Only a few minutes into the first game of the 56th Beanpot Championship Game, fans were reminded of why you should always try to make the opening faceoff of the first game of the first round of the Beanpot tournament even though it starts at the sometimes hard to negoatiate time of 5 p.m. And the action packed second game reminded those same fans that you simply can't leave early -- even if the 8 p.m. game stretches past 11 o'clock.
The Harvard Crimson, playing like twenty or so facsimiles of their bench boss (former Boston Bruins and Harvard Crimson forward) Ted Donato, sprinted to a formidable 3-0 lead after 20 minutes, and quickly pounded the stunned skaters from NU into submission en route to a rousing 3-1 victory over the heavily favored Huskies.
"Reading the newspapers before the game everybody was mentioning Northeastern, BC and BU and nobody was mentioning Harvard," said NU head coach Greg Cronin. "And I told the guys that before the game -- that if I am Teddy Donato -- I am reminding my guys, every day, that Harvard is kind of the other school in the tournament right now.
"And they had seven seniors that had never been to the finals before…there was a drive to their game that was visible right away."
"Right away" was an understatement.
Harvard senior Paul Dufault took a feed from fellow senior Jon Pelle to put the Crimson in an early drivers seat at 2:06. Mike Taylor (6:29) and Doug Rogers (7:02) followed suit and all of that happened in just the first seven minutes (or so) of the first stanza.
"I think tonight, out class especially, stressed to the team how bad we wanted this game," said Taylor, also a Harvard senior. "As a freshman and a sophomore you really don't realize...the importance of the game.
"For me, and the rest of my class, that was a big thing -- you have to realize how special this time is."
The second period was a goaltending clinic as Harvard's Kyle Richter stopped five solid Northeastern shots and NU's Brad Thiessen made 16 saves against the surging Harvard offense. As such, the score stayed 3-0 Harvard until 19:32 of the middle session, when Ryan Ginand was finally able to best Richter.
"The team played very solid in our D zone, which helped me a lot," said Richter, who finished with 18 saves. "We knew how strong their team is, and give [NU] credit, they came at us hard."
Harvard shut the Huskies down again in the third period and earned their first chance at all the beans since 1998.
"We're very excited about the win," said Coach Donato, who earned his first coaching victory in the opening round of the tournament. "I'm particularly happy [that] my senior class has their first chance to play in the championship game [and] I was real happy with the effort of the team.
"Growing up in Boston, the Beanpot is very important for me.
"But I really think the importance for me is to allow our team…to have a chance to play for the Championship next week in front of a great crowd. I have a great group of players and I wanted them to have that [chance].
"We've had a lot of frustration in the Beanpot and…I think they've worked very hard to put themselves in this position," he said.
The second game of the semifinals saved its most exciting moment until the end of the game, but had plenty of action to keep people in their seats.
"It was an exciting college hockey game, that's for sure," said BU head coach Jack Parker.
His Boston University squad got off to a decent start in the nightcap as John McCarthy scored at 4:40, but unlike Harvard, the struggling Terriers were unable to hold the lead and BC garnered the lion's share of the opening stanza's momentum.
At 9:54 Boston College countered Boston U's first goal when the Eagles Anthony Aiello scored BC's opening volley. The Heightsmen scored again at 10:04 when Benn Ferriero beat BU's Brett Bennett for the second time in 10 seconds and sent the Eagles to the locker room up 2-1.
The underdog (for once) Terriers stunned the Eagles with a goal at 3:30 of the second to make the score 2-2. Senior forward Peter MacArthur added a goal at 8:44 to put BU back on top.
"I thought we were on top of our game [during] the first 40 minutes," said Parker. "I thought we played extremely well.
"We gave up the goal to start the third period.
"And we were back on our heels after that," he said.
Indeed, Boston College forward Nathan Gerbe tied the second game at three-all with his 20th goal of the season when he pounced on a rebound in front of Bennett at just 1:02 of the third. BC had a goal disallowed due to a crease violation so Gerbe's marker was the only goal of the period and sent the game to a 20-minute overtime.
"When that goal was disallowed…and when [the call] goes the other way, your reaction can be a downer," said BC head coach Jerry York. "But our team actually came on from that point."
In overtime, at 11:32 p.m., Gerbe sent the Boston College fans home happy with a goal that put the Eagles in the Beanpot Championship game.
"I was a quick shot at the net," explained Gerbe of the game-winner at 7:15 of OT. "And Brian Gibbons did a great job of deflecting the puck across the has marks to me and I just tried to shoot the puck as quick as possible."
Coach York believed that his team had accomplished a great deal by getting by BU.
"To advance past [BU] was a hard, hard chore that was put in front of our team tonight," said York. "I was very impressed with how hard they played.
"I am just really proud of our club, that we played well, and that we advanced."