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Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Beanpot run takes BC to new heights

By Brion O'Connor, Special to ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- Success breeds success. In college hockey parlance, that translates to another Beanpot trophy for the "haves," as No. 4 Boston College pinned a 6-3 loss on Northeastern to capture its 18th city championship in the 61st edition of this storied event.

Some 48 years after BC coach Jerry York won his first Beanpot as an Eagle, and a week after he was inducted into the Beanpot Hall of Fame, his young charges did something no other BC squad had done before: win four straight Beanpots. And they did it with a mix of opportunistic offense, a bend-but-don't-break defense and the occasional spectacular save from senior goaltender Parker Milner before a raucous crowd at TD Garden, denying the Huskies (8-14-3) their first Beanpot trophy since 1988.

"They didn't win four Beanpots by themselves, this senior class," York said. "They had a lot of help."

Jerry York
Jerry York says his seniors who didn't lose a Beanpot game in their careers had plenty of help.
That help came in the form of a deep squad, but notably super sophomore Johnny Gaudreau, who scored twice, and juniors Bill Arnold and Patrick Brown, who each tallied a goal.

But it was senior assistant Steve Whitney who got the eventual game-winner with 0.4 seconds left in the second period, and senior captain Pat Mullane who salted the game away for the Eagles (17-7-2) with an empty-net tally with 1:28 left in the contest.

"For our seniors, I think we're all excited," Whitney said. "This is awesome for us.

"Tonight, we got a lot of great efforts from every class," he said.

Still, Northeastern made the Eagles earn it. For the first time since 2004, a member of the losing team won the MVP, as freshman Kevin Roy followed his three-goal performance against Boston University in the opening round by scoring two goals to help keep the Huskies close. But close wasn't enough, especially after BC built a commanding 4-1 lead after two periods.

"I congratulate Boston College," Northeastern coach Jim Madigan said. "They played a great game and they're a great team, and they deserved to win tonight."

Instead of a Beanpot victory party, the Huskies had to take consolation in knowing that, except for a few ill-timed defensive lapses, they were able to skate with the Eagles.

"I told the guys I was proud of them, how they showed resolve and how they showed resiliency," Madigan said. "We've got a lot of hockey left, and we can still get back to this building [for the Hockey East playoffs] if we play like we did in the third period.

"Those are words that are hard to take when you've just lost a Beanpot, and I've sat there, and remember what it was like when Fernie [Flaman] was addressing me years ago. That's a tough one, but we'll get back at it."

Contrary to the typical Beanpot scoreline between the two squads, the scoreless first period featured Northeastern's relentless forechecking and tenacious defense (seven blocked shots) pitted against BC's unparalleled transition game. BC had the edge in offensive play, outshooting the Huskies 10-5, but NU senior goaltender Chris Rawlings looked calm and relaxed in stopping everything that came his way. The first clear goal-scoring bid came at 12:02, when BC's Arnold was sent in alone on Rawlings, but the junior's power-play bid clanked off the crossbar and into the netting.

The goalies stepped up to start the middle stanza, with BC's Milner (20 saves) robbing Garrett Vermeersch's snap shot from the low slot 90 seconds in, and Rawlings (24 saves) denying Kevin Hayes as the junior flashed across the Northeastern crease. At 3:48, BC's Isaac MacLeod beat Rawlings glove side, but his wrister glanced off the post.

BC's Mullane was the next to find iron, halfway through the second. After Gaudreau somehow dug the puck out of a crowd by the left half-wall and slipped a pass to Danny Linell, the sophomore fed Patrick Wey at the right point. Wey unleashed an uncontested slapper, and Mullane, stationed in front, deflected the puck over Rawlings' right shoulder and flush off the crossbar.

"Obviously, that's frustrating, but you can't let negativity creep in," Mullane said. "We knew if we pounded the net, they'd eventually go in."

The Eagles finally broke down Northeastern's defense at 10:53, with Arnold finishing off a classic give-and-go play. After BC's defense broke up another Huskies rush, Arnold collected the puck in the high slot and fed it to linemate Hayes. The junior from Dorcester dished it right back to Arnold, who immediately flicked it past Rawlings for a 1-0 BC lead.

