, a Hockey East Championship and an NCAA title, been a first-round draft pick of the New York Rangers, and played in front of 38,472 fans at Fenway Park, being named MVP of a tournament he grew up watching certainly ranks as a career highlight for the native of Boxford, Mass.
“When you’re watching these games,” Kreider said, “you’re thinking, ‘I want the Beanpot.’ ”
And while there’s no doubt that the Eagles and Huskies will be battling hard again when they face one another in a home-and-home Hockey East series this weekend, there’s something about this tournament that brings out more in the players and teams who play in it.
“Anytime you play for a trophy,” York said, “it’s single-elimination. It brings the height of the NCAA [tournament] atmosphere to us. I think that helps us as we get into March and April, as we go into our Hockey East tournament and other tournaments.”
“It’s do or die,” Kreider said. “Teams are playing for their lives, playing for a trophy. It’s playoff atmosphere. There’s definitely more pressure on the forecheck, guys coming back a little harder on the backcheck, bigger crowds fueling the pace of the play. It’s a little bit different.”
Need to Know
• Oswego and St. Norbert have been dueling it out atop the USCHO.com Division III Poll all season, but both the Lakers and the Green Knights dropped games during what proved to be a tumultuous weekend for the top teams in Division III. The Lakers ran into a hot Caylin Relkoff, as the Morrisville goaltender stopped 37 of the 39 shots he faced and backstopped the Mustangs to a 5-2 upset victory. Wisconsin-Stout’s Nick Hopper put on an even more impressive performance in just his fifth start of the season, stopping 44 of 45 shots to back up Branden Gay’s hat trick as the Blue Devils dropped St. Norbert 5-1. Meanwhile, the team best poised to profit from the Lakers’ and Green Knights’ slip-ups, then-No. 3 Castleton, lost for the first time since Dec. 4, falling victim to a Pier-Olivier Cotnoir hat trick in a 5-2 loss to then-No. 4 Norwich. As a result, Oswego and St. Norbert stayed in the top two spots in the USCHO poll, with the Cadets and Spartans flip-flopping positions at Nos. 3 and 4.
• Division I’s longest unbeaten streak also came to an end during the weekend, as Miami limited Western Michigan to just 17 shots on goal, and goaltender Connor Knapp stopped 16 of them in a 3-1 win against the then-No. 15 Broncos on Saturday at Steve Cady Arena in Oxford, Ohio. It was WMU’s first loss since Dec. 10. With the dust settled, Adrian and Elmira own the nation’s longest unbeaten streaks at 12 games apiece (11-0-1), while RIT – which clinched its fourth Atlantic Hockey regular-season title in five years during the weekend – has Division I’s longest streak at 11 games (6-0-5).
• Elmira, as it happens, got some of its best goaltending of the season from Darren McDonald during the weekend to extend its win streak to eighth games. McDonald, a sophomore from Stittsville, Ontario, recorded his first shutout since Nov. 6 by making 21 saves in a 3-0 win against Hobart. Then, on Saturday, McDonald made 32 more saves in a 4-0 win against the Statesmen. Elmira was the biggest mover in this week’s DIII poll, jumping from No. 11 to No. 6
• RIT sophomore Shane Madolora was named Atlantic Hockey’s goalie of the week for recording consecutive shutouts in the Tigers’ sweep of Canisius. The back-to-back blankings dropped Madolora’s save percentage and goals-against average to national bests of .938 and 1.22, respectively.
• Amherst senior forward Matt Rhone and Trinity senior goaltender Wesley Vesprini shared NESCAC Player of the Week honors. Rhone scored two goals and recorded three assists in wins over New England College and St. Anselm, while Vesprini made 72 saves on 75 shots in wins against Bowdoin and Colby.
• Michigan senior goaltender Shawn Hunwick was named the CCHA’s Goaltender of the Week after stopping 55 of the 58 shots he faced in a pair of wins against Ohio State.
• Marian sophomore Dakota Dubetz was named the MCHA Player of the Week after figuring on seven of the Sabres’ 11 goals in a pair of wins against Lawrence. Dubetz had a power-play goal and two assists in Friday’s 5-0 win and added four assists in a 6-3 win Saturday, as the Sabres wrapped up first place in the MCHA’s North Division.