February 14, 2011

BC dashes NU's Beanpot dreams in OT

Boston College celebrates Jimmy Hayes' overtime goal that clinched the Eagles' third Beanpot title in four years. (photo: Dave Arnold Photography)

BOSTON — Northeastern goalie Chris Rawlings took a knee on his own blue line when it was over, staring at a Boston College celebration at the other end of the ice but not really seeing it.

Teammate Rob Dongara (Scituate, Mass.) had his head on the dasher. The owner of arguably the prettiest goal in Monday night’s Beanpot championship game at TD Garden wanted no part of reliving the final one.

Top-ranked BC (22-6-0) is again champion of the Beanpot after a 7-6 overtime win that ended when Jimmy Hayes (Dorchester, Mass.) put a goal-mouth pass into a vacated net after yet another rush up ice by the Eagles, who carried play throughout the extra six minutes.

And the Huskies (10-12-6), who have now gone 23 years without winning this title, tried to come to terms with an outcome that seemed at times would be so much different.

“This one hurts a lot,” Northeastern senior winger Wade MacLeod said. “In the BU game a couple years ago (a 5-2 loss in the 2009 final), we didn’t deserve to win. Tonight, we battled hard. Everyone on our team came to play. That’s why it hurts more.”

Hayes’ winning goal came on his second try at a puck fed to him from the left wing by linemate Chris Kreider (Boxford, Mass.), who was named tournament MVP after scoring twice and adding an assist Monday.

“I fanned on the first one,” Hayes said. “I saw the puck still sitting there and shoveled it into the back of the net.”

BC has now won three of the last four Beanpots, but celebrated on the ice like it was the team ending a two-decade drought.

“It’s a hard tournament to win,” said BC coach Jerry York (Watertown, Mass.). “You get rivalries that you don’t have on the national level like this. It’s hard-fought.”

The ending even topped what happened during a wild third period, where momentum was traded back and forth like baseball cards and neither team stopped creating chances.

With the score tied at 4 and the period approaching its midpoint, freshman Brodie Reid sent Northeastern hopes soaring with his second goal of the game. He got to the rebound of a Jamie Oleksiak shot down low, and his second backhand whack lifted the puck over BC goalie John Muse (East Falmouth, Mass.) for a 5-4 lead.

BC had a little more than 11 minutes to produce the equalizer, but it wouldn’t even need two. A highlight-reel goal by Bill Arnold (Needham, Mass.) just 1:28 later tied the game 5-5, with the freshman skating through the slot, taking a pass from linemate Barry Almeida (Springfield, Mass.) and unloading a ticketed backhand before falling to the ice.

Barely a minute after that, Kreider put the Eagles ahead 6-5, skating in from the left wing, fending off a defender and using his strength to get in close and slide the puck past Rawlings (39 saves).

But with victory less than two minutes away, BC’s defense lost MacLeod on the right wing during a transition rush. He had plenty of room to receive linemate Steve Silva’s (Tyngsboro, Mass.) pass and fire a low shot past Muse to tie the game for the sixth time at 18:14.

“When we got that tying goal,” MacLeod said, “I thought we were going to carry that momentum into OT. I thought it was going to be our year, but it was not to be.”

The Huskies had the momentum. The Eagles had the puck for most of the OT.

“At the end of the day,” said Northeastern coach Greg Cronin (Arlington, Mass.), “the team that possessed the puck most won.”

The other Northeastern goals came from Dongara, Tyler McNeely and freshman defenseman Luke Eibler. Rawlings earned the Eberly Award, given to the goalie with the highest save percentage (.920).

BC also got goals from forwards Pat Mullane (Wallingford, Conn.) and Steve Whitney (Reading, Mass.), and defenseman Tommy Cross (Simsbury, Conn.).

Monday’s game strapped the full house of 17,565 in and took them on a ride from the opening moments.

The Huskies used a late, power play-aided flurry late in the first period to turn an early deficit into a 2-1 lead. Eibler scored on a high wrister from the right point that sailed over Muse’s right shoulder to tie it, and Reid gave them the lead barely a minute when he one-timed a MacLeod pass from the left dot.

Both of BC’s early goals benefited from choice bounces. Cross opened the scoring nine minutes in when he took a drop pass from Kevin Hayes (Dorchester, Mass.) on a transition rush and banked a shot off a leg and past Rawlings.

Down 2-1 in the opening minute of the second and skating four-on-four, the Eagles caught a break when Rawlings’ kick-out of a Cross shot from the point deflected off the boards behind the net and right toward on oncoming Mullane, who scored to tie the game.

The second period was all about answers. After Dongara put Northeastern on top 3-2 — skating right around defenseman Philip Samuelsson and beating Muse (21 saves) — Kreider squared things on the power play, one-timing a pretty Mullane pass from the slot.

Whitney finished off a Cross pass during a transition rush, but McNeely made it 4-4 when he scored on the rebound of a MacLeod shot, one set up by a nifty Silva pass at the blue line.

Both sides cheered midway through the second period when an image of paralyzed Norwood High School hockey player Matt Brown, who was in attendance, was shown on the video board. Players on both teams saluted by banging their sticks against the dasher boards.

In the end, though, the biggest cheers went to BC.

Again.

“I’ve been in a lot of games,” Cronin said. “National championship games. Semifinals. Gold-medal games in the World Juniors. Stanley Cup playoff games. This game had more drama, more back-and-forth, character for both teams. … Someone who bought tickets got every penny’s worth of their money.”

Mike Zhe can be reached at mzhe@hockeyjournal.com