BOSTON — Harvard entered Monday evening with the nation’s second-ranked power play, but it was Boston College’s special teams units that made the difference in the opening game of the 2016 Beanpot tournament.
BC scored two power-play goals on as many opportunities to secure a 3-2 win at TD Garden and earn a berth in the 64th Beanpot championship game, which will be held next Monday night.
Harvard, which has not won a Beanpot title since 1993 but came into the game ranked seventh in the national polls, was unable to capitalize on two BC penalties, registering five shots on goal during its first power-play opportunity but zero during the second, which came with less than seven minutes remaining in the third period.
“It was a good test for us,” said head coach Jerry York, whose Eagles sat at No. 5 in the polls entering Monday. “Harvard gave us all we could handle (Monday night). I thought the ability for us to kill that penalty with (seven) minutes left in the game was a major factor. And then our 5 vs. 6 (once Harvard pulled goalie Merrick Madsen), we never really let them get set up coming up the ice.”
Casey Fitzgerald put Boston College on the board first with a goal just 95 seconds after puck drop, but Harvard rallied to score on each of its first two shots on goal to take a 2-1 lead into first intermission. Eagles goalie Thatcher Demko stopped the next 21 shots he faced, however, and power-play goals by Zach Sanford and Colin White in the second put York’s troops ahead for good.
The victory stretched BC’s winning streak over Harvard in Beanpot play to 12 games. The boys from Chestnut Hill have not lost to their Cambridge brethren in the annual midseason tournament since 1998 and are 14-1 in such games under York.
The Eagles will play rival Boston University for the Beanpot title after the Terriers knocked off Northeastern 3-1 in the second semifinal.
Some additional notes from Monday’s first Beanpot semifinal:
— Freshman provided both Harvard goals in the game, with Boston Bruins draftee Ryan Donato scoring the first and Adam Baughman doing the honors on the second.
Donato’s goal was his first in the arena he hopes to one day call home, but Baughman’s carried even greater significance: It was the first of his collegiate career, with the defenseman having appeared in just one previous game for the Crimson.
“Adam’s had a tough go of it,” Harvard coach Ted Donato said. “He played in the first exhibition game and had an injury that kept him out until after the New Year. (It was) just his second game (Monday night). But it was nice to see him step up and score and important goal for us. Hopefully, that’s something he can build on.
“But he’s worked hard. It’s never easy when you are a new guy and don’t get a chance to play because of your health and trying to get into the fabric of the team. I was happy to see him get the goal (Monday night).”
— Jimmy Vesey, a 2015 Hobey Baker Award finalist who led the nation in goals last season, assisted on Baughman’s tally and also accounted for six of his team’s 23 shots on goal in the loss. The North Reading, Mass., native has been the driving force behind Harvard’s offense all season, leading the team in both goals and points.
York had high praise for the senior winger after the game, admitting he never expected the local kid to put up the type of numbers he has for the Crimson.
“We looked at him an awful lot,” the coach said. “None of us thought he was going to be this good. His dad did. But he’s an outstanding player. Certainly a Hobey Baker candidate. When you talk about top three or four players in the country, despite what league you’re in, he’s part of it. We all kind of underestimated how good he would really become, but he’s had an unbelievable career.”
York also said BC likely won’t play a better line this season than Harvard’s top trio of Vesey, junior center Alexander Kerfoot and senior winger Kyle Criscuolo.
“As good as Jimmy is,” he said, “the other two players make him even better.”
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@BCHockeyNews