BOSTON — The significance of the Boston University-Boston College rivalry could be seen with every dogged stride of each shift during Monday night's Beanpot semifinal at the TD Garden.
The Terriers and Eagles lined up, one after another, to sacrifice their bodies for the good of countless blocked shots, and as the temporarily wounded skated to the bench looking for relief, they were greeted with praise. It was all so important to each player, whether it was Corey Trivino drawing a first-period BC penalty, or goalie John Muse launching himself at a charging Terrier after the whistle, or the 5-foot-6 Joe Whitney scrapping with a 6-foot-3 Alex Chiasson.
And those were the smaller battles. After Boston College junior defenseman Tommy Cross sent an overtime shot past BU goalie Kieran Millan, the Eagles poured off the bench in celebration of their 3-2 victory.
In triumph or defeat, each nasty, hardnosed play validated everything that the BU-BC rivalry has always stood for, but Cross' winner made the fight infinitely sweeter for the top-ranked team in the country.
"It feels really good, just for our team," Cross said. "It was such a huge win. We wanted to win so bad. It feels awesome."
The intensity boiled through the building, and the game's excitement was heightened by the great skill level on each team. There are 24 NHL draft picks on the two rosters, and each starting goalie had won a national championship. The puck movement, up-and-down play and poise through the clutch moments — especially Millan's save on a Philip Samuelsson breakaway in the final minute of regulation — showcased how special of an event the sellout crowd was witnessing.
"We knew it was going to be a tough game the whole game," BU captain Joe Pereira said. "Most of the time we play BC, especially in the Beanpot, it [goes into] overtime. It was a hard-fought game."
It's true, they've gone to overtime in there of their last four meetings in the Beanpot, and every one of their last eight Beanpot meetings have been decided by a single goal.
"We've had some great games against BU," said Muse, who will finish his career with a 3-0 record against BU in the Beanpot. "It's always a good game whenever we play them."
After the game, Boston University coach Jack Parker seemed as upbeat as he could ever be in defeat, particularly following a game that meant so much to him. That's because he knew his team gave it everything they had, and there was no shame in going out that way.
"This crowd got their money's worth tonight," Parker said. "That's for sure."