For the five seniors on the Boston University hockey team, last night was their last chance at a Beanpot championship. For the team’s six freshmen, it was their first.
Two four-year men and two rookies scored last night to give BU a 5-3 win against Northeastern University at the FleetCenter for its 24th Beanpot title in the 50-year history of the storied tournament.
One of the freshmen – forward Justin Maiser – scored two of those goals, including the game-winner with just 1:12 left in the third frame.
Freshman defenseman Ryan Whitney and senior forwards Mike Pandolfo and Jack Baker contributed the other scores as the Icedogs captured their seventh Beanpot in the last eight years, erasing last year’s second-place finish to Boston College from the collective memory of BU fans. The Terriers disposed of the Eagles in the first round, 5-3, last Monday night.
Maiser opened things up in the first period, whipping a wrist shot past Northeastern goalie Keni Gibson short side at a nearly impossible angle. Freshman center David Klema picked up the assist on the play after intercepting a Northeastern (16-11-3) clearing attempt.
For the remainder of the first frame, Gibson dominated by making spectacular-save after spectacular-save to keep his team closer than BU coach Jack Parker thought it should have been. It was a situation that reminded him of a similar performance by one of his netminders years earlier.
“About four years ago we beat NU in the Beanpot final because our goaltender [Michel] Larocque played unbelievable and stood ’em on their ears,” Parker said. “Northeastern really stormed us in the third period, but we wound up winning, and I was thinking tonight as the first half of the game was going, ‘Boy this could be turn-the-table because Gibson was playing so well.’
“I thought we should have had a bunch of goals early, but we didn’t.”
The Icedogs (19-7-2) managed to grab a two-goal advantage in the second period when Whitney stick-handled beautifully through the Northeastern zone, taking advantage of the traffic in front of Gibson to slide in a low backhander that found the back of the cage.
From there, BU seemed to regress after dominating in every facet of the game, and Northeastern started to take over.
“It was almost a tale of two games. I thought the first thirty minutes of the game we put on a pretty good clinic out there,” said Parker, who captured his 16th Beanpot as a coach. “A real solid effort, then all of a sudden we’re down a few men, a couple of calls were made and the ref got involved I guess. A couple of power play goals, and now all of a sudden we’re back on our heels.”
The first of those power play goals came when Huskies forward Chris Lynch deflected a shot by senior defenseman Jim Fahey past sophomore goalie Sean Fields at the 12:43 mark.
Less than two minutes later, Lynch once again struck on the man-advantage, stealing a poor clearing pass by BU junior forward John Sabo and sticking a backhand shot past Fields on the second time of asking.
With only ten seconds left in the period, Fahey, the captain of the Huskies, stunned BU with a slapper that beat Fields, who could only slow it down as it trickled into the net. In the next ten seconds, it appeared the Terriers might have let the wheels fall off, with Pandolfo taking what he described as a “stupid penalty” with no time left on the clock.
“Starting the third period down 3-2 shorthanded is not the way you want to go in,” Pandolfo said. “We were fortunate enough to kill it and get the score back to 3-3. I just felt terrible. That’s the most nervous I’ve been in the penalty box in my life.”
But his nerves were unfounded as the BU penalty killers stepped up after giving up the uncharacteristic two power play goals and killed off the penalty. From there, Pandolfo and Lady Luck stepped in to draw the Icedogs equal.
Freshman defenseman Bryan Miller dumped the puck into the zone, and as Northeastern defenseman Jon Awe went to play the puck, it hopped over his stick and right to a waiting Pandolfo. The Icedogs leading scorer took advantage of the chance and buried it stick side past a surprised Gibson 3:54 into the final frame.
From then on, the Icedogs knew the Pot was theirs for the taking, according to Pandolfo.
“Once we got there we knew there was no way we were gonna let this one get away again,” Pandolfo said.
First they had to survive a little Patrick Roy-like wandering from Fields, who came way out of his crease with about seven minutes left to play a slow-moving puck. Northeastern forward Mike Ryan arrived to the puck at the same time as Fields and knocked it away. However, Ryan missed the empty net and a chance to give the Huskies a 4-3 lead.
After Miller made a potentially game saving poke check from behind on Northeastern’s Jaron Herriman, play settled down a bit until sophomore forward Mark Mullen nearly broke free after getting hooked by Husky Leon Hayward. Mullen did not get the call as he tried to break in on Gibson with less than two minutes left.
It was no matter, however, as Maiser came back to put BU ahead for good. On the ensuing faceoff, BU’s third line completed the play that took home the Beanpot.
“It was a faceoff in their zone and Klema, he told me and Magowan that he was going to push it through and for us to go to the net,” Maiser said. “He did push it through and Kenny got in there and gave a nice little pass to Klema, and I was sitting out in front yelling, and [Klema] gave me a beautiful pass and I just knocked it in there.”
From there, BU survived a couple of close chances with Gibson pulled, and Baker took a pass from Whitney and scored an empty-netter, which he punctuated by raising his fingers to his lips to symbolically silence the rowdy Northeastern Dog Pound that is notorious for it’s abuse of opposing teams.
From there, the celebration began as the team mobbed Fields when the final horn sounded before lining up for the trophy presentation. After Maiser received his MVP trophy, the seniors – Pandolfo, fellow co-captain Chris Dyment, Baker, goalie Jason Tapp and injured defenseman Pat Aufiero posed with the third Beanpot they have earned in their four year stint in the scarlet and white. Pandolfo then skated it over toward the BU fans while the trophy worked its way through the senior class, and eventually to Aufiero, who suffered a lacerated tendon in his ankle in BU’s last game before the Beanpot first round against Merrimack College.
So after a one-year stint at the Newton end of Commonwealth Avenue, the ‘Pot arrives back where it has landed 23 other times in the 50-year history of the tournament. It comes back to BU after a contest that the man who has seen more Beanpot wins as a coach than any other skipper described perfectly.
“All in all, a nice Beanpot win for us, obviously, in a fabulous Beanpot game,” Parker said.