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Terriers seeking to reclaim territory in Beanpot

By Nancy Marrapese-Burrell
Globe Staff / February 13, 2012
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Boston University doesn’t often lose the game in between Beanpot Tournament rounds.

The last time the Terriers dropped such a decision was 2004 when they were shut out by Providence, 2-0, at Walter Brown Arena.

Well, until this year anyway. BU, the No. 1 ranked team in the nation, couldn’t handle a very hungry UMass squad Friday night and was beaten, 3-2, at Agganis Arena.

The Terriers will attempt to shrug that off tonight when they take on Boston College in the 60th annual Beanpot championship at TD Garden. They finished fourth last year and hope to avoid three straight years without a title for the first time since 1983-85.

“I can’t remember the last time between Beanpots that we had a game like this,’’ said BU coach Jack Parker. “We played ourselves down a level and UMass played themselves up a big level and showed by far that they were a much better team.’’

Parker said his squad simply wasn’t as focused as it needed to be. That certainly shouldn’t be the case tonight and one of the key reasons the Terriers are tough to beat is the play of senior goaltender Kieran Millan.

Millan takes a .933 save percentage and 2.23 goals-against average into tonight against league opponents (.925, 2.42 overall).

In addition, BU boasts the top offense in Hockey East with Maine (an average of 3.48 goals per game) and has allowed the third-fewest goals (53).

The Terriers advanced to the title game with a 3-1 victory over Harvard last week.

“We played well, we scored when we needed to,’’ said junior left wing Ross Gaudet. “We played great defense and Kieran played great. He’s played great for us all year. But we’re definitely going to have to play better if we want to win against BC.’’

Gaudet, a Burlington native, said it never gets old squaring off against the Eagles.

“It seems like every time we play them, it’s a better game,’’ he said. “Last year [Beanpot first-round game against BC], we took it to overtime and that was a great one. I’m not expecting anything less this year.’’

Although tonight’s game doesn’t count in the league standings, it’s coincidental that BU and BC are tied for second in Hockey East with 27 points. UMass-Lowell leapfrogged into first place with a 3-0 shutout of Merrimack Friday.

Gaudet said he believes the Terriers are in fine shape at this point in the season.

“I’d say we’re in great position,’’ said Gaudet. “We have a great standing nationally as well. We’re an older team and we have a lot of experience and we’ve learned a lot from the mistakes we’ve made in the past. So, I think we’re right where we want to be.’’

A Beanpot victory could provide a springboard to the stretch run, during which BU will face two against UMass-Lowell, two at Vermont, and the final two against Northeastern.

Gaudet said for the most part, the Terriers are playing with a clear identity - great goaltending, opportunistic scoring, talented and deep defense, strong special teams, and veteran coaching.

“We started off a bit slow,’’ said Gaudet. “We had that tough loss to Holy Cross [on Oct. 22 during a 3-4-1 stretch]. We had a tough loss to Lowell, too, [7-1 on Nov. 5]. I think losses like that help build character. We’ve been through a lot and we’ve learned from those games. I think we’re a better team for it now. We kind of hit our stride early in November and then we found our identity. We’ve been moving forward this season with it.’’

The Terriers are 7-4-1 since losing their top two centers at the end of the first semester.

“I just think it speaks to the depth of our team,’’ said Gaudet. “Every year, we’ve had great depth. Guys get injured, guys get sick, and someone can jump in and be ready to play. Chris [Connolly] and Sahir [Gill, who both moved from wing to play center], they have been huge for us. They’ve both played well and it’s really helped our team get past losing our top two centers. I think our team has almost played better after losing those two. It’s kind of helped our team come together more in a bonding aspect.’’

Beating BC tonight would provide more than a trophy and Commonwealth Avenue bragging rights. It would be another step in the right direction for the Terriers.

“I definitely think it would give us momentum going into the [final six games],’’ said Gaudet. “We’re obviously going to give everything to try to pull a championship out but it would definitely be a momentum boost for us, especially after the loss [Friday]. It would be a big night for us.’’

Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at marrapese@globe.com.

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