BOSTON---It's a bad sign when you have to defeat the second ranked team in the nation to advance in the Beanpot.
Trying to accomplish the unlikely feat, the Harvard men's hockey team experienced first hand why its opponent deserves such a lofty status.
The Crimson (10-10-1) managed little, offensively or defensively, against No.2 Boston College (21-6-1) and fell in the opening round of the Beanpot, 4-1, at the Fleet Center.
Harvard was playing its third game in four days and suffered its second consecutive loss, recently falling 2-1 to Cornell at Bright Hockey Center last Sunday.
The Crimson had already played B.C. once and almost pulled off the upset on that day, losing to the Eagles in overtime, 3-2, at Bright on Nov.25.
Boston College would make sure this game did not need an extra frame to be decided. The Eagles dominated from the opening faceoff until the final whistle, in search of its first Beanpot title since 1994.
"I have to give credit to B.C., I didn't think we provided much resistance," Harvard Coach Mark Mazzoleni said. "We didn't play anywhere near where we could. We gave them to much space to maneuver in."
It did not take long for B.C., and its star player, to makes its presence felt on the ice.
With four minutes elapsed in the first period, the Eagles mounted a sustained attack on the Harvard net. Senior goalie Oliver Jonas kept the assault under control with a couple of solid saves, but B.C would not be denied forever.
After the Crimson failed to clear the puck, Eagles defenseman Bill Cass found left-winger Brian Gionta, the nation's leading goal scorer. Gionta approached the net from the left side and skated to the left circle. At that moment, Gionta snapped the puck up and over Jonas's left shoulder, a pinpoint shot that grazed the crossbar and found its way into the net to give the Eagles the 1-0 lead.
After the goal, B.C. continued the pressure on Jonas, forcing him to make saves on breakaways and two-on-ones to keep the Eagles off the scoreboard.
Cass was called for two penalties in less than five minutes, giving Harvard power play opportunities, but the Crimson could not solve B.C.'s penalty kill. The Eagles controlled the tempo with Harvard on the man advantage, taking more shots than the Crimson did.
With four minutes left in the period, the Crimson picked up a penalty when sophomore forward Aaron Kim was called for hooking.
B.C. quickly took advantage of its first opportunity with the man advantage and pressured the Harvard defense into its own zone. The Eagles produced multiple shots but could not break through the play of Jonas, who made save after save to temporarily keep B.C. off the scoreboard.
The Eagles managed to move the puck out to the blue line where it was retrieved by senior defenseman Rob Scuderi, who fired the puck into the traffic in front of Jonas, where it was tipped by freshman left-winger Chuck Kobasew. The deflected puck ricocheted to the left, but Jonas was moving to the right. The puck found the wide open net and gave B.C. a 2-0 lead.
"They jumped out to the lead quick," Mazzonleni said. "The inexperience showed at that at that time and we didn't buckle down."
B.C. started the second period with the advantage, and the Eagles wasted no time in converting on the power play, breaking through in 47 seconds. B.C. freshman Ben Eaves found senior right winger Marty Hughes, who held the puck and skated around the right circle. Hughes settled into position and fired a wrister that eluded Jonas between his right side and the post to put the Eagles up 3-0. The goal was the Eagles' second straight on the power play.
Later in the period, the Crimson acquired a great opportunity to claw back into the game.
Harvard sophomore center Dominic Moore drew a penalty on Eagles' freshman forward Justin Dziama, giving Harvard its third power play opportunity. Ninety seconds later, Cass drew his third penalty of the game, and the Crimson had a 5-on-3 for 34 seconds.
However, B.C. would not allow any Harvard attempt at a comeback, and the Eagles killed both penalties without enduring any sustained pressure.
"We've seen some aggressive power plays," Harvard captain Steve Moore said. "We have trouble setting up and trouble establishing anything in the zone."
B.C. then proceeded to return to the power play when Harvard defenseman Tim McCulloch was called for two penalties, giving the Eagles the man advantage for four minutes.
Facing the powerful B.C. offense for four minutes, the Crimson played its best defense of the night, with Jonas leading the way, and managed to kill both penalties. However, Harvard could not muster any offense the rest of the period and entered the third trailing by three goals.
In the third period, the Crimson seemed to pick up its game. Harvard generated more chances than it had during the first two periods, but could not finish off its opportunities. B.C. did not suffer from the same problem and added one more to its lead before the end of the game.
Seven minutes into the third period, Gionta flew down the right side and fired a shot just past the blueline. Jonas moved out to make the save but could not handle the rebound. The puck bounced to the left side where Eagles right wing Tony Voce was waiting. Voce recovered the puck and fired it into the wide open net, giving B.C. its final goal and the 4-0 lead.
Although trailing by four goals, the Crimson did not surrender the game, and continued to consistently attack the B.C. net. Finally, at the halfway mark of the period, Harvard managed to get on the scoreboard.
Freshman right wing Kenny Turano attacked the net from the right side and stuffed the puck between Clemmenson's right pad and the post, breaking the shutout and giving the Crimson its first and only goal at 4-1. B.C. continued its solid its defense the rest of the way, and Harvard could not generate any more offense.
"I feel very good about the win," Eagles Coach Jerry York said. "Mark Mazzoleni's team is a difficult team to defend and I feel real good about our effort."
The Crimson's next Beanpot opponent is Northeastern in the Consolation Final next Monday. Harvard's next conference game is Friday at Dartmouth.
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