BC avenges earlier loss, gets quality win
BOSTON -- It's called the loneliest game in hockey by Boston University coach Jack Parker. Its official name is the Beanpot consolation.
A 5 p.m. start on the second Monday in February for two teams that lost seven days earlier doesn't help the fan appeal, but the 2005 edition was more significant than your average third-place game.
When the pairings for the 53rd Beanpot were announced, No. 9 Harvard (15-6-2) and No. 1 Boston College (18-4-5) were the favorites to reach the championship game. Northeastern and BU had other ideas, so the Crimson and Eagles played in a consolation game whose outcome would impact college hockey's RPI (PairWise rankings), which helps to determine NCAA Tournament seedings.
With quality-win consideration on the line, here's how the Valentine's Day opener between two top 10 teams unfolded:
4:00 p.m. ET -- The "sold out" FleetCenter opens its doors. Faceoff is an hour away, and a handful of fans make their way inside the eerily quiet arena. The word quarantine comes to mind.
4:21 -- Boston College freshman goaltender Cory Schneider is the first player through the tunnel as he leads the Eagles onto the ice. By now there are close to 100 fans in the lower bowl and one man in Section 109, clad in a white Boston College hockey sweater, hollers "Let's go Eagles" just before U2's "Vertigo" takes over the sound system.
4:26 -- Injured BC defenseman Andrew Alberts -- dressed in gray slacks, blue shirt and a yellow tie -- sits in the last row of Section 21, eating a hot dog and watching his teammates warm up. Alberts is expected to miss four to six weeks after sustaining a left knee MCL sprain during Friday's 8-3 win over Merrimack. Alberts had a similar injury on his right knee earlier in the season and missed a month (Oct. 15 to Nov. 16).
"It's always tough to watch," Alberts said. "But the injury is more frustrating than anything. I'm hoping I can be back in three weeks."
The significance of the consolation game isn't lost on Alberts or his teammates. "The coaches spent the week explaining how the RPI works so we know this is a big game for us," Alberts said. "We want a No. 1 seed, so we need the win. I think the guys will show up and get the job done."
4:36 -- The horn sounds, the Zamboni enters to cut a fresh sheet of ice and the Boston College pep band warms up with a number that sounds appropriate for a funeral.
4:51 -- The BC band in Section 313 serenades referee Jeff Bunyon and linesmen Tom Quinn and Tom Fryer with "Three Blind Mice" as the trio takes the ice.
4:58 -- With the crowd now nearing 1,000, Boston University public address announcer Jim Prior gives his signature start: "The teams are ready, so let's play hockey."
5:28 -- End of the first period. BC has a 15-7 shot advantage but there's no score -- meaning the 16,000 "fans" who aren't here haven't missed much.
5:43 -- The second period begins.
5:45 -- BC senior defenseman Greg Lauze holds the puck in at the blue line during an Eagles power play (continued from late in the first period) and fires a pass that finds senior center Ned Havern, who redirects it past Harvard goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris for a 1-0 Eagle lead at 1:15 of the second period.
5:49 -- Regardless of what comes later, the best cheer of the night comes from Section 308: "Let's go Whalers."
5:50 -- BC freshman defenseman Mike Brennan fires a shot that doesn't carry around the end boards but takes a funny bounce and deflects back out to freshman right winger Dan Bertram near the right faceoff circle. Bertram one-times the rebound past Grumet-Morris for 2-0 BC lead. The Eagles have a 7-0 shot advantage in the period (22-7 for the game).
5:57 -- BC's shot advantage bulges to 15-0 in the period and 30-7 for the game.
6:01 -- Harvard records its first shot of the period but seconds later freshman left winger Mike Taylor picks up a hitting-from-behind penalty. No damage here, but a too many men on the ice penalty 17 seconds puts Harvard down a man again.
6:06 -- The target practice on Grumet-Morris continues and Lauze blasts a shot from the left point that is redirected by Stephen Gionta and beats the Harvard goaltender for another power-play goal and a 3-0 BC lead. The shot advantage is now 33-9 for the game.
6:10 -- BC goaltender Schneider goes down during a scramble and injures his left knee (It's diagnosed as an MCL sprain and he's expected to miss three to four weeks). He leaves the ice with some help from teammates and senior Matti Kaltiainen replaces Schneider.
6:17 -- End of the second period. BC outshoots Harvard 18-3 and holds a 33-10 advantage for the game. More importantly, it's still 3-0 on the scoreboard.
6:32 -- The third period begins.
6:33 -- Harvard gets a quick 1-0 lead in the shot department.
6:40 -- Harvard junior defenseman Tom Walsh rings a wrister off the goalpost that deflects off Kaltiainen's left leg and trickles back across the goal line. Boston College 3, Harvard 1. And the Crimson are up 5-2 in shots.
6:45 -- Tempers flare after a tripping penalty is called on BC's John Adams. Four players end up in the box and Harvard's power play is over before it starts.
6:59 -- Harvard pulls Grumet-Morris in favor of a sixth attacker. No luck.
7:02 -- Harvard calls timeout. Still nothing.
7:07 -- BC's Peter Harrold takes a pass from Gionta and skates in alone to bury the empty-netter with 14.3 seconds left.
7:08 -- Harvard wins the third-period shot total 14-9 but loses the game total 42-24. Final score: Boston College 4, Harvard 1.
The BC win avenged a 3-1 loss at Harvard on Nov. 16, but it meant much more in terms of the national landscape.
"If you follow our sport, you know RPI is very important," BC coach Jerry York said. "And quality wins outside of the conference are so important."
Just as important was York's power-play combinations in Alberts' absence.
"It's a funny game," York said. "With Andrew Alberts out of the lineup, we were looking for someone to play on the point on the power play. We moved Brian O'Hanley up to the first unit and needed a guy on our second unit. We picked Greg Lauze, who probably hasn't played five minutes on the power play in his career here at BC, and he produces two power-play goals from his shot.
"He was the key in the second period," he said.
And the middle 20 minutes is where this game was decided.
"We let a bad bounce on the second goal get to us," Harvard coach Ted Donato said. "But BC deserves a ton of credit. I usually don't concentrate on shot margin, but when it's that wide of a margin, there's a reason for it. They were able to impose their will on the game more than we were able to do the things that we needed to do."
The Beanpot consolation may be a lonely affair, but the BC players and coaches left the FleetCenter early Monday evening with two things no one else had -- a quality win and a No. 1 ranking.
David Albright is a senior editor at ESPN.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.