Commentary

Beanpot puts college hockey on the map

Updated: February 10, 2010, 12:07 AM ET
By David Albright | ESPN.com

BOSTON -- Bring it on Beanpot haters.

[+] EnlargeMuse
AP Photo/Winslow TownsonTournament MVP John Muse stopped 31 shots to help Boston College (16-8-2) win its 15th Beanpot title.

But if you're really a college hockey fan then you should embrace -- or at least learn to tolerate -- the 58-year-old parochial puckfest that takes place here the first two Mondays every February.

I'm talking to you Maine. And Michigan. Minnesota too.

Why? Simple. Exposure.

Most college hockey games are played on Friday and Saturday nights when there's more than a little competition across the sporting landscape. That may not matter to you because you head to your local rink and catch your boys as they fly up and down the ice with reckless abandon.

And while your viewpoint may be somewhat myopic (read: certifiable) you actually get it.

But the rest of the nation doesn't.

With only three NBA games, four Top 25 college basketball games and five NHL games as competition, a regionally televised college hockey tournament can morph into nationally consumed highlights -- if they are worthy of such attention.

And that's exactly what happened following Boston College's 4-3 win over Boston University on Monday night at the TD Garden.

It was the 250th all-time meeting between these two Commonwealth Avenue rivals. And it marked the Eagles' 15th Beanpot title in a tournament that's often referred to as the BU Invitational (thanks to the Terriers' 29 titles).

BU jumped out to a 1-0 lead and the Terriers faithful had to feel good about that as Jack Parker's club was 7-0-0 when leading after one period. But BC answered with three second-period goals and the Eagles looked like they would coast to the title.

When sophomore left wing Barry Almeida beat BU goaltender Kieran Millan high to the glove side early in the third to make it 4-1 BC, the sellout crowd of 17,565 had every reason to believe it was over.

Think again.

BU closed with a flurry as two goals made it 4-3 with just under three minutes to play, which in the end made this fourth BC-BU meeting of the season a 60-minute affair.

"I thought the game itself was a classic Beanpot," BC coach Jerry York said. "I've been involved in a lot of really good matchups here, but this particular one was quick and fast. Even at 4-1, none of us thought the game was finished yet, and BU put forth a terrific surge there at the end with a short-handed goal and the 6-on-4 goal to make the game go to the final buzzer."

BC fans poured out onto Causeway Street to celebrate their joy. BU fans did the same to drown their sorrows.

And the buzz after the game surrounded a pair of goals by two of college hockey's elite players.

BC freshman left wing Chris Kreider and BU sophomore defenseman David Warsofsky were teammates on Team USA's gold-medal team at last month's World Junior Championships. And someday they likely will be skating in the NHL (Kreider was a New York Rangers first-round pick in 2009; Warsofsky a St. Louis Blues fourth-round selection in 2008).

Monday night they showed why they have such bright futures.

Kreider's goal, his seventh of the season, gave BC a 3-1 lead in the second. Just after he came out of the penalty box he took a pass from Jimmy Hayes, streaked up the left side and walked past BU defenseman Max Nicastro. Kreider carried the puck with a between the legs move and then beat a sliding Kieran Millan with a backhand shot that he tucked inside the far post.

Warsofsky cut BC's lead to 4-2 when he took a feed from Zach Cohen, went in alone on John Muse and roofed a backhander over the BC goaltender.

"I'll be surprised if both of the highlight goals aren't on ESPN's Top 10 tomorrow morning," York said. "Chris has terrific speed, and his stick skills are getting better. I'm not sure which defenseman he beat with that inside move but when he came in on the goaltender he has very quick hands and he made a wide dribble and backhanded it behind Kieran Millan.

"I thought it was a highlight-reel goal as was Warsofsky's. Those are two take-you-out-of-your-seat type goals."

York, an astute follower of all sports, woke up Tuesday morning and was half right if he watched "SportsCenter."

In the rundown of the "Top Plays" from Monday night it was all NBA and college basketball until the countdown reached No. 1.

Then it was Kreider's turn to showcase college hockey for a national audience.

And the freshman didn't disappoint.

After a couple of replays of Kreider's move and finish, then came the exclamation point as anchor Neil Everett said, "If you don't think this is awesome then you need awesome lessons."

It's hard to argue with that point, college hockey fans. But you, even the Beanpot haters, already knew that.

For everybody else, the lessons continue this weekend.

David Albright covers college sports for ESPN.com and can be reached at espncaa@gmail.com.

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