Ice Hockey, Sports

BU veterans help avoid another No. 1 letdown

For a span of 20 minutes, it was d’eacute;j’agrave; vu all over again.

In its first game after being tabbed the No. 1 team in the country for the second time this season, Boston University found itself in a serious bind last night during opening-round action of the 57th Annual Beanpot Tournament at TD Banknorth Garden.

One couldn’t help but flash back to Nov. 14, when a newly christened top-ranked BU squad waltzed into the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and limped out on the short end of a 5-1 flogging. In the weeks following that loss, several Terriers admitted that the pageantry surrounding their newfound top billing affected their play that night.

They also vowed never to fret over their standing in the weekly polls. From that point on, their focus would be squarely on the task at hand.

‘The first time we were ranked number one, we got a little too high on ourselves and got a little overconfident,’ senior forward Chris Higgins said last month. ‘Now we don’t even think about that stuff. [BU coach Jack Parker] told us to remember what happened last time. We just block that stuff out. We’re taking it one game at a time and trying to play our best hockey.” ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘

‘Getting back to number one is going to depend on what other people do,’ sophomore forward Colin Wilson said recently. ‘We’re getting back to playing as a team the way we were in November, becoming that real dominant team and a bunch of BU hockey players.’

BU trailed unranked and unheralded Harvard University in both goals (1-0) and shots (9-7) after one period last night. The Terriers lacked any resemblance to the group that had disposed of opponents so thoroughly during the sustained run of dominance it had authored since late November.’

For a BU team entering the month of February with 19 wins for just the second time in program history, a letdown in the opening game of his club’s signature tournament was probably the last thing Parker expected. Freshman goaltender Kieran Millan, a source of stability between the pipes all season long, played with a noticeable case of the nerves, as did many other Terrier underclassmen.

It wasn’t until BU’s veterans, those who swore that a No. 1 national ranking wouldn’t impact their psyche the second time around, took the game by the reins that the Terriers finally settled down and pulled out a stirring 4-3 victory.’ ‘

‘Are we number one?’ senior forward Jason Lawrence, who blasted home last night’s game-winning goal, jokingly asked in reference to BU’s tunnel-vision approach toward the polls. ‘Obviously, we didn’t want to focus on that. We came into the game just worrying about the game at hand. We focused on trying to get to a Beanpot final, which was one of our main goals at the beginning of the season. We did it, so we’re happy about it.’

After the Crimson stretched its lead to 2-0 1:04 into the second period, it was clear that the lifeless Terriers were in need of a serious jolt. Rarely had BU come out so flat in any game this season, never mind a tilt of last night’s magnitude. Its spark proved to be one of the unlikeliest of heroes, as struggling sophomore forward Nick Bonino found the back of the net twice in the middle stanza.

Mired in a scoring slump that had seen him pot just one goal in his last 10 contests entering Monday, the Terriers’ second-line center came to life during a second period that turned the tide in BU’s favor. A mere minute and 43 seconds after slicing the Harvard lead in half with a snipe from the left circle, Bonino slid a backhander past Crimson freshman goaltender Matt Hoyle to tie the game at two.’ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘

‘It’s been a little frustrating,’ Bonino said after registering his first multi-goal game since Oct. 10, the Terriers’ season opener. ‘I really wanted to get back on track. Today the puck was going in, and I’m happy for that. It was good to get the team a little momentum and get us going.’

Junior forward Zach Cohen and Lawrence did the honors the rest of the way, supplying clutch third-period goals to give BU its 14th win in 18 games since that fateful November drubbing.

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