Eagles end Beanpot drought thanks to talented freshman class
BOSTON -- The Boston College seniors had never experienced winning the Beanpot.
The Eagles' freshmen had never experienced losing it.
Score one for the ignorant crowd. Or four if you're really keeping track.
Behind a pair of goals each from first-year center Brian Gibbons and first-year defenseman Nick Petrecki, including the overtime game winner, the Eagles skated off with a 6-5 win over Harvard on Monday night at a sold-out TD Banknorth Garden to capture the 56th Beanpot championship -- not to mention the school's 14th title in this event and first one since 2004.
The winning goal came at the 7:07 mark of extra time, when center Matt Greene pushed the puck off the right boards toward the near faceoff circle. There it was picked up by right winger Pat Gannon and fired on net. Harvard goalie Kyle Richter (27 saves) made the initial save, but he directed the puck into the middle, where Petrecki arrived on the scene and buried his second goal of the night -- this one past the outstretched right skate of Crimson forward Mike Taylor and the outstretched stick of Richter, whose dive was too little and too late to stop the celebration.
"It's just being in the right place at the right time," Petrecki said. "I just followed up the play and jumped in. I took a swing at it and closed my eyes and luckily it went in.
"It's every little kid's dream that grew up in the Boston area to get the OT winner in the Beanpot. It's a dream come true."
Petrecki is from Clifton Park, N.Y. (just north of Albany), but he attended this tournament many times as a kid, and truth be told, he is now part of Beanpot lore -- regardless of his hometown -- thanks to his overtime heroics.
It's somewhat surprising that it ever got that far.
BC (15-6-7) surrendered leads of 1-0, 3-2 and 5-3 and looked at times like it was trying to give the Beanpot to Harvard (9-11-3), which hasn't won it all since 1993.
"I thought we had it well under control up 5-3, but they never gave up," BC coach Jerry York said. "They gave us all we could handle. We showed resiliency to come back in OT. The OT we really played to win the game and win a trophy."
As sketchy as the late stages of the third period became, the Eagles dominated overtime from the drop of the puck. In the end, BC took all seven shots that were registered in extra time.
"We got together in the locker room and went shoulder-to-shoulder and we said that we believed we were going to come out on top in this game," BC captain Mike Brennan said. "The resiliency of all the players was big."
But none more so than a freshman class that contributed four goals and three assists in its two Beanpot games.
Gibbons lead the way with four of those points (2 goals, 2 assists) and ended up being named the Beanpot MVP, the first time a freshman has captured the award since BU's Chris Bourque in 2005.
"We're a small class," Gibbons said of the four freshmen in the lineup Monday night. "[Joe Whitney has] been racking up points all year on the power play, really helping us win; and then [goalie John] Muse has been there steady all year; and then Trecks comes up with two big goals. So I think we're contributing."
The other big surprise of championship night was that BC left winger Nathan Gerbe (22 goals, 21 assists) didn't contribute to the score sheet, though he did pick up the game's first penalty when he was whistled for a slash late in the second period.
Gerbe torched Harvard for four goals in a December meeting, and he netted two goals in last week's Beanpot opener, so expectations were high for another prolific night from the little player who loves the big stage.
"They have a lot of weapons," Harvard coach Ted Donato said. "It's difficult because at times you have to pick your poison and I think our guys were very aware when Gerbe was on the ice.
"I give BC credit. I told our guys after the game that I thought there were certain plays and certain times we could have executed better, but I couldn't be prouder of the effort we gave. There was no quit."
In the other dressing room, there was a sense of satisfaction beyond surviving a Harvard team that wouldn't go away.
That's because BC had lost in the Beanpot championship in 2006 and 2007, and while completely unrelated, the Eagles also went on to lose in the national championship game in those seasons.
Consider it one painful reminder removed with one more still to be determined.
"It's a significant trophy for us but you have to understand that once you step outside this area, everyone talks about championships at the national level, so our aim is to go higher and win national titles," York said. "We wanted to win this thing, but we have bigger goals than the Beanpot."
BC, which has only lost twice in its past 16 games (12-2-2), finds itself in good position to go after bigger and better trophies. The Eagles currently trail Hockey East leader UNH by five points with eight games to play -- including a weekend series with the Wildcats on Feb. 22-23.
And while the importance of the Beanpot is vigorously debated outside of the Hub, the real value from this tournament may simply be in the experience gained on another level.
"It puts you on a big stage and you get more comfortable playing [in this environment]," York said. "So when you get to a regional final or a Frozen Four, you've learned an awful lot. It's hard to practice this. This is a great learning step for all of our players.
"It's easy to play in less meaningful games, but when you get to important games, you've got to be there for a while to become real good at it."
It's safe to say the BC freshmen are off to a real good start.
David Albright is the senior deputy editor for college sports at ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.