BOSTON – For New England hockey fans, the Beanpot Tournament has been circled on the annual calendar for 60 years and the region’s most popular match-up took place for the 258th time on Monday night at the TD Garden. Two of hockey’s biggest archrivals met for the 40th time in Boston’s clash for college hockey bragging rights.
No. 2 Boston University and No. 3 Boston College engaged in an all-out battle in the fourth head-to-head meeting between the teams this season and as has been the case in the Beanpot recently, this one went into overtime and was won by the Eagles, 3-2.
“Tonight was a statement,” said BC head coach Jerry York. “The place was packed with fans of college hockey…I think the Beanpot is in good hands and I think it is going to continue. BU played an outstanding hockey game and we came back with the same adjective to our team. That was college hockey at its finest.”
With six seconds remaining, sophomore Bill Arnold took the feed from junior Steven Whitney and deposited it past BU senior Kieran Millan for the winner – his second this season and first since a game at Northeastern on Oct. 22, 2011.
“I knew there was under a minute left,” Arnold, a native of Needham, Mass. said. “As you are skating down the ice, you just do not want to turnover the puck and make sure you at least finish the period without allowing a goal but if you see a chance to skate down the ice, you have to take it…”
The Eagles drew first blood at the 8:54 mark of the first period as junior Pat Mullane dangled on the Terriers defense and fired a wrist shot high on senior Kieran Millan. The goal was the fourth of the season for the Wallingford, Conn. native and was BC’s third shorthanded tally of the tournament.
It was also Mullane’s first goal since Jan. 13 at UMass, but continued a three-game point streak.
Junior Parker Milner’s play in goal was a saving grace for the Eagles as BU had many chances to put a notch on the scoreboard.
One of the period’s best chances came in the final minute of play when senior Ryan Ruikka took a pass from rookie Evan Rodrigues, but he was equal to the task as he sprawled across the crease to protect his team’s 1-0 lead.
Milner came up big early on in the middle period, including a stop on the right post on senior Chris Connolly. The Eagles nearly had a full 5-on-3 advantage, but the Terriers defense stifled BC’s second-rated attack in Hockey East. During the advantage, junior Steven Whitney shot a slapper off the post.
The Terriers tied the score with 4:49 left as junior Alex Chiasson fed classmate Garrett Noonan with a cross-ice pass, leading to his tenth goal of the season. The Norfolk, Mass. native received the puck on the left circle and he beat Milner over the shoulder.
It did not take long for the Eagles to knot the score back up as junior Chris Kreider, a Boxford, Mass. native and product of Phillips Andover Academy, potted freshman Johnny Gaudreau’s pass into the back of the net for his team-leading 19th score of the season.
After two periods, the Eagles held a 29-18 edge in shots on goal, including a 46-42 clip in total chances.
BU tied the score at the 7:12 mark of the third as sophomore Adam Clendening fed Noonan for his second of the game. Clendening faked the initial shot from the right point and the local hero was wide open for the tap-in.
Both teams had great chances in the final minutes of regulation and throughout overtime, but Millan and Milner were on top of their game and kept their teams in it for the long run.
The senior from Edmonton, Alta. made 44 saves between the pipes for the Terriers and earned Eberly Trophy honors as the tournament’s best goaltender as calculated by save percentage. BC held the 47-33 shots advantage overall in the game, including 13-7 in overtime.
BU’s Jack Parker did not disagree with his longtime foe, stating how exciting the match-up was for both teams.
“It was a hell of a college hockey game,” he said after his team dropped the Beanpot for the third straight time. “I was really pleased with my team. I loved the way we competed tonight. There was not much to choose from either one because someone has to get the winning goal…In general, it was a hard-fought and well-deserved game.”
“In the overtime, I played all four lines…and I thought we might tire them out [because they ran just three]. We started to get to them a little bit, but they obviously got the winner.”
Boston College returns to action on Friday night when it hosts Merrimack College in a key conference game at Kelley Rink. Boston University is on the road its next time out, traveling to Tsongas Center to take on UMass-Lowell.