BOSTON — Moments after his Boston College team won its third consecutive Beanpot title Monday night, Eagles head coach Jerry York felt it necessary to point out that his players weren’t the only winners at TD Garden.
The tournament that they won came up big as well.
“The last few years,” York said, “people talk about, ‘Has the Beanpot lost its luster? Where is college hockey in the Boston area?’ Tonight was a statement. That place was jammed with fans of college hockey. I think the Beanpot’s in good hands. It has been for a long time, and it’s going to continue, especially with that type of hockey game tonight.”
“That type of hockey game” was a 3-2 overtime win for the Eagles over archrival Boston University, with Eagles sophomore Bill Arnold scoring the winner with a scant 6.4 seconds remaining before a second overtime would have been necessary. It’s the type of hockey game that fans have seen on many a recent February night at TD Garden, and it’s the type of game that helps the Beanpot earn its hype.
Make no mistake: that hype has been challenged in recent years, as York alluded to, and there have long been those who say that the privileged place the Beanpot occupies on the college hockey calendar — it’s routinely the most publicized event of the regular season — has as much to do with “East Coast bias” as it does with the prowess of the participants.
It’s been a little tough to complain about that lately, given that three of the last four NCAA champions (BC in 2008 and 2010, BU in 2009) won the Beanpot before going on their championship runs. As great as the teams can be, though, it’s not about how good they are in any given season. What makes the Beanpot special is what the teams bring out of each other.
Monday night’s game was the sixth Beanpot overtime final in the last nine tournaments, with three semifinal games also going more than 60 minutes in that span. All told, the tournament has been decided in overtime 12 times in 60 years, highlighting the fact that the Beanpot is one of only two in-season tournaments (along with the Great Lakes Invitational) to use full-length playoff style overtimes.
BU captain Chris Connolly knows exactly what playoff overtimes are all about: he assisted on Colby Cohen’s overtime goal that gave the Terriers their fifth NCAA championship in 2009. Having also been on the ice for two Beanpot overtime games, the senior from Duluth, Minn., said Monday that in the heat of the moment, the feeling is the same.
“Absolutely,” Connolly said. “I don’t think it’s only because it’s the Beanpot Championship. Anytime you play BC, those are the most exciting games you play. It’s the easiest game to get ready for.”
It may be an easy game to get ready for, but it’s been a hard game for the Terriers to win of late. The Eagles’ current streak of three consecutive Beanpots is just their second since the tournament’s inception in 1952 — York was a sophomore at BC the last time the Eagles won three in a row — and their win on Monday night denied the Terriers their 30th Beanpot in the 60 years of the tournament. Still, BC senior captain Tommy Cross wasn’t rushing to trumpet his team’s recent dominance.
“I don’t know that BC’s taking over the Beanpot,” Cross said. “I don’t think that’s the case. Last year was overtime; this year was overtime. It just speaks to the level of play of the four schools in Boston. Every game’s tough, whether it’s the first round or the final.”
That having been said, there is a certain kind of significance to the Eagles’ win on Monday. BC’s last five Beanpot titles (2001, 2004, 2008, 2010, 2011) all came in seasons where BU failed to qualify for the NCAA tournament, while the Eagles advanced to the Frozen Four in four of those five seasons, winning NCAA Championships in 2001, 2008 and 2010. However, Monday’s game was played with both the Eagles and the Terriers ranked in the top five of both national polls, and both teams have designs on meeting again down the road.
“Two good college hockey teams that will probably say some more,” York said, describing Monday evening’s combatants.
“I’m hoping we’re in championship games later on,” said BU head coach Jack Parker. “They’re probably hoping they will be too. We both feel like we have two very strong teams.”
For now, the Eagles will claim the bragging rights as the stronger team. However, while the Terriers may or may not challenge that claim down the road, there’s no doubt that the tournament that joins them, along with Northeastern and Harvard, is as strong as it has ever been.