When it comes to Beanpot consolation games, you don’t need to remind Sean Escobedo how important they can be.
In February 2011, when the senior defenseman and his classmates were sophomores, BU blew a third-period lead to Harvard University to have its heart broken, 5–4, on Valentine’s Day.
The loss hammered BU when it came to that season’s PairWise Rankings and was therefore the reason the team missed the NCAA tournament.
“Obviously Harvard [in 2011] is at the back of our minds,” Escobedo said Sunday before adding that BU coach Jack Parker addressed the team about the subject earlier in the week. “The guys who have been here have experienced what they did to us … It is always going to be on our minds.”
This time around, the No. 11/13 Terriers (13–11–1, 10–7–1 Hockey East) are in a similar situation. They are again in the consolation game of the city’s annual four-team tourney, again facing the Crimson (5–15–2). And, after a rough month-and-a-half stretch, BU again finds itself on the cusp of an NCAA bid.
Needless to say, the Terriers aren’t taking this game lightly.
“I’m just doing the best I can to make sure that our younger guys realize how big this game [Monday] is,” said BU senior captain Wade Megan. “It is, in my eyes, a must-win game. I’ve done everything I can to make sure that everybody is ready to play tomorrow night. I think we are. I think we will show up and have a good game.”
The last time BU and Harvard faced off, the Crimson fought back from a three-goal deficit in the final frame before stunning the Terriers, 6–5, in overtime Jan. 9.
Since then, Harvard has not won. The win vs. BU serves as its only win in its last 16 games. The Crimson most recently lost to No. 4/5 Boston College, 4–1, in the Beanpot semifinals and tied Dartmouth, 1–1, Sunday.
The Terriers haven’t played to quite as miserable a record, but they are far from happy as well. They are just 3–6–1 since Christmas and are clinging to fourth place in Hockey East — and home ice in the playoffs.
Parker, though, insists his team is trending up.
“We played with a lot of emotion and we played with a lot of grit [first semester],” Parker said. “That disappeared for a while and now we’re getting it back. It’s just not producing ‘Ws’ yet.
“We’re making strides. We’re getting our enthusiasm back. I think we seem to be coming back together as a team.”
Parker said the team worked during practice this week to improve its power play, which has failed to convert in its last 13 chances, including six last week vs. Northeastern University in the Beanpot semifinals, a 3–2 loss. Maintaining possession in the offensive zone and moving the puck quicker were points of emphasis.
Sophomore forward Evan Rodrigues will get time playing the point with the man-advantage, while senior forward Ryan Santana will play by the crease.
Parker also said he is putting Megan back on the first line, meaning junior Matt Nieto will slide back down onto the second-line left wing.
Freshman goaltender Sean Maguire, meanwhile, will start between the pipes. He had been set to start Friday vs. Merrimack College, but with that game rescheduled due to the snow, Parker is sticking with his netminder rotation and giving Maguire a game at TD Garden.
It will be Maguire’s first time playing at the Garden, as well as his first time playing the Crimson — a team with one of the worst offenses in the country with an average of two goals per game.
But Parker doesn’t want to sleep on the Crimson, the ECAC’s last-place team. He said he has seen about four of their games this season, including two in person, and Monday’s loss to BC was the best they have looked.
“They played with a lot of emotion, they played with a lot of physical play to their game, and they made some nice plays,” Parker said. “They certainly were in the game.”
On paper, it looks like a lot of recent BU games — one the Terriers should be able to walk through. But with the operative phrase being “on paper,” it is a matter of BU actually showing up and playing to its capabilities.
“It’s a lot more important to [BU] than it is to [Harvard],” said BU coach Jack Parker. “I don’t know if I want [BU to get over the loss to Northeastern last Monday] too quickly. I’d be upset if they were laughing about it the next day, you know? It’s something [to which you respond with] ‘that’s done, what’s next?’ But at the same time you’re a little upset that you didn’t get it done last time, and we’ve got to play more determined next time.”