‘Pot Post Game Wrap Up – The 60th Annual Beanpot Final

Much has been written about the lack of parity in the Beanpot Tournament and I myself have been a critic as of late. In deference to the electrifying atmosphere and deserved champions of last night’s 60th annual mid February spectacle, let’s put this sentiment aside so we can appreciate for a moment how great of a hockey game we all witnessed. No one ever doubted the venom and passion that is the BU/BC rivalry, and last night, that fervor was on display to the fullest as the Eagles and Terriers put on a show for the ages.

Jerry York answered the Beanpot critics (like myself) with a resounding statement to the media last night:

“Over the last few years, people have talked about, `Has the Beanpot kind of lost its luster? How are the crowds? Where is college hockey in the Boston area?”‘ said BC coach Jerry York, who earned his 899th career victory. “Tonight was a statement. That place was jammed with fans of college hockey. I think the Beanpot is in good hands. It has been for a long time and it’s going to continue especially with that type of hockey game tonight. That was college hockey at its finest.”

In a game that was marred by far too many penalties on both sides, Bill Arnold scored the OT winner with just 6.4 seconds left in the OT period to lift BC to its 3rd consecutive title. I guess “BU Invitational” moniker can be removed as BC claimed a tournament three-peat for the first time since the 1960’s. Arnold’s (Needham,MA) winner was set up by linemates Steven Whitney and Barry Almeida who pressured the BU net all game long.

The Boston Globe provided the details leading up to Arnold’s thrilling OT winner:

“The Eagles scored first with junior center Pat Mullane beating Millan shorthanded at 8:54 of the first period.

With freshman left wing Quinn Smith off for boarding, junior right wing Chris Kreider made a terrific play to liberate the puck from BU defenseman Sean Escobedo. Kreider, who was playing in his 100th collegiate game, dished to Mullane in the left circle and Mullane’s forehand wrister beat Millan to the short side after rattling off the post.

It was Mullane’s fourth goal of the season, and the first shorthanded goal allowed by BU this season.

BU pulled even at 15:11 of the second during a power play. Sophomore defenseman Garrett Noonan made it 1-1 on a high shot from the left circle that eluded junior goaltender Parker Milner (32 saves).

Sophomore left wing Matt Nieto made a nifty feed from the right circle to find Noonan, who came in late. Milner couldn’t correct in time and it was all tied up.

BC went back on top, 2-1, at 18:42 on Kreider’s power-play tally. BU managed to kill off the 23-second five-on-three advantage but when it went to five on four, the Terriers couldn’t kill it off.”

“The hero of the night was sophomore center Bill Arnold, who scored with 6.4 seconds remaining in the extra session.

It was BC’s fourth title in the last five years. It marked the first time since 1963-65 that the Eagles won three in a row. And it’s the first time that BU has failed to win a Beanpot title in three straight seasons since 1983-85.

Arnold’s goal, the Needham native’s 13th of the season, was on an odd-man rush. He beat BU goaltender Kieran Millan (44 saves) on a shot from the right circle that sailed past Millan’s glove.

“I knew there was under a minute left,” said Arnold. “I wasn’t exactly sure how much time was left when we were skating up the ice. But you don’t want to turn over the puck in that situation. You want to make sure you at least get through the period without giving up a goal. But if you see the chance to skate down the ice and get a shot, you’ve got to take it.”

Barry Almeida found Steven Whitney, who dished the pass to the latecomer, which was Arnold, who finished off the play. Game over.

In their first three meetings this season, the decisions were all lopsided. BU won the first one, 5-0, and the second one, 5-3, but dropped the third one, 6-1.

But both squads expected a tight battle and that’s exactly what they got.

BU put itself in trouble with penalties, allowing six power plays through 40 minutes.

The Eagles scored first with junior center Pat Mullane beating Millan shorthanded at 8:54 of the first period.

With freshman left wing Quinn Smith off for boarding, junior right wing Chris Kreider made a terrific play to liberate the puck from BU defenseman Sean Escobedo. Kreider, who was playing in his 100th collegiate game, dished to Mullane in the left circle and Mullane’s forehand wrister beat Millan to the short side after rattling off the post.

It was Mullane’s fourth goal of the season, and the first shorthanded goal allowed by BU this season.

BU pulled even at 15:11 of the second during a power play. Sophomore defenseman Garrett Noonan made it 1-1 on a high shot from the left circle that eluded junior goaltender Parker Milner (32 saves).

Sophomore left wing Matt Nieto made a nifty feed from the right circle to find Noonan, who came in late. Milner couldn’t correct in time and it was all tied up.

BC went back on top, 2-1, at 18:42 on Kreider’s power-play tally. BU managed to kill off the 23-second five-on-three advantage but when it went to five on four, the Terriers couldn’t kill it off.

Freshman left wing Johnny Gaudreau made a perfect centering pass to Kreider, who was charging into the slot. Kreider’s shot beat Millan over the glove for his team-leading 19th goal.

