Off-Ice News

Four in a Row a Quarter Century Ago: Revisiting the Class of ‘98

By James Garrison
Photo by Fred Sway/Rick Young

In the long and storied history of Boston University hockey, only four classes have managed the incredibly unique accomplishment of maintaining Beanpot supremacy throughout their Terrier careers. The class of 1998 –– a class headlined by such names as Chris Drury and Mike Sylvia –– managed to rattle off four consecutive Beanpot championships in their four years on Comm Ave.

A year marked in BU hockey history for its national championship banner also saw the Terriers capture the final Beanpot championship at the old Boston Garden. The likes of freshmen Drury and Chris Kelleher took home the three major trophies of the season and did not look back in future years.

The two senior co-captains went on to capture a second Hockey East championship and the three ensuing Beanpots. Members of a class that captured college hockey’s most sought-after trophy did not jump ship, showing the importance and potential of not rushing off to professional contracts.

“You look at the teams that have won the national title the last little while here, it’s all been teams that have had, whether they’re older guys or guys that are four years,” Kelleher said. “It hasn’t quite been guys that are one and done. I think you build a chemistry for four years; you build a brotherhood. So much goes into it.”

While the class of ’98 was able to buy into the immediate success they had at BU, this current senior class of Terriers had a hard decision to make. Their collegiate careers had been mired by a pandemic and their success was limited by a culture on the decline.

Led by current captain Dom Fensore, almost the entire senior class stayed on board and took a shot. With Jay Pandolfo now at the helm, the class of ’23 have finally enjoyed the fruits of a well-functioning program and are hoping to make their final Beanpot memory a positive one.

“I think it’s always a great thing to do for the class, to win a Beanpot on your way out the door,” Boston University coaching legend Jack Parker said. “This class now… they know what that feels like. They certainly would like to go out and finish their careers as a Beanpot champion… they have all the ingredients. They have senior leadership, they have a good group of young freshmen, and they have really solid goaltending.”

As each tournament –– and consecutive championship progressed –– a target seemed to grow on the ’98 Terriers. In a similar vein to Northeastern’s recent run, but on a much larger scale, BU did not just rattle off four consecutive Beanpot championships, but six.

The class of ’98 enjoyed tremendous success during Boston’s most famous midseason tournament and were able to make that winning culture stick far beyond their days on campus. Whatever leadership that was passed on by the likes of Drury and Kelleher was only developed from those who came before.

“When they first arrived, they had great senior leadership,” Parker said. “By the time they were seniors, they were the upperclassmen, and they were great leaders.”

Many players cite the Beanpot that they win as the most special one. For Kelleher and Parker, who never left that feeling to be desired in those four years, 2-1 overtime victory to seal history stands alone as the most memorable of the bunch.

Freshman Nick Gillis tipped home Tom Poti’s backhand feed to electrify the Fleet Center and give the Terriers their fourth consecutive Beanpot. For Parker and Kelleher, a 2-1 overtime victory against Harvard made history, and is still the most memorable of the four victories.

“I guess it was memorable because it was my last one and we made Beanpot history,” Kelleher said. “It was pretty special.”

Based on recent history, the Terriers should know that getting hot at the right time is essential to success in the Beanpot. It is a tournament that is truly “anyone’s game,” making the four consecutive Beanpots even more impressive.

“I do think if you’re the highest ranked team or whatever it is you have a target on your back,” Kelleher said. “These teams get fired up, and I think all four are pretty good teams. There’s always that one team that’s an underdog and they come and they play hard…I think anybody can beat anybody in this, it doesn’t matter where you’re ranked.”

The legacy that has been left by Terrier teams of the 90s has contributed to the prestige that the program still carries. Whether it is within the Beanpot or in the national conversation, the prestige of Boston University has returned to the ice, no longer in reputation only. 

After a seven-year drought, the Terriers were able to bring bragging rights back to campus. Now with the program’s culture restored, the Scarlet and White have an opportunity to restore meaning to the name “Beanpot University.”

“If you want to play in the Beanpot, you can only choose four schools,” Parker said. “Of course, if you want to win a Beanpot, that cuts it down a lot more.”

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