So much of last night's Beanpot consolation game played out with alarming similarity to Friday night's home game against UMass-Lowell: another game that was critical to BC's tournament hopes, and ended up being a major missed opportunity as BC tied the River Hawks 2-2 in spite of an impressive flurry in the final minutes of the game that just took too long to get started.
When I arrived at the Garden in the second period, BC was up 1-0 on the strength of a first period power play goal by Alex Tuch, and all felt at least reasonably well. BC went on an extended 5-on-3 in the second period with an opportunity to extend their lead, but failed to do so. From there, the rest of the period went awry.
Stop me if you've heard this before: BC committed *five* minor penalties in the second period, spending half of the frame shorthanded. As you might expect, the results weren't pretty. Harvard outshot BC 15-2 during the second and zoomed past BC to take a 2-1 lead. Alexander Kerfoot—one who got away from BC on the recruiting trail, and a guy who torched BC back in that November game at Conte Forum—tied the score at 9:23, and Sean Malone potted the go ahead goal less than two minutes later.
To say things felt deflating at this point would be a bit of an understatement. BC was teetering on the edge of falling out of the top 15 in the pairwise, sitting on the outside looking in at the NCAA tournament with just one weekend remaining in the regular season. The Eagles were being outshot 24-10 on the game, going through yet another maddening dry spell in terms of creating chances and generating offense. It didn't really feel like more goals were coming any time soon.
The third period didn't really start all that hot, either. Destry Straight took a penalty just 25 seconds in to the third and put BC behind the eight ball right away. After BC killed off that Harvard man advantage, however, they began to generate some chances and put a little bit of pressure on Harvard's net.
Still, BC didn't really look dominant; they just kind of looked back in the game. But when the fourth line of Matt Gaudreau, Cam Spiro and converted defenseman Teddy Doherty rolled on to the ice with about 12 minutes left in the game, the outlook changed for BC's season. The trio put together a fine shift, getting off at least four shots and coming very close to scoring early in their shift. At the end of some extended offensive zone time, with Harvard on their heels, Matt Gaudreau potted the gigantic goal at 8:40 in the third period, and you could physically feel the pressure lifting off BC's shoulders.
The rest of the game was mostly one way traffic. But once again, it started to look like the surge came too late for the Eagles. Steve Michalek cemented his Eberly Award as the tournament's outstanding goaltender, stopping 14 of BC's 15 third period shots. A late power play fizzled, and to overtime it went.
A tie would not have been a disaster for BC. A tie would have kept the Eagles in 9th in pairwise, at least temporarily. However, a tie would have left BC's RPI at .5498—.004 ahead of 14th place St. Cloud, and .007 ahead of 15th place Yale. (There are other factors aside from RPI in the pairwise calculation, but that one's the most easily tangible.) Beyond the numbers, though, there would have been the lingering disappointment of another too-late rally and leaving a winnable game on the table with a tough road trip coming up.
The Eagles didn't let that happen. Ryan Fitzgerald scored in a flurry around Harvard's net at 1:16 of the extra session, assisted by Destry Straight and Ian McCoshen, to hand BC the victory, increasing the aforementioned RPI to .5541.
It was the first Beanpot consolation game to go to overtime since another historic BC-Harvard tilt, the legendary 1987 third place game that Coach wrote about yesterday. Unlike that game, the Eagles only had five minutes to work with tonight, but they got their work done within a minute and a half.
BU won the championship game 4-3 in overtime, kind of a buzzkill at the end of a great night of hockey which saw Northeastern rally from a 3-1 third period deficit to send the game to OT. Even with the ratdogs winning, however, this has to go down as one of the most memorable Beanpots of all time. All four games were one goal games, with three of them going to overtime. They'll be talking about this one for a while, I think.
For BC, there's no time to admire the shiny 3rd Place banner. It's on to South Bend on Friday and Saturday night for two more giant games to end the season. A split ensures BC of a first round bye and home ice in the Hockey East quarterfinals. 1 or fewer points would put BC in great danger of an Octofinals appearance and another plunge down toward the bubble. Both games will be on NBCSN instead of played behind a wall of secrecy like this one was, so Grant will be back then with the GIFs.