The No. 4 Boston University men’s hockey team was on the ropes as it skated out on the TD Garden ice for its Beanpot-clinching overtime frame against Northeastern University on Monday.
Two Huskies goals in a span of under two minutes had sheared what was a 3-1 Terrier lead back into a draw, serving as the proverbial gut check to BU’s aspirations.
The narrative was unraveling, the dream drawing to a bitter end. The coveted trophy that had eluded the Terriers’ grasp for the past six years was once again slipping through their hands.
This same tension was not evident amongst the members of BU’s roster. For them, the storybook ending was already written.
The Beanpot trophy was coming back to Commonwealth Avenue.
“As soon as we scored the third goal, we all looked at each other and told each other, ‘It was our time,’” said BU assistant captain Evan Rodrigues. “It’s a tied game, and the next one was gonna win it, and we just looked at each other and told each other, ‘We had it in us, and we were gonna get them.’”
The Terriers (20-16-5, 13-4-3 Hockey East) made good on their charge, besting the Huskies (15-14-4, 10-8-2 Hockey East) in overtime en route to BU’s 30th Beanpot title in program history and the team’s first tournament conquest since the 2008-09 campaign.
BU junior captain Matt Grzelcyk provided the theatrics Monday night, lighting the lamp twice — including the game-winning strike in extra play — to help push his team past a Huskies unit that had orchestrated an impressive 8-1-1 run over its last 10 contests.
For his efforts, Grzelcyk was awarded tournament MVP honors, earning his spot as BU’s first Beanpot MVP since then-sophomore forward Nick Bonino accomplished the feat six years ago.
“I took a peek over and saw Grizz waiting there … Grizz got it, and I was waiting for the pass back. He let it rip,” said Rodrigues, who assisted on Grzelcyk’s tournament-clinching goal. “Before I knew it, we were all skating down to the other end celebrating … It’s been great ever since.”
Entering the 63rd Beanpot annual tournament, the Terriers were mired in their worst run of play in the storied Boston-based competition — losers of five straight games in the tournament and eight of nine matches overall.
Armed with a healthy veteran corps and an impressive freshmen class, the Terriers dispatched Harvard University in a double-overtime thriller in the semifinal round on Feb. 3 before defeating Northeastern Monday night.
“It’s been a tough stretch in the Beanpot for us,” said BU head coach David Quinn. “Just to see the way these guys enjoyed the victory and how much it meant to them and how much they put into it … I haven’t really given it much thought from my perspective. I couldn’t be happier for our team.”
Both squads traded barbs over the first three minutes of play, with junior forward Mike Moran and NU forward John Stevens exchanging equalizing goals over the span of 28 seconds.
The match remained locked in a 1-1 draw until 5:31 in the second stanza, when sophomore forward Robbie Baillargeon wristed a rebound offering past Northeastern goaltender Clay Witt to hand BU the lead once again. It was Baillargeon’s first goal since the Terriers season-opening game against the University of Massachusetts on Oct. 10, 2014 — a span of 29 games.
While the Huskies frequently cycled and harassed BU junior netminder Matt O’Connor throughout the first 20 minutes of play, the Terriers repaid the favor in the following period, battering the Huskies with a physical forecheck and opportunistic looks on net.
A flurry of chances on the Huskies’ net finally led to yet another crack in Witt’s armor, this time off the stick of BU’s hottest scorer.
As BU cycled around the Huskies net, freshman forward Nikolas Olsson dished the puck back out to the blue line, where it was corralled by Grzelcyk.
The Charlestown native hesitated, and then uncorked a slapshot toward the Witt and NU netting. Witt had little time to react, glancing hopelessly at the puck as it soared past him and into the cage to hand BU a two-goal lead going into the final period.
Goals from Northeastern forward Kevin Roy and defenseman Dustin Darou at 9:18 and 10:53, respectively, in the third stanza once again rendered a 3-3 draw, setting the stage for Grzlecyk’s clutch overtime shot.
The teams’ goaltenders fared well against BU and Northeastern offenses ranked first and fourth in Hockey East in goals per games, with O’Connor and Witt both recording 30 saves on the night.
As the Terrier teammates piled on top of each other and celebrated with the Beanpot hardware near center ice, a disappointing 2013-14 season and BU’s recent tournament struggles seemed like a distant memory.
With the Beanpot crown now in hand, the Terriers are ready to start a new chapter, the first step to what could be a special season for the Scarlet and White.
“I think last year made all the returning guys in that room hungrier, and I think we added a freshman class that brings a lot of positive attitude, and they’re always upbeat, they’re always positive, they’re always coming to work everyday,” Rodrigues said. “It’s made for a special season so far, and hopefully, this is just the beginning.”