The Bald Eagles, who were hirsute when the coach was a fresh-faced frosh, remember when the Beanpot was a rumor. Between 1966 and 1983, Boston College won it once. Now, there isn’t an undergraduate at The Heights who has ever seen anyone else win it.
BC’s hockey varsity has won 18 of these silver cupboard crammers now but until Monday night none ever had won four in a row. The way their seniors saw it, they just helped the DNA sequence continue. “We gave the rest of the guys a chance to get four in a row, too,” figured Steve Whitney, after his teammates had subdued Northeastern, 6-3, for the championship at TD Garden.
Only their archrivals from the other end of Commonwealth Avenue had managed that and Boston University still has the record — six in a row between 1995 and 2000. The way the Terriers did it was by establishing a culture of expectation that was passed on from winter to winter. If you wear our jersey, you’ll get your mitts on the Pot.
Coach Jack Parker once observed that the BU students thought that the season ended in February: “Great job in the Beanpot. How are you guys going to be next year?” Now, after losing to Harvard again in the consolation game, the Terriers are hoping just to find their way back to the NCAA Tournament, which has become the Eagles’ permanent home.
If they keep on their present upsweep, the defending champions figure to earn a top seed and take a bus ride to the regionals and, if custom holds, to the Frozen Four and then to the title. After three championships in five years, that trophy has become part of the culture as well.
The Eagles annually make a point of saying that while they relish winning the Beanpot, there are other trophies that they crave. But this year, more than most, they needed to win this one. Not just because none of the four area schools has won the NCAAs without winning the ’Pot, but because the Eagles have looked unusually vulnerable more than a few times this season.
Northeastern ended the Eagles’ 19-game winning streak right off the bat in October. Minnesota gnawed them into gopher bits at the Mariucci Classic during the holidays. Massachusetts beat them in Chestnut Hill for the first time in 14 visits. Then Maine, then at the bottom of Hockey East, swept them at Kelley Rink, the first time that BC had lost a weekend series at home in two decades.
February had brought focus, but this was not an easy Beanpot to win, despite the 4-1 and 6-3 triumphs. With less than 22 minutes to play in the opener against Harvard, BC led, 1-0. In the final, the score was 4-3 with less than six minutes to play as the Huntington Hounds had come back baying for blood.
This one looked to be over after the Eagles had gone for NU’s throat at the end of the second period. Isaac MacLeod had lofted a knuckler from the left side that Patrick Brown knocked in. Then, with four-10ths of a second showing on the clock, Whitney scored what looked to be the killer. The Eagles hadn’t lost a game all season when they’d led after two periods and the Huskies hadn’t won one when they’d trailed. “They’re just too good of a hockey team to give two goals to and we gave them two,” said coach Jim Madigan.
But his club has uncommon spunk and spit and before four minutes were gone in the third period, it was 4-3. Kevin Roy, the Quebec conjurer, scored after just 11 seconds and then Vinny Saponari’s power-play slapper ricocheted off Braden Pimm. Could this, after 25 years of an empty dish, finally be the Year of the Hound?
It wasn’t two years ago, when BC beat NU, 7-6, in overtime and it wasn’t going to be this time, either. The Eagles remained tranquil, as they always do, and they worked for their moment. “There was no negativity on our bench,” said Pat Mullane. “Nobody hit the panic button. We knew what our job was.”
BC had won its previous three ’Pots by one goal apiece, two of them in overtime. It had the lead. One more goal would do it. It came from a typical bit of tic-tac-toe, with Johnny Gaudreau popping into the frame like Bugs Bunny and rapping in Michael Matheson’s lovely feed. One empty-netter later and a mob of gold jerseys was coming over the dasher to celebrate.
The Eagles know how to win this streetcorner all-skate because they’ve won it. They know how to turn games around and how to close them out and they do it without hyperventilating. “You look at their head coach,” said Madigan. “He’s as poised and calm as they come. You look at his team and they have the same demeanor and personality.”
Jerry York played for the last BC team to win a Beanpot before BU began its dynasty in the Sixties and he coaches the first varsity to claim four straight. It takes luck and it takes players, he observed after the Eagles had taken their victory lap. It also takes a culture that treats one trophy as a stepping stone to a bigger one. Four teams play for the Beanpot. Every team in the country has a chance at the biggest one of all.