(Photo by Bob Snow, Bruins Daily)
The first two Mondays in February since 1952 – canceled only in 1953 – means the 65th Beanpot Tournament consolation and final among Boston College, Boston University, Harvard and Northeastern Monday night at TD Garden.
Last week, Harvard and BU punched their tickets to the pre-Valentines’ Day dance with respective wins over Northeastern, 4-3, and BC, 3-1. Don’t expect any love in the nation’s best NCAA in-season tournament. Any combo of finalists brings 60 minutes of passion and perseverance for the ultimate Beantown bragging rights on the frozen sheet.
Last year’s 1-0 Eagles’ OT win over BU was one of the best games in the tournament’s storied history. The Terriers, however, own the overall number of tournament titles at 30; Harvard at 10. Not one in nearly a quarter century since 1993 when the Crimson beat BU, 4-2.
Crimson break the curse with 6-3 victory over Boston University
Two of the top-10 teams in the country on display in the championship game with No. 3 Harvard (17-5-2) against the reigning and perennial Beanpot champion, No. 4 Boston University (19-8-2).
The Crimson struck first with a 5-on-3 advantage at 15:10 when a Sean Malone blast from the right point was initially stopped by the Terrier’s Jake Oettinger, but the rebound rolled out to freshman Nathan Krusko, who banged it home for the 1-0 Crimson lead.
Harvard outshot BU, 17-2, after 20 minutes.
Ninety ticks into the second period – and on BU’s first power-play opportunity — Brandon Hickey let one go from the point that Bobo Carpenter got a piece of on the rebound – and Kieffer Bellows finished off with the tip-in past Merrick Madsen to tie the game.
Just four minutes later, BU had its only lead when Keller tipped a John MacLeod shot past Madsen at 4:22.
Midway in the game, however, Harvard went on a four-goal spree and never looked back.
“The want and desire we couldn’t match from the get-go,” BU coach David Quinn said.
At 10:46, a clinic-like tip-in by Luke Esposito 10 feet outside Oettinger off a right point shot by Clay Anderson pulled Harvard even at 2-2. Then with less than a minute left, John Marino danced over the BU blue line and dropped the puck to a trailing Krusko. Each had a shot until it squirted back to Krusko who backhanded it to payday and a 3-2 lead at 18:54.
With yet another 5-on-3 to begin the third, Harvard’s Alexander Kerfoot put Harvard up by two a minute into the third when his third whack at the left post pushed the puck past Oettinger.
At 12:47, Ryan Donato, son of Harvard coach and former Bruin Ted Donato put the icing on ending the Crimson drought when he whirled and wheeled in the BU zone before cutting in front of Oettinger and sliding the puck home.
“That made the light at the end of the tunnel a little brighter,” Donato said about his son’s tally.
Not to be denied, Keller jumped on a loose puck in front of Madsen and whistled one home to cut the deficit to 5-3 at 13:20.
Quinn pulled Oettinger with two minutes left. At 18:10, Adam Fox sent a 160-foot shot from his own goal line to the open BU net.
And another chapter in the history of the Beanpot is written.
“I felt like our group thought that it was their night,” Donato said. “They didn’t talk about it much, but I really think they wanted to win this Beanpot. They wanted to leave the legacy that they broke the curse.”
The final shot total a whopping 46-17 in favor of the champion Harvard.
The MVP went to Harvard’s Krusko; the Eberly Award winner to BU’s Jake Oettinger for the most saves in the two games.
Best storyline of the 2017 final
Harvard senior Phil Zielonka, a Montreal native, born two weeks before Harvard last won the title – January 28, 1993 – making him the only Crimson player on the roster alive when Harvard last hoisted the ‘Pot.
Bruins picks on stage – and in the NHL rumor mill
In the house at Sunday’s Bruins game and rumored again Monday was Colorado Avalanche GM Joe Sakic. Among the NHL rumors swirling into the March 1 trade deadline, one has talented Avs forward Gabriel Landeskog coming to Boston for some combo of the current Bruins’ players and draftees in the Beanpot, BU defenseman Charlie McAvoy excluded. Look for Boston’s first-round NHL pick last June to make the jump from Comm. Ave. to Causeway Street in one stride after his last game for BU early spring.
That complement of B’s picks also includes BU sophomore forward Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, Harvard sophomore Donato, junior defenseman Wiley Sherman, and BC’s senior sniper Ryan Fitzgerald with 126 points in 144 games. Sherman’s a horse at 6-foot-7 and 220 lbs.
Northeastern’s prized free agents
Not lost in Sakic’s or any scouting shuffle is the dynamic free-agent duo of Northeastern Huskies. Senior Zach Aston-Reese with 52 points in 30 games this season – and 137 in 137 career games – and junior defenseman Garrett Cockerill with 28 points in 30 games will have NHL contracts in hand by late spring. Cockerill has the size at 6 feet and 203; he also possesses the coveted right-hand shot.
NU over BC in Monday’s consolation game
The Huskies and Eagles battled at 2-2 until the last minute of the game when three goals were scored – one disallowed – in the 4-2 final with the Huskies prevailing. BC’s David Cotton scored his second of the game and seemingly the game winner at 18:47, but the referees ruled goaltender interference. At 19:17, Dylan Sikura netted the winner; Adam Gaudette the open netter at 19:32. Aston-Reese and Cockerill had a combined two points and a plus-6 on the night.
It was Boston College’s lowest (fourth place) finish since 1993.
Best to a really good guy after 50 years of directing the Beanpot Tournament
The 65th Beanpot featured the retirement announcement of long-time TD Garden Vice President for Garden events and Beanpot Tournament Director, Steve Nazro. The face of all Beanpot Trophy presentations for the past half-century, Nazro is one of those really good guys. Best for all good things, Steve.