February 7, 2011

BC edges BU on OT power-play goal

Boston College's Tommy Cross celebrates his overtime, game-winning goal to beat Boston University in the first round of the Beanpot. (photo: Dave Arnold)

BOSTON — Down a man for four minutes late in the third period of a tie game, Boston College hung on for dear life Monday night.

Granted a man advantage in overtime, BC wasted no time hanging its biggest rival.

Defenseman Tommy Cross’ wrist shot from the center point sailed through a screen, clipped a defender and found the net, giving the top-ranked Eagles a 3-2 win over No. 14 Boston University in a white-knuckle late Beanpot semifinal at TD Garden.

“Such a huge win,” said Cross (Simsbury, Conn.). “We wanted to win so bad.”

Defending champion BC (20-6-0) will play Northeastern (9-11-6) in the championship next Monday. It’ll be the first time those teams have met in the Beanpot final since Northeastern’s historic first title in 1980.

The game-winner came 16 seconds after BU defenseman Ryan Ruikka was whistled for cross-checking on a transition rush. Jimmy Hayes (Dorchester, Mass.) won the draw for BC and headed for the net, and Cross let the game-winner fly.

“We had some real good looks, didn’t get them, and they get the power-play goal,” summed up BU coach Jack Parker (Somerville, Mass.). “A disappointing loss, but we had opportunities.”

BC had defeated BU (13-8-7) in three previous meetings this season by a combined score of 17-9, but this one was close throughout.

“You can throw that record out,” said BU senior Joe Pereira (West Haven, Conn.). “This was a playoff game. … All we can do is let this hurt tonight and get ready to go tomorrow.”

It’s been an even 10 years since BC ended BU’s stranglehold on this tournament, beating the Terriers in the 2001 final to halt a six-year reign. Including that game, the teams have now split their last 10 Beanpot meetings.

BC, which finished with a 40-36 edge in shots and had the better of the play for most of the second and third periods, had to weather a penalty-induced storm late in regulation just to get to overtime.

With five minutes remaining, Kevin Hayes (Dorchester Mass.) was called for cross-checking, and BU’s Ruikka had two great chances to cash in. His one-timer from the left circle was saved by goalie John Muse (East Falmouth, Mass.), and later he got in close to snap off a shot that Muse (34 saves) got a glove on.

That play ended with BC’s Philip Samuelsson cross-checking Ruikka to the ice. But the Eagles killed off the penalty, and almost won the game when an alert Brian Gibbons (Braintree, Mass.) spotted Samuelsson exiting the box and sent him in on a clean breakaway.

But BU goalie Kieran Millan (37 saves) foiled a pedestrian backhand move, and the teams retreated to their locker rooms to prepare for sudden death.

“I thought we did a great job on the last two kills,” said BC assistant coach Mike Cavanaugh, speaking afterward in place of head coach Jerry York (Watertown, Mass.), who came down with laryngitis. “It got a little bit helter-skelter for a little bit; BU had us running around, but Johnny did a great job holding us down. That gave us a little bit of momentum.”

After a first period spent largely feeling each other out, the teams scored goals 38 seconds apart late in the frame.

Samuelsson opened the scoring for BC, taking a cross-ice pass from Patrick Wey and firing the puck through traffic — and past Millan — from a sharp angle along the left boards.

The Terriers answered right back. Freshman defenseman Garrett Noonan (Norfolk, Mass.) carried the puck over the blue line and fed Wade Megan on the right wing with a nifty behind-the-back pass. Megan’s sixth goal of the season tied the game, 1-1.

The goal that put BU ahead 2-1 came off the stick of Corey Trivino two minutes into the second. BC defenseman Brian Dumoulin (Biddeford, Maine) couldn’t get a handle on a puck thrown into the slot, but Trivino did and beat Muse for his sixth goal of the season.

The rest of the second period belonged to Millan, who turned aside two breakaways — by Jimmy Hayes and Pat Mullane (Wallingford, Conn.). The puck was loose in the crease after the save on Mullane, but after a replay review, officials ruled it did not cross the goal line.

Hayes finally solved Millan early in the third, after the Terriers had trouble clearing the puck out of their zone. Mullane found him high between the circles, and his high wrister squared things with just over 15 minutes left in regulation.

Ultimately, the Eagles won a trip to the final and a chance to defend their title. But BU didn’t leave the Garden empty-handed.

“That’s the best team in the nation and we played head-to-head with them,” Parker said. “I couldn’t point to a guy on my team who didn’t play well tonight.”

Mike Zhe can be reached at mzhe@hockeyjournal.com