BU battled back a second time during a two-man advantage at 7:12 of the third. Sophomore defenseman Adam Clendening, who was positioned in the high slot, found an open passing lane and threw the puck to Noonan, who was camped at the left post.

Noonan redirected it into the net past Milner for his first two-goal game.

BU battled back a second time during a two-man advantage at 7:12 of the third. Sophomore defenseman Adam Clendening, who was positioned in the high slot, found an open passing lane and threw the puck to Noonan, who was camped at the left post.”

The Beanpot Forum’s Take:

The Beanpot is a sporting event that is more uniquely ‘Boston’ than anything else that Boston has to offer. You have 4 colleges/universities that all call Boston home . The alumni and academia meld together for this unique event which is more than just a hockey grudge match. In a broader sense, it’s a pride issue that sizes up your school with the reputation and personality of the other institutions. You have the Ivy League elitist crowd, the “almost” Ivy’s and somewhat refined Superfans, and the prideful BU contingent who are a bit more boisterous and feel they have something to prove to the upper crest. Northeastern arguably has the biggest chip on their shoulder as they have to compete with the esteemed academic reputation of BC and Harvard and with the historic accolades associated with a nationally renowned team like BU.

Put these ingredients in a cauldron-esque environment like the Garden, with each school filling up their respective four corners and combine it with some of the most exciting college hockey around and you have one of the greatest sports atmospheres in the country. The fact that the last 2 Beanpot championships have been won in overtime, only adds to the energy level in the building for the first and second Monday’s in February.

The Beanpot has provided a springboard of sorts that has amazingly propelled the deemed champion to further accolades and championships in the subsequent Hockey East and NCAA tournaments. An amazing stat I heard during the broadcast last night revealed that of the last nine Boston based Frozen Four Title winners (BC, BU and Harvard 1989), all nine have won the Beanpot in the same year. Most recently, BC won the Beanpot in 2007-2008 +2009-2010 while BU claimed the Pot in 2008-2009 and all three seasons spawned Frozen Four Champions – indeed a good omen for the Eagles of 2012

The tournament comes along at just the right time for both the teams/players as well as the fan bases. From a team synergy perspective, the Beanpot is a benchmark of sorts that is played during the stretch run of the HE regular season and provides an electrifying atmosphere that can emulate the NCAA and HE Tournament environment and serves as a prep for the subsequent pressure cookers. BC’s Jerry York substantiated this argument:

“It’s such a big stage with so much media coverage and exposure, the experience can only help you as it gets bigger and bigger late in the season ” Said York shortly after last night’s win.

For the local New England sports fans, the Beanpot fits nicely between the end of the NFL season and precedes the annual spring rite of passage that is the Boston Red Sox as they trek to Ft. Myers to start the baseball season.

As far as last night’s historic contest between the two green line rivals was concerned, I must this was about as entertaining of a hockey game as I have witnessed this year. The question going into the game was twofold, how would Parker Milner respond to shore up BC’s one weakness?- it’s goalie situation, and secondly, how would BU compete offensively with BC ?(the last time these two met, BU had the offensive exploits of Coyle and Trivino at their disposal).

Much has been made of the offensive explosives and speed that all of York’s BC teams have prided themselves on. These bands of flying midgets seem to procreate themselves on an annual basis and although the names on the jerseys change, it looks like much the same juggernaut. After watching this team evolve throughout the season and specifically during last night’s Beanpot tilt, it is evidently clear that the most underrated contingent perhaps in the nation, is BC’s veteran defensive corps. Tommy Cross was arguably the best player on the ice and with the addition of a solid, steady force like Patrick Wey, BC is primed for yet another march into the Frozen Four tournament. They provide a calming, veteran like influence that even in the overtime session, didn’t waver.

The question mark leading into the Beanpot Final was no doubt related to BC’s revolving door in the net. Parker Milner made big statement last night and has seemingly grabbed the reigns for the stretch run – Joe Meloni has a nice article on this very subject on the College Hockey News site. Much like the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks of 2009, the Eagles do not need a Tim Thomas caliber netminder to win the big games. Because of the explosive offense and savvy defensive group, Milner will only be counted on to make the key saves. He certainly did just that last night as he made the stops necessary to win; he will be asked to do the same down the stretch if BC will be a contender for the Frozen Four crown.

From BU’s perspective, last night’s defeat was without a doubt a bitter defeat and one that will be tough to recover from. That said, BU can take a number of positives from the game and perhaps use this loss as fuel for revenge during their stretch run. Would it surprise anyone of these two met on Garden ice once again for a rematch in the HE finals? Kieran Millan was spectacular and captured the Eberly trophy awarded annually to the goalie in the Beanpot with the best save percentage throughout the tournament. BU will need to rely heavily on Millan as well as their talented defenseman Adam Clendening as they march into the HE tournament. With Trivino and Coyle gone, Wade Megan and Garrett Noonan have really stepped it up and both were superb last night.

Well, another Beanpot is in the books and it was indeed one for the ages….now onward to see what the HE Tournament and Frozen Four have in store for us. Could we see two more BC BU matchups in the HE final and the Frozen Four?? Wouldn’t that be something!!

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