Less than 80 seconds later, Gaudreau doubled the margin on a great individual effort. Spinning off NU's Dax Lauwers behind the Huskies' net, Gaudreau scooped up the puck and drove on Rawlings, jamming it home for an unassisted tally at 12:08.

Roy halved the lead at 15:04. Breaking down the left wing, he toe-dragged the puck toward the shot as several players charged the net, then snapped a shot that appeared to handcuff Milner, breaking through the BC senior and into the net.

Parker Milner
After allowing what he considered two soft goals, BC goalie Parker Milner was determined to buckle down.
"He's a highly offensive, intelligent skilled player that, around the net, is very dangerous," Madigan said. "He creates his shot as well as anyone."

Milner made amends at 16:50, making a sprawling glove save on Roy after the Quebec native broke in alone on the BC net. Roy went to his backhand, but Milner read the move perfectly and made the stop.

"It was definitely a turning point of that game," Roy said.

The Eagles stretched their lead to 3-1 at 18:37. Patrick Brown, stationed by the left hash marks, redirected MacLeod's shot from the left point, and the bouncing puck eluded Rawlings, rolling on edge just over the goal line.

But the true backbreaker came with less than a second remaining in the period. Rawlings, playing a soft dump, actually swept the puck away from teammate Colton Saucerman. BC's Arnold jumped on the loose puck, and though he was tied up, managed to flick it back to Whitney. The senior from Reading took a shot, collected his own rebound and shoveled it past Rawlings with 0.4 seconds on the clock to give the Eagles a comfortable 4-1 margin going into the break.

But the Huskies refused to roll over. Just 11 seconds into the third, Roy struck again, firing a dart from the left wing that beat Milner cleanly over the blocker, cutting the BC lead to 4-2.

"When he's got the puck on his stick, good things are going to happen," Madigan said. "That's what happened. Bang, right off in the third period, he knew we needed a jump and a lift, and that's what he created. Now we've got some momentum."

At 3:56, the Huskies clawed to within one, when captain Vinny Saponari's shot from above the left faceoff dot ricocheted off teammate Braden Pimm and past Milner. It was the first Northeastern goal scored in this year's Beanpot by a player other than Roy.

"We believed in our chances between the second and the third, we wanted to go out and score an early goal to get some energy, and I thought we did, and were really close to getting back," Roy said. "At 4-3, we had a lot of opportunities.

"We really came back hard in the third, but it just didn't happen," he said.

The reason was Milner, who after the game acknowledged that he wanted to make up for what he felt were two soft goals. He bounced back again after Pimm's tally, stuffing Vermeersch's breakaway bid with his blocker at 9:41, and preserving BC's suddenly slim one-goal lead. A minute later, the senior netminder from Pittsburgh poke-checked the puck off Roy's stick at the top of the crease.

Stellar BC freshman defender Michael Matheson helped put the game out of reach at 14:37, with a nifty drive to the net before he dished a perfect pass to Gaudreau, who buried it for his second goal of the night (and 15th of the season) for a 5-3 Eagles lead.

"That play Mike Matheson made on Johnny Gaudreau's second goal, that was something special," York said.

Milner followed up with a big right pad save off a Saucerman blast, which led to Mullane skating in alone on an empty NU cage. The senior captain calmly buried the puck, giving he and his classmates their fourth straight Beanpot.

"It's a testament to our coaches, and the culture we've bred here," said BC's Wey, another Pittsburgh native who said it didn't take long to realize how important the Beanpot was to the city, and to each team.

York likened the Beanpot to the PGA Tour, in which golfers want to win major tournaments, whether they come early in the season or later. With the 2013 Beanpot tucked away in the BC trophy case, York said his team will now concentrate on the Hockey East championship. But they'll take time to cherish this historic four-peat.

"It's a great credit to our team because I have the utmost respect for Harvard, Boston University and Northeastern," York said. "Each step helps you in the long run."

Brion O'Connor covers college hockey for ESPNBoston.com.