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BOSTON -- In a championship game that epitomized the legendary Beanpot tournament, Boston College edged longtime nemesis Boston University 3-2 on Bill Arnold's sudden-death strike with only 6.4 seconds left in overtime to win the 60th edition of the event before 17,569 at TD Garden on Monday.
The game was played at a furious and sometimes rugged tempo from start to finish, with BC (19-10-1; 13-7-1 Hockey East) twice taking one-goal leads, and BU (17-10-1; 13-7-1 Hockey East) bouncing back both times. In overtime, with time ticking down, the Eagles had one extra bullet in the chamber, as Arnold converted a pass from linemate Steven Whitney during an odd-man rush and fired a snapshot that beat Terrier goalie Kieran Millan high glove side.
"It was unusual in the fact that of the five goals scored, the winning goal was the only five-on-five goal," BC coach Jerry York said. "It was hard to score, hard to get terrific offensive chances, five-on-five."
|BC goalie Parker Milner made 32 stops, saving some of his best work for overtime.|
The championship marked title No. 17 for BC and the first time the No. 3 Eagles have claimed a Beanpot three-peat since 1963-65. The 1965 team featured a sophomore forward named Jerry York. (In 1966, York's Eagles got knocked out by a BU team that included a young forward named Jack Parker.)
"It was a hell of a college hockey game, fabulous to watch, the speed of the game, the effort by both teams," BU coach Parker said. "I was really pleased with my team and how hard we competed tonight. Somebody's got to get a winning goal. We played 80 minutes, four periods of hockey, and with six seconds, we give one up."
Under York, the Eagles are now 6-6 in Beanpot championship games. Making the victory even sweeter, the 2012 crown came at the expense of the No. 2 Terriers. The teams have met eight times in the Beanpot since 2003, and all have been one-goal games, five going into overtime.
"That was college hockey at its finest," York said, noting both teams are ranked in the top five nationally, both brought their A-games Monday and the Garden crowd was rocking. "It had all the makings of a classic hockey game, and it unfolded just like that."
Parker said he was proud of the grit and effort his Terriers brought to the game but couldn't hide his disappointment. This is the first time that BU has gone three years without a Beanpot crown since 1983-85.
"You don't take anything out of this except a loss," Parker said, noting his squad was gunning for its 30th crown in the 60 years of the tournament. "This was a very, very tough game to lose. Anytime you lose an overtime game, anytime you lose a big game where there's a championship on the line, anytime you lose to Boston College. That's the trifecta right there."
Prior to the game, Parker acknowledged he was concerned about BC's quick-strike capabilities. "You've got to be real good with the puck because they're a terrific transition team," Parker said. "You've got to make sure you don't turn the puck over at either blue line to give them opportunities."
BC's Pat Mullane made Parker look like a fortune teller at 8:54 of the first period with a short-handed strike, the first surrendered by BU this season. Hitting the BU blue line with a jump in his step, Mullane juked defender Max Nicastro and drove hard to his left onto his forehand, snapping a laser over Millan's blocker for a 1-0 lead. It was BC's 11th short-handed goal of the season, most in the country.
The Terriers knotted the game at 15:11 of the second, with Garrett Noonan's power-play strike completing a BU passing clinic. With BC's Paul Carey in the box, Terriers defenseman Adam Clendening secured the puck at the blue line and sent it to Chiasson in the high slot. Chiasson dished it to Matt Nieto at the top of the right faceoff circle, and with time and space, Nieto spied Noonan breaking down the left wing and threaded a perfect cross-ice pass through three defenders. In one motion, the sophomore from Norfolk, Mass., collected the puck and roofed it over a diving Parker Milner.
The penalties (six in the second period alone) began to take their toll on the Terriers, and at 18:42, BC's Chris Kreider put the Eagles on top with a power-play strike. BC freshman and tournament MVP Johnny Gaudreau, who has provided an enormous offensive spark for the Eagles recently, slipped a pass from behind the net to a coasting Kreider in the slot, and the junior from Boxford, Mass., went top shelf over Millan's glove for a 2-1 BC lead.
The goal was not only a significant momentum swing for York's squad, but also a good omen, as the Eagles came into the game with an 11-0-1 mark when leading after two periods.
But the Terriers weren't interested in past records.
At 7:04 of the final period, the Terriers pulled even, 2-2, on Noonan's second power-play goal of the game. Shortly after Parker called a time-out to calm his troops down, the Terriers set up shop in the BC zone. Chiasson, at the left half wall, found Clendening at the high point. The sophomore held the puck, allowing Noonan to get stationed near the left post, and the fired a pass that his teammate tipped past Milner.
In overtime, the frenetic pace continued unabated, with both teams producing excellent chances, and Millan and Milner providing airtight goaltending. Millan (44 saves) made a great glove stop on Brian Dumoulin, then the Eagles defenseman glanced a shot from the right point off the left post behind the BU netminder.
Not to be outdone, Milner (32 saves) stoned two quality BU bids, first from Ross Gaudet, then from Kevin Gilroy. With less than two minutes remaining, BU's Alex Chiasson just missed tapping in a feed from Ryan Ruikka as he sliced across the crease.
"In the overtime, I played all four lines, and BC was only playing three lines, and I thought we might tire them out," Parker said. "We didn't."
After calling 16 penalties during regulation, the officials put the whistles away during overtime, and the play went end-to-end for almost the full 20 minutes.
"I thought it was awesome," BC captain Tommy Cross said. "Both teams got to play, and that's how hockey is supposed be played. It was certainly fun to be part of."
York and Cross also had high praise for Milner, who played his best in the extra session.
"He's really come on strong lately," Cross said. "We've got competition at every position on our team, and goaltender is no different. Those guys push each other every day, and I think it's made Parker better, and his attitude has remained very positive. I think he took it upon himself personally to take over that spot. And today he played great. He was a rock for us in net."
With about a minute left in overtime, York called a timeout following an icing to give his players a breather. Arnold's line responded with the winning goal.
"To win a game, you can't rely on superstition and luck," York said, paraphrasing former Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "You have to rely on energy level and good players.
"We have good players that worked hard and just hung in the game," he said. "BU could have won just as easily. Billy Arnold made an incredible play to win it."
Afterward, York reflected on the tournament.
"The last couple of years, people have asked if the Beanpot has lost its luster," he said. "Well, tonight was a statement. That place was jammed with fans of college hockey, whether they were associated with BU or BC or Harvard or Northeastern. I think the Beanpot is in good hands."
And for the third year running, it's in the hands of the Eagles.
Brion O'Connor is a regular contributor to ESPNBoston.com.