The 2015 Beanpot got off to one hell of a start. Boston University dominated most of Tuesday’s first semifinal, but Harvard goalie Steve Michalek made a tournament-record 63 saves to force the game to double overtime. The Terriers’ relentless pressure never stopped, though, and 2:18 into the second overtime they finally scored to pick up the 4-3 win and advance to Tuesday night’s championship game.
The winning goal came from BU’s top line of Jack Eichel, Evan Rodrigues and Danny O’Regan — the best line in the country, but one that had been held off the scoresheet to that point despite combining for 25 shots on goal. Rodrigues picked off a pass at the offensive blue line and then fed O’Regan for the game-winning tally.
BU controlled most of the first overtime and nearly won it twice in that frame. Michalek robbed Rodrigues on a beautiful pass to the front from Eichel four minutes in. Then with BU on the power play, Brayden Jaw came up with a huge block in the crease after Rodrigues hit O’Regan at the back door.
Harvard then nearly ended it right after killing that penalty, as they got a 3-on-1 as soon as Alex Kerfoot left the box. Matt O’Connor (31 saves) came up with a big glove save on Jaw, though. The Crimson had another great chance with eight minutes left in the session when Tyler Moy ended up with a breakaway. Moy fumbled the puck at the last second, though, and failed to get a shot off.
BU took a 1-0 lead with 3:10 left in the first. Brien Diffley broke up a Harvard rush in the neutral zone, leading to a BU rush the other way. Rodrigues, who had six assists against UMass on Friday night, held the puck on the right side before making a nice centering pass to a wide-open Cason Hohmann for an easy tap-in.
The Crimson tied the game just 1:15 later. Clay Anderson made an indirect pass down the left side for Jimmy Vesey, who used his speed to get deep before throwing a pass to the front that deflected off a skate and went right to the stick of linemate Kyle Criscuolo for the finish.
Harvard took a 2-1 lead 22 seconds in the second when Criscuolo collected a Matt Grzelcyk turnover and centered for Kerfoot, who was playing his first game since getting injured at the end of November. The Crimson extended the lead to 3-1 eight minutes later when Sean Malone scored from the slot on a play that should’ve been blown dead after BU got possession during a delayed penalty (more on that later).
The Terriers didn’t roll over, though. They cut the lead to one with 4:26 left in the second when Nikolas Olsson buried a rebound off a Nick Roberto shot. Then they tied it with 23 seconds left in the period when Hohmann, who had a game-high 11 shots on goal, fed Ahti Oksanen in the slot for the junior winger’s 17th goal of the season.
The game was just the fourth in the Beanpot’s 63-year history to go to double overtime. The Terriers improved to 17-4-4 on the season, while the Crimson dropped to 12-6-2. The win snapped BU’s five-game Beanpot losing streak, its longest ever in the tournament.
Here are some other observations from the game:
BU controlled play from the second period on
The Terriers outshot the Crimson 54-22 over the final 40 minutes of regulation and first 20 minutes of overtime and out-attempted them 102-34 in the same timeframe. Harvard did a decent job keeping BU to the outside, but the Terriers still had 22 shots on goal from the home plate area (from the net to the faceoff dots up to the top of the circles and across) in that 60-minute stretch. Harvard had 10. Of course, goals over that 60-minute stretch were an even 2-2, thanks in large part to Michalek’s incredible performance.
Eichel’s line created a ton of chances
Rodrigues-Eichel-O’Regan has been the best line in the country, and they registered 25 shots on goal Tuesday night. Eichel had 10 of them. They were also on the ice for each of Harvard’s first two goals, though, both of which came from Harvard’s top line of Vesey-Kerfoot-Criscuolo. But the three BU forwards weren’t really to blame on either — defensemen definitely deserved more blame, and neither came off a sustained offensive zone possession. Eichel did miss a check that might have prevented the second goal, though. That trio could have gotten frustrated by that lack of luck throughout the game, but instead they just kept the pressure coming and eventually broke through in the second overtime. Harvard’s top line, by comparison, finished with 10 shots on goal. The two lines were not exclusively matched up head-to-head.
Vesey continued his own Hobey-caliber season
The main attraction in this game was Eichel, but Vesey reminded us why we should be paying attention to him, too. The junior left wing assisted on Harvard’s first goal on a play where he used his speed and strength to get position on BU defenseman John MacLeod. While Vesey didn’t get to the net himself, he was able to get the puck there and create a dangerous situation that led to a goal. Vesey, a Nasvhille Predators draft pick, now has points in all 20 Harvard games this season, and his 1.70 points per game lead the country. He recorded a team-high six shots on goal in the game. Eichel is still probably the favorite for the Hobey Baker Award, but Vesey is right there and certainly has a case.
Harvard’s third goal should not have counted
One of the more basic rules of hockey is that if the defending team gets possession of the puck during a delayed penalty, the play is blown dead. That didn’t happen on Harvard’s third goal, though. There was a delayed call against BU, and after a scramble in front, BU’s Oksanen got his stick on a loose puck and haphazardly slid it away. For some reason, the refs didn’t blow the whistle, play continued, the puck went right to Malone, and he buried it. Considering that these same refs had several quick whistles on pucks that weren’t even covered yet, that was an embarrassing — and potentially costly — no-whistle on their part.
But Harvard also had a probable goal ruled no-goal
With 8:45 left in the game and the score still 3-3, Harvard’s Seb Lloyd fired into a massive pileup in the BU crease and started celebrating like he had scored. It was ruled no-goal on the ice, and the call was upheld after a review. Replay showed the puck trickle down a Harvard player’s back and most likely cross the goal line, but there just wasn’t an angle conclusive enough to overturn the call on the ice.
This was not a defensive showcase
It was an exciting game for sure, but most of the goals came on bad defensive mistakes. Max Everson got caught puck-watching on BU’s first goal, allowing Hohmann to get wide open right in front. On Harvard’s first goal, MacLeod took a bad angle and got beat to a loose puck down the left wing, and while he recovered enough to prevent Vesey from getting to the net, the damage was already done and a scoring chance was unavoidable. Grzelcyk, a Bruins prospect, committed a bad turnover behind his own net on Harvard’s third goal, a mistake that was only compounded by Eichel missing a check and MacLeod losing his man in front.
The events leading to BU’s second goal started with Harvard defensemen Victor Newell and Desmond Bergin letting Roberto get behind them for a breakaway. From there, the Crimson were caught running around, allowing Roberto to get open again for a shot and Olsson to get to a rebound. BU tied it at 3-3 on another defensive miscue. Kerfoot turned the puck over behind his own net and Hohmann fed Oksanen for a one-time finish.