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NOTEBOOK: Men's Hockey’s Beanpot Hopes Crushed by Special Teams

Face to Face
Junior Alexander Kerfoot and Harvard fell 3-2 in the first Beanpot semifinal on Monday.

BOSTON—The Beanpot, one of the greatest annual traditions in all of college sports, has provided the Hub of Hockey with more than its fair share of history. Yet 63 installments in, Boston’s biggest battle for bragging rights continues to see firsts.

This year, for the first time in Beanpot history, three of the tournament’s four participants entered the first Monday of February ranked among the top 10 teams in the country.

Perhaps even more surprisingly, Cambridge’s lone Beanpot representative was not the side bringing up the rear. In fact, Harvard—which has failed to reach the championship game every year since 2008—entered this year’s tournament with the highest position in the PairWise (fifth) of all four teams.

Right on the Crimson’s tail, however, was Boston College—a program that has brought 19 Beanpot titles back to Chestnut Hill, including five straight from 2010 to 2014 with coach Jerry York at the helm.

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And now the Eagles are after another one.

Propelled by two unanswered power-play goals midway through the second period on Monday, No. 4/4 BC (18-4-4, 10-1-4 Hockey East) marched onto next week’s championship game against Boston University, knocking off the No. 7/7 Crimson (12-5-3, 8-3-3 ECAC) by a score of 3-2. Harvard has now come up short against the Eagles 12 straight times in the Beanpot, a drought that dates back to 1998.

“The group is frustrated because I don’t think we played as well as we know we can play,” Harvard coach Ted Donato ’91 said. “There’s obviously a lot to play for the rest of the way…but at this moment, it doesn’t mean this is any less frustrating.”

NO MAN ADVANTAGE

This year’s edition of the Crimson is built on speed. In fact, Harvard’s high-flying attack entered Monday averaging nearly four goals per contest. But where this speed benefits Coach Donato’s squad most is on the power play, where the Crimson has been scoring at an incredible pace.

Nothing to Show
BC held Jimmy Vesey (19), Kyle Criscuolo (11), and the rest of the Crimson power play unit 0-for-2 on the man advantage.

With a number of shifty forwards at its disposal, Harvard’s power play closed out the month of January ranked second in the country with a 32 percent conversion rate. But on Monday night, York and company gave the unit little to work with.

Despite having surrendered more penalty minutes per game than any team in the nation, the Eagles put the Crimson on the man-up just twice and came away unscathed both times—once late in the first period and again with 6:59 remaining in the third.

The latter infraction—a slash called against junior center Austin Cangelosi—offered Harvard, down a goal, a chance to equalize with the clock winding down.

But two minutes later, the Crimson remained stuck on the comeback trail. BC not only killed the penalty—it prevented Harvard from generating a single shot on target.

“We wanted to limit their number of chances, [and] I think we did that,” said York, who just last month became the first hockey coach in Division I history to accumulate 1000 career wins.

“There were only two power plays all night for both teams,” he said. “I didn’t want to get into a special teams game…. I think we did a good job blocking lanes and just being really determined on that penalty kill.”

WE TOO CAN PLAY THAT GAME

The successful penalty kill set the tone for the final stretch, as the Eagles held the Crimson to just one shot for the rest of the game—a turn-around backhander from co-captain Jimmy Vesey with three minutes remaining that was hardly a threat.

But BC won the special teams battle in more than just its own end. In fact, the Eagles beat Harvard at its own game.

Despite entering the game ranked 19th in the country on the power play—17 spots below the Crimson, BC capitalized on two Harvard penalties in the second period to claim the lead for good.

A tripping call against sophomore forward Jake Horton five minutes into the frame gave the Eagles their first man-up chance of the night. And one minute into the ensuing power play, sophomore center Zach Sanford forced a puck under goaltender Merrick Madsen’s left pad from atop the goalmouth to tie the game at two.

Whistled for interference after bumping into a BC skater away from the puck, Clay Anderson gave the Eagles another chance to strike just three minutes later.

And strike, they did. After BC’s power play turned into an effective five-on-three thanks to a broken Alexander Kerfoot stick near the blue line, freshman center Colin White danced past rookie defenseman Adam Baughman and blasted a shot off the glove of Madsen and in from point-blank range.

The goal came with about 30 minutes of hockey still remaining, but junior goaltender Thatcher Demko would not need any further offensive support. After Harvard scored on its first two shots on goal—a Donato breakaway and a Baughman blast—the junior made 21 consecutive saves to return BC to its historically rightful place in the Beanpot championship.

As for Harvard, the wait rolls on.

—Staff writer Jake Meagher can be reached at jake.meagher@thecrimson.com.

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