As a wide-eyed high school senior, I climbed the stairs of the old T station in the Square, gazed at the Coop directly ahead, turned right, glanced at the pile of Globes at Out of Town News and saw the headline. Harvard had beaten B.U. in hockey, 4-3, on a goal with 10 seconds left in overtime.
No ignorant hopeful pre-freshman was I. Although raised beyond the pale of college hockey. I learned all about the ECAC, the Beanpot, and Harvard vs. B.U. from PBS broadcasts in the mid-'70s (sadly discontinued). Rereading old accounts of Dave Connors's sudden-death heroics confirmed that the game was, indeed, a Big Deal.
"I've been living here all my life," freshman defenseman Mark Fusco said at the time, "and I've always wanted to beat B.U. I don't think I've ever been so excited in my life."
Year in and year out, the early-December matchup of the Crimson and the Terriers would represent a shot at revenge for Harvard, eliminated by B.U. from post-season playoffs six times from 1967 to 1976.
This time, it's Harvard that's coming off a great playoff year. But the Terriers, playing tonight on their home ice, will come in as the favorite.
Along with B.C. and RPI, B.U. is widely considered one of the top contenders for this year's Eastern title. Harvard, while 2-0, must take on Cleon Daskalakis, one of the ECAC's better goalies, with its forward lines still not finalized as a result of freshman center Allen Bourbeau's suspension for disciplinary probation.
Even though his two pre-season performances weren't outstanding, it seems likely there will be a place for Bourbeau on one of the four forward lines when he returns. In practices, at least, he apparently was living up to the reputation he earned last year as one of the top high school stars around.
Several teammates said, however, that the squad hasn't been particularly rattled by the absence. The team learned of the suspension opening night--just before it beat Dartmouth, 5-3.
Some pre-season events have combined to make this the last Crimson-Terrier clash outside of the Beanpot for a while.
Over the summer, a long-simmering dispute between the six hockey-playing Ivy schools and the rest of the ECAC became public, and the conference's October meeting of athletic directors confirmed that this season will be the last for a unified ECAC.
The Ivies became convinced the other schools weren't concerned about the problems of too many long road trips, too many mid-week games and seasons that lasted too long. In addition, they worried that continuing to compete with some of the more high-powered athlete factories of the East might necessitate a lowering of admissions standards for hockey players. But when the Ivies made plans to leave the ECAC, another group of teams beat them to it.
Those squads, including B.U., B.C., Providence, New Hampshire, Northeastern, Lowell and Maine, formed a "Super League," so called more for the quality of its top teams than for its size.
As a result, starting next year, the ECAC will consist of the Ivy schools plus St. Lawrence and Clarkson (defectors from the original Super League group). Colgate, RPI, Vermont and Army. Each team will play each other squad twice in a season, and all games will be played on Friday and Saturdays. The championship tourney will still be played in Boston Garden B.U. won't be around anymore to knock off Harvard, though.