The Boston University men’s hockey team (15-10-3, 10-6-3 HE) kicked off the 69th annual Beanpot tonight at the TD Garden against the Harvard University Crimson (12-8-2, 9-5-2 ECAC) where they advanced to the finals with a 4-3 victory.
With scarlet flooding the stands, history on their backs and a buzz in the building, BU pieced together a gutty win––a culmination of the first class hockey they’ve been producing.
After settling into the moment, the Terriers began to play their game. They produced some quality chances, were aggressive on the backcheck, and hit a Harvard jersey whenever possible. The confidence this team is skating with is outstanding compared to a month ago.
Sophomore forward Dylan Peterson re-entered the lineup for his first game since Jan. 21, taking his place on the fourth line with Jamie Armstrong and Sam Stevens. Sophomore forward Nick Zabaneh slotted in with Peterson at times––it was nice to see the dynamic duo back together.
Following his shutout performance on Friday, sophomore goaltender Vinny Duplessis started in the crease for BU. The Quebec City native seemed more comfortable between the pipes, giving up far less rebounds with good puck control. Duplessis garnered 22 stops and stood tall under the brightest lights he has played in.
“He gave us an opportunity to win the game, and that’s all you can ask for,” O’Connell said in the post game press conference.
Senior forward and captain Logan Cockerill opened up scoring for his group for the second game in a row. Picking up a pass from junior defenseman Case McCarthy, Cockerill blasted down the left side leaving two Crimson in his dust. Pulling junior goaltender Mitchell Gibson out to the left, the BU leader tucked the puck behind his opposite pad to give the Terriers a 1-0 lead at 13:52.
Cockerill was the absolute heart and soul of the BU group. The pride he has wearing “Boston” across his chest is like no other, and shows through his leadership on and off the ice.
“This guy here played one of his better games at BU––he was dynamite tonight. He led by example and kind of led the way to the victory,” O’Connell said while pointing to Cockerill beside him.
Harvard was quick to respond, finding the equalizer less than a minute later with a top-shelf goal from senior forward Casey Dornbach. BU left Dornbach open in front, but that was their only lapse in coverage for the period.
The Terriers had their first power play at 16:05 after sophomore defenseman John Fusco collected two minutes for holding. Junior forward Jay O’Brien capitalized on the man-advantage with a snipe from the right faceoff circle, regaining the lead for a 2-1 score.
BU put together a largely cohesive opening 20 minutes, leaving the period up 14-8 in SOG and with a touch of momentum on their sides.
Senior forward Ty Amonte took a big hit in the first and didn’t return for the remainder of the night. Stevens took his place on the third line––a pretty seamless transition after losing a veteran guy.
The scarlet and white got back on the power play four minutes into the middle frame and set up junior forward Matt Brown on a wrist shot scoring play that meant far more than just a Beanpot tally. Pointing up to the sky following the goal, Brown honored his mother who passed away last week and emotionally secured the 3-1 lead at 4:10.
“He really handled himself well,” O’Connell said. “He’s a passionate guy. He probably has a heavy heart right now but I think he’s probably looking up thinking about his mother when he’s scoring the goal. I was really happy for him.”
Junior forward Ethan Phillips, along with his upperclassmen counterparts, really came to play and did so with great tenacity. Fighting up until––and sometimes past––the whistle, Phillips poured all of himself into every shift on the Garden ice. He got rewarded at 10:58.
A strong blast from the point off the stick of freshman defenseman Ty Gallagher made one more stop before finding the back of the net. Phillips deflected the puck mid-air to make it 4-1 on his sixth of the season.
Harvard didn’t leave the period without a fight, though. Propelled by a Peterson roughing penalty, freshman forward Matthew Coronato and senior forward Jack Donato brought the Crimson within one, scoring goals 20 seconds apart at 18:16 and 18:37.
The late burst from the opposition set up for a high-pressure third period. The Terriers handled the moment with poise and determination, working as a unit to fend off a desperate Crimson side.
BU dove through passing lanes and threw themselves in front of Harvard shots to support Duplessis as the final frame winded down––you could feel from the very highest press box how much this Terrier team wanted to win.
“The third period I thought we kind of locked it down, not a lot happened for either side,” O’Connell said. “It was a really good third and I thought we closed out really well.”
The celebration pouring out from the bench onto the ice and up above in the dogpound at the sound of the final buzzer is what college hockey is all about. The players and fans live for nights like tonight and our team did us proud.
“This was one of the main reasons I came back to BU,” Cockerill said in the post game press conference. “I wanted to win a Beanpot and I’m happy I get a chance to compete for it next Monday.”
BU is now headed to the finals next Monday against the winner of the Boston College v. Northeastern game. They face Providence College this Thursday at 7:00pm before they fight for the Beanpot title. We’ll have full coverage of both games so be sure to follow along on Twitter @BOShockeyblog and Instagram @boston.hockey.blog.