February 4, 2013

Here and now all Rawlings, Huskies focused on

By Jesse Connolly

NU senior Chris Rawlings made 32 saves to defeat BU in the Beanpot opener Monday. (Dave Arnold Photography)

If anyone needed an explanation as to why BU coach Jack Parker professed sympathy for his seniors on Monday night at TD Garden, one need only glance over at the devastated captain sitting beside him. 

Following a 3-2 loss to Northeastern, an emotional Wade Megan reflected on the fact that he and his fellow fourth-year members of the squad are the first Terriers class to fail to win a Beanpot Trophy during their tenure at the school in nearly 50 years. The tears were hard to fight back as he came to grips with falling short in his one last chance.

After Parker and the dejected defenseman departed the post-game press conference, the goaltender largely responsible for their heartache sat down in the very same seat Megan occupied moments prior. Like Megan, Chris Rawlings entered the tournament hoping the fourth time would be the charm. The senior netminder had a golden opportunity in 2011, taking a vaunted BC squad to overtime, but the Huskies fell by a score of 7-6.

After falling inches short of the finish line two years ago, however, Rawlings and Co. missed by a mile last time around, as the Eagles once again put seven pucks past the British Columbia native in their tournament opener. Parker Milner surrendered just one goal for Boston College. 

But none of that, as far as Rawlings is concerned, has any bearing on what's already happened or what will happen in 2013.

"Obviously they've been disappointing," Rawlings said of his first three Beanpot experiences, "but it doesn't matter what I did last year or the year before. It's what I'm doing now and it's what our team is doing now. That's the way I look at it."

Despite coming into the tourney in last place in Hockey East with a 4-11-3 mark in league play, NU had a few reasons to be confident. Chief among them was their success this season against the other three Beanpot participants.

The Huskies easily handled Harvard with a 5-1 victory in December, came in with a 2-0 record against BU and earned a 3-1 win in their second game of the season against BC. 

"Any time you can beat a team like BU, especially before the Beanpot, it's a big confidence booster," said Rawlings, whose team has now beaten the Terriers three times in the last 18 days." When you think about it, really, it doesn't matter what you did before. It's about now. Any team can win any given night. Coach Madigan talked about how this tournament isn't about wins or losses for Hockey East, it's just whoever wants it most Monday night and the second Monday night."

Against the Terriers Monday, Rawlings was sharp from the moment the puck dropped. He finished the night with 32 saves on 34 shots, thwarting countless quality chances, especially in the third period when BU -- which went 0-for-6 on the night on the power play -- outshot the Huskies 13-7.

That "second" Monday night will see Rawlings' club take on Boston College for the third year in a row in the tournament. 

"Obviously to get a second chance at BC, it's awesome," Rawlings said, ironically before the Eagles beat Harvard, 4-1, in the nightcap. "For the preparation, I think, it's just like any other game. That might sound boring, but it doesn't matter if it's the first game of the season or the Beanpot final. We're going to prepare the same way we do every week for every game."

NU bench boss Jim Madigan, who won three Beanpot championships as a player and one as an assistant coach during the '80s with the Huskies, said the only direction he's looking in is forward. There's no reason for the Huskies to contemplate their last Beanpot championship in 1988, nor any reason to dwell on any of their struggles in recent tournaments or even during this current season.

"Facts and figures don't win hockey games," Madigan said. "It's will. Our guys really brought their compete."

As the defending national champions and a team aiming to capture the Beanpot Trophy for the fourth year running, BC will come into the final as heavy favorites. Don't expect Madigan, Rawlings and the hopeful Huskies to be fazed. 

Twitter: @JesseNEHJ
Email: jconnolly@hockeyjournal.com