BOSTON -- Playing at 4:30 on the second Monday of February, when the TD Garden resembles a ghost town, is a disconcerting experience for any Boston University hockey player. The absolute worst, though, is losing the Beanpot consolation game and having to settle for fourth place in this four-team tourney that BU has dominated over the years (29 titles).
That's where the Terriers found themselves Monday, coming out on the wrong end of a topsy-turvy 5-4 game to Harvard (5-18-1). It is only the fourth time in 59 years that BU (14-9-7) has lost both games in a Beanpot, and the first time since 1980, when former Terriers Mike Eruzione, David Silk, Jack O'Callahan and Jim Craig were winning gold in the Lake Placid Olympics. Adding salt to the wound, the loss to Harvard will seriously hamper BU's aspirations to make the NCAA tournament.
"That was an embarrassing display by my team. We didn't come to play," BU coach Jack Parker said. "As far as the NCAA selection, this is a huge loss for us.
"Give Harvard credit," he added. "They competed right to the end."
Sophomore Alex Chiasson opened the scoring with a power-play strike at 5:42 of the first period, collecting his own rebound and rapping it past Crimson goaltender Ryan Carroll. Things went from bad to worse for the Crimson at 19:59, when Harvard's Daniel Moriarty got booted from the game on a hitting-from-behind call.
Then things got interesting. Harvard knotted the game on a short-handed goal, when Alex Killorn converted a feed by Alex Fallstrom from behind the net, sliding the puck past BU's Kieran Millan on his blocker side.
Only 54 seconds later, the Crimson took the lead as Harvard's Ryan Grimsaw floated across the high slot and ripped a low shot that beat Millan, again underneath his blocker.
And the Crimson weren't done. Nineteen seconds after Grimshaw's strike, Killorn got his second of the game from an almost impossible angle. Chasing after the puck with a BU defender, Killorn tossed a shot on Millan from the goal line that managed to break through Millan and across the goal line to give Harvard a 3-1 margin at 5:36.
The Terriers cut the margin to one on a bang-bang play in tight. With Harvard's Rence Coassin serving a minor for a hit from behind, BU's Garrett Noonan took a feed from Charlie Coyle at the doorstep and tapped in past Carroll's blocker at 12:24.
Then, showing their own quick-strike capabilities, the Terriers tied the game 43 seconds later. Noonan hit Adam Clendening with a tape-to-tape cross-ice feed at the left faceoff dot, and the freshman from New York buried it past Carroll to knot the game 3-3.
At 14:05, the Terriers regained the lead on their third power-play goal of the game. Chiasson, parked in front of Carroll, tipped a point shot from David Warsofsky past the Crimson netminder for his second on the night and a 4-3 BU lead.
"We made it 4-3, get what should have been the winning goal, and then we go to sleep again," Parker said.
And Harvard didn't quit. Sophomore Danny Biega snapped a shot from the top of the right faceoff circle that had eyes, sailing through a screen and past Millan at 15:57. Less than two minutes later, Harvard's Michael Del Mauro, parked at the doorstep, buried a rebound of a Conor Morrison shot for the winner.
"We're glad to come out with the win," Harvard coach Ted Donato said. "It was kind of a strange game, back and forth. I thought our guys battled hard and stayed with it."
For Donato and his Crimson squad, third place looked pretty good after a season of tough, one-goal losses.
"We wanted to use this game as a measuring stick," Donato said. "There's reason for a lot of optimism for the end of the season."
Meanwhile, Parker and his Terriers must live with the bitter taste of a rare fourth-place finish, knowing it may cost them dearly at season's end.
Brion O'Connor covers college hockey for ESPNBoston.com.