Garrett Noonan, a Norfolk native who grew up watching the Beanpot Tournament, may have played the game of his life Monday night. With a pair of goals, the sophomore defenseman provided 100 percent of his team’s offense in 60th edition of the annual tournament.
“It feels alright,” Noonan said, his head hanging low and his eyes a bit watery. “It’s pretty good, but obviously I wish the result was different.”
“Obviously” may be an understatement. The sullen air Noonan carried about him would have been different if the No. 2 Boston University men’s hockey team came out on the other end. But instead, No. 3/4 Boston College came out on top in the 3-2 overtime win thanks to a goal from forward Bill Arnold with 6.4 seconds left in overtime.
“This has been the best college hockey game I’ve played in,” said sophomore defenseman Adam Clendening. “The meaning it is and the history it has, what was on the table for us tonight. We could have won 30 out of 60 [Beanpot tournaments]. That’s 50 percent, so that’s pretty impressive to do in a tournament. That was just the way it went. It was the best game I’ve played still, even if we came out on the wrong end.”
The overtime came after the Terriers (17-10-1, 13-7-1 Hockey East) and Eagles (19-10-1, 13-7-1 Hockey East) traded pairs of special-teams goals in 60 minutes of tightly and intensely contested regulation.
BC struck first for the opening frame’s only goal. With BU on the power play, forward Chris Kreider chipped the puck to forward Pat Mullane, who snuck a wrister inside the right post by senior goaltender Kieran Millan. The short-handed tally – the first BU has given up all season – gave the Eagles a 1-0 lead at 8:54.
The goal was telling of much of the first period, a period that saw the Terriers get outshot 16-9.
The second frame featured more of the same, but this time the Terriers had more scoring chances – and even capitalized on one of them.
Riding momentum from killing three penalties, including 1:51 of a 5-on-3 halfway through the period, BU knotted the score at one with a power-play goal from Noonan.
Sophomore forward Matt Nieto, fighting for the puck in the right corner, sent it to junior assistant captain Alex Chiasson by the right post. Chiasson gave Noonan the puck at the left faceoff dot for the one-timer at 16:11, tying the score at 1-1.
The Terriers’ consistent march to the box in the second let BC re-take the lead. Due to penalties to Noonan and junior defenseman Sean Escobedo – two of six total Terrier penalties in the period – BC had 24 more seconds of a two-man advantage. The Terriers killed the first penalty, but before Noonan could fully get back in the play, Kreider buried a slap shot from the right circle for a 2-1 BC lead at 18:42.
“We did take ourselves to the box with some stupid penalties,” said BU coach Jack Parker.
Staying alive, the Terriers managed to draw a 5-on-3 of their own in the third period, and this time BU came out on the right end. After two BC penalties 12 seconds apart, Noonan connected again from the left post, this time with assists from Clendening and Chiasson at 7:12 for another tie, 2-2.
The score stayed that way for the rest of the third and nearly all 20 minutes of the first overtime. The teams traded physical blows – taking advantage of the referees’ hesitancy to call any penalties in the extra time – and with the clock winding down it looked like the Terriers and Eagles were going to start a fifth 20-minute period.
But in the final minute, after Millan batted away the second-to-last BC shot, Arnold ended up with the puck high in the slot. Arnold’s wrister beat Millan, instantly and dramatically sending the two teams to the opposite extremes of shock, the Eagles dog piled in one section of the ice and the Terriers and their equipment strewn out everywhere else.
“That was college hockey at its finest,” said BC coach Jerry York. “The pass made to Billy Arnold at the end was textbook. It was an odd-man advantage, and he found the late guy and Billy wristed it glove-side. He’s pretty electric on offense, that’s for sure.”
Millan made 44 saves on 47 Eagle shots, good enough to earn him the Eberly Award, given annually to the tournament’s best goaltender.
The netminder couldn’t steal a win for his team though – at least, not this time – and the Terriers find themselves losers of four of their last six games, a vast difference from the red-hot team from mid-November to mid-January.
“It’s a long way to get to another championship, that’s for sure,” Parker said. “You don’t take anything out of this except the loss.”