Off-Ice News, Opinions

Third time’s the charm: The good and the bad of the Beanpot semifinal

Photo by Patrick Donnelly.

There’s a phrase: It’s hard to beat a team three times. 

Why? The other team is hungrier. 

Boston College was the better team a week ago. Simple. They were more physical. They generated more offense. They took advantage of more opportunities. That’s not to say BU isn’t a good team or even a great team. BC was just better.

The Terriers may have made adjustments coming into the trilogy’s finale, but at the end of the day, it was clear what the difference was  BU was hungrier. 

“Both teams have an understanding of how each team likes to play,” BU head coach Jay Pandolfo said. “Regardless of what your plan is, you still have to go out there and compete.”

THE BAD: Discipline issues continue to plague the Terriers

This BU team looked far different from the team that took Conte Forum and Agganis Arena ice a week ago. 

It didn’t start that way, however. A mere 32 seconds after puck drop, the Terriers found themselves on the penalty kill — an endemic restricting BU over the last week. 

The Terriers gifted BC four power plays in the first period of the rivals’ second meeting, giving a potent BC man advantage the early 1-0 lead. Then, BU took back-to-back hooking penalties on Tuesday, helping Northeastern to subsequent back-to-back goals.

With discipline on the back of their mind, the Terriers still couldn’t help themselves on Monday. Sophomore forward Devin Kaplan, returning from a lower-body injury, was called for a textbook slash.

“I would like it to be a little better when you get a penalty 30 seconds in,” Pandolfo said. “We still haven’t completely got the message.”

When BC left the locker room for the second period, it was fired up, creating an offensive onslaught for goaltender Mathieu Caron and his defense to battle. High-octane offense leads to an increasingly fallible defense, and discipline came back to bite when graduate forward Sam Stevens went to the box for tripping.

BC freshman standout Gabe Perreault brought the game within one in under a minute after the power play started. 

THE GOOD: Macklin Celebrini unphased by the bright lights

Freshman forward Macklin Celebrini, BU’s no. 1 scoring option, was shut down last bout with BC. Celebrini only found the back of the net once in that series, netting one in the final minutes of game two with a 6-on-5 advantage. 

With the suffocating Eagles defense shutting down the young star, BU’s offense lacked confidence. Whether it be hesitation to shoot, passes too wide or lack of physicality inside, the Terriers’ offense was a McLaren with a parking boot.

On Monday, however, it was all Celebrini.

On the second shot of Monday’s contest, blink and you’d miss Macklin’s wrister to break the deadlock. If you did blink, you only had to wait 2:10 for another goal from the NHL’s top draft prospect.

“I just decided to get a puck on net, and I was fortunate enough that it went in,” Celebrini said. “Not every shot’s gonna go in. Every game you gotta just keep trying.”

Celebrini now leads the NCAA in goals per game at 0.88, passing BC’s Cutter Gauthier for the top spot.

Photo by Patrick Donnelly.

THE BAD: Allowing Boston College to hang around

While BC swept its Comm. Ave rivals in the first weekend series, both games were gritty and competitive one-score affairs after taking out empty-net goals.

It’s never going to be easy against top-ranked Boston College. However, when senior forward Luke Tuch flipped momentum on the forecheck from an intercepted puck to make it a 3-1 game, and sophomore forward Ryan Greene sniped another from the slot to push it to 4-1 five minutes into the final frame, the game was all but wrapped up.

“We got away from our game,” Pandolfo said. “You know they’re gonna push. They have some talented players over there. You know they’re going to push.”

Gentry Shamburger rang the puck off both posts and in. 4-2. Perreault netted another three minutes later. 4-3.

A Boston University team simply waiting for the horn and its bid to the championship turned to a team essentially on an 8:36 second penalty kill with a razor-thin margin of error.

Seven saves. Nine blocked shots. Game.

“Our guys have been bought in all year long,” Pandolfo said. “We have a lot of guys that are willing to sacrifice so that we can win hockey games.”

The late tenacity of the Terriers can be applauded, but this was adversity that should have been avoided.

THE GOOD: Playing from ahead 

Boston College loves to play with a lead. Last weekend, the Terriers led for zero minutes and zero seconds of the 120 minutes of play. The Eagles have been winning or tied after the first period in all but four games the entire season.

“We competed all the way through,” Pandolfo said, “but I thought we executed and competed really hard in the first period.”

For the Terriers, getting on the board first and extending that lead was a must. It put the Eagles in uncharted, uncomfortable territory. It leads to mistakes — such as Tuch’s goal off of an errant pass from BC freshman defenseman Drew Fortescue.

When the Eagles fell behind going into the second intermission, they were forced into a rare situation. BC has only been behind going into the third period one time the entire season — Nov. 17 against UConn in a game they won 5-4 in overtime. The Eagles had never trailed by more than one goal going into the final stanza.

So, yes, Boston College should have never been in that game for as long as it was. But on the other hand, if the Terriers failed to grab an early lead or stopped applying pressure, next Monday’s game time might have been a few hours earlier.

“Full credit to BU, they came out and established their game,” BC head coach Greg Brown said. “We were chasing them.”

While the game had its ups and downs, the win meant much more than a berth to the Beanpot Championship.

This win proved to BU it can overcome adversity. This win proved to the entire league the Terriers’ place atop Hockey East isn’t a fluke. And this win proved to the Boston College empire that its collapse is far from impossible come March.

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