The follow-up season to a national championship has been somewhat of a down year for Boston University. It shouldn't come as a surprise then that Jack Parker points to a loss as the best game his team has played all season.
"I think the best game we played all year, even though we lost 1-0, has to be the game at Northeastern [on Nov. 6]," Parker said on Wednesday.
In that game, Huskies freshman goaltender Chris Rawlings had an incredible night, stopping all 43 shots the Terriers put on net.
"We played an unbelievably great game over there," said Parker, who is in his 37th year manning the BU bench.
The legendary coach and the Terriers will be facing that same Huskies team on Monday night in the first round of the 58th annual Beanpot. Parker thinks that a similar effort could very well produce a much different result.
"I'd like to play the same game we played last time," he said. "If we can get that type of effort, I'd be happy. Maybe Rawlings will do the same thing to us, or maybe we'll get five goals, who knows? But I thought we played well in all areas of the game."
This year's tournament will, as always, be very different from last year's. When the four teams headed into the tournament last February, the Terriers were the top team in the nation. The Huskies weren't far behind at No. 3, the Boston College Eagles ranked 12th in the country, and Harvard was unranked. This year, it's quite the opposite, with the Terriers entering Monday's game at 8-11-3 and Huskies at 10-11-3.
Despite the slow starts, Parker is convinced that the quality of hockey in the tournament will be as good as it gets.
"These four teams are very good college hockey teams," he said. "They haven't played up to their capabilities in some areas, but the fact is that you will see great hockey this tournament. I haven't been to a Beanpot yet where I didn't see some great hockey games, and I've been to a few of 'em. "
Boston University has had a whirlwind of a year, dating back to last year's Beanpot. The Terriers topped the first-place Huskies in the finals 5-2 before going on to win the Hockey East Tournament and the national championship in Washington, D.C. After losing Matt Gilroy, Colin Wilson, Brandon Yip, Chris Higgins and John McCarthy, the Terriers got off to a 5-9-3 start this season before taking on Boston College in a historic matchup at Fenway Park.
Now comes another Beanpot, and it's something the team is relying on to re-establish itself in the conference.
"I know [the Huskies] always bring out the best in us, and we always bring out the best in them it seems," said BU captain Kevin Shattenkirk. "So it's going to be a great match."
Both Shattenkirk and Parker agreed that winning the Beanpot can mean a whole lot more than a couple of games.
"This tournament can really kick-start a team," Shattenkirk said. "We're looking forward to this tournament, and we're hoping we can do some damage here and move on and have a great season."
Parker said that when a team is struggling, the Beanpot becomes that much more significant.
"There's no question that if you are successful in this tournament, you can say, 'We've got something under our belt. We had a good year because of that. Now we can go from there,'" Parker said. "But if you're not successful in this tournament, it can be a bummer. I think if you're having a great year, and you lose this tournament, it's OK, because you're still going to be in the NCAA tournament, but if you're not having a great year, this is a really important tournament."
That importance can't be understated for the Terriers. They're a team that obviously lost a lot of talent to graduation and the NHL, but BU has been in similar situations before. That hasn't stopped the Terriers from winning 29 Beanpot titles.
"We've always had the key ingredients to win. … We always have pretty good goaltending, and we always have a pretty good defensive team," Parker said. "You can kind of bank on those two things short-term."
The Terriers have looked like a better team since the turn of the calendar year. They've won four games in January — matching their total from the first half of the season — and they came out on top against BC in their last two meetings.
Certainly, winning at Fenway was a big deal for this team, but Parker said it wouldn't compare to a Beanpot win.
"The game at Fenway was so unique that you can't really judge that," he said when asked if the Frozen Fenway win served as a springboard of sorts for the team. "It was certainly a game you wanted to win instead of lose, because it's going to be a memory that people are going to have for the rest of their lives. But I don't think it'll have the same effect as a win in the Beanpot would have."