Clothed in scarlet and crimson, the No. 4 Boston University and No. 3 Harvard University hockey teams took to the TD Garden ice with one thing in mind: Winning the Beanpot championship and earning bragging rights for the best team in Beantown.
The Terriers (19-9-2, 11-5-2 Hockey East) wanted a win after last year’s heartbreaking overtime loss to now-No. 11 Boston College. The Crimson (18-5-2) wanted to end their 24-year Beanpot drought.
The two teams – close in ranking, record and geography – were expected to battle it out in a close, competitive game. Aside from a few minutes of momentum, Harvard outplayed BU, earning 6-3 victory.
BU head coach David Quinn said the better team won.
“At the end of the day this is a game of want,” Quinn said. “And boy did they want it more than we did. They out-skated us. They out-hit us. They out-shot us.”
Harvard took control early on. The Crimson attempted 33 shots in the first period, with 18 reaching freshman goalie Jake Oettinger. Meanwhile, the Terriers only attempted four and Merrick Madsen only saw two. By the end of the night, Harvard outshot BU, 46-17.
Quinn said his team simply didn’t have the puck as much as Harvard.
“We were slow,” Quinn said of BU’s lack of shots. “We were slow with puck movement, with skating. Really disappointing. Really a head scratcher.”
Quinn said one thing the Terriers managed better than the boys from across the river was goaltending. Oettinger made 40 saves and won the Eberly Award at night’s end for the best save percentage of the tournament.
Freshman Nathan Krusko broke past Oettinger first, giving Harvard the lead. After the first 20 minutes, the Terriers looked sloppy, but it was still anybody’s game.
The game swung on its head in the second stanza. Just 1:29 into the period, freshman forward Kieffer Bellows scored his first goal since Nov. 22, 2016. His power play goal breathed life into the Terriers’ veins.
Before the first five minutes of play were up, the Terriers struck again, making it 2-1. Junior defender John MacLeod sent the puck sailing on net and freshman forward Clayton Keller deflected the puck in for his 15th goal of the season.
However, Harvard slowly took control and regained momentum.
Losing junior defender Brandon Hickey likely didn’t help the Terriers. Senior Luke Esposito hit him hard against the boards, compressing his right leg. Although Hickey skated onto the ice post-game, he didn’t play the rest of the night.
Captain and senior defenseman Doyle Somerby said it affected the team.
“It definitely put our backs up against the wall,” Somerby said. “He moves really well. He’s one of our best [defenders].”
Esposito netted the game-tying goal just past the halfway mark of the game. The Terrier shots stopped coming and Harvard pushed harder, putting up as much as five shots in a row on Oettinger. Finally, the Crimson broke past him again with a second goal from Krusko.
With less than two minutes to play, Harvard found itself surging in BU’s zone. It didn’t take long for Krusko to push the puck past Oettinger during a chaotic moment in front of the net. Although the goal was reviewed for potential interference, the call on the ice stood.
Going into the third, the Terriers saw momentum zapped. The Crimson had a 5-on-3, and took advantage just 31 seconds into the final frame when they scored their fourth of the evening via senior Alexander Kerfoot.
Sophomore Ryan Donato gave the Crimson another wave of energy nearly 13 minutes into the third, making it 5-2. About 30 seconds later, Keller scored his second of the game to keep the Terriers in it. The goal couldn’t spark a comeback, though, and with less than two minutes left, defender Adam Fox sealed the 6-3 win with an empty net goal.
“It’s disappointing in a lot of ways,” Quinn said. “Because it certainly wasn’t anything we expected.”