February 1, 2010

Chiasson is the hero for BU

by Andrew Merritt

Eric Gryba (photo: Getty)

BOSTON – Alex Chiasson’s English is pretty good, but his thick Quebecois accent still colors his words. One word he doesn’t seem to have any trouble with, however, is Beanpot.

Chiasson, a native of St. Augustin, Quebec, scored with 5:47 remaining Monday night to give Boston University a 2-1 win over Northeastern in the Beanpot semifinals. His goal puts the Terriers in the tournament final for the 25th time in the last 27 years, and the 16th out of the last 17. They’ll meet their fiercest rival, Boston College, which beat Harvard 6-0 in the early game.

To get the chance to defend their 2009 title, the Terriers first had to get past another rival in Northeastern, and on this night at the Garden, the Huskies made sure BU earned it.

In stark contrast to the BC rout in the early game, BU and NU put on a show for the ages, with tensions running high throughout and nothing finally decided until BU defenseman Eric Gryba laid his big 6-foot-4 frame in front of Wade MacLeod in the high slot to prevent a rush to the net as the final seconds ticked away.

At either end of the fray were a pair of young goaltenders – BU sophomore Kieran Millan and Northeastern freshman Chris Rawlings – who combined for 59 saves. Millan was the winner, but it was Rawlings who made the biggest impression, putting together one of the finer goaltending performances the tournament has seen.

“We have had some opportunities against this goaltender,” BU coach Jack Parker (Somrville, Mass.) said. “And he has played great in all of them.”

Rawlings was beaten twice – first by Colby Cohen in the second period, and then by Chiasson on the game-winner. The play started on a Northeastern giveaway when Tyler McNeely left a drop pass that hung too long in the high slot. BU took possession and Chiasson steamed down the right wing, with Zach Cohen matching him on the opposite side. Chiasson elected to hold on to the puck and fired a wrister that trickled through Rawlings and at an agonizingly slow pace over the goal line.

McNeely slammed his stick after the goal, and earned an icy glare from Cronin on his trip back to the bench.

It was a frustrating night for the Huskies, who never looked overmatched by the historic kings of the tournament, and even owned most of the first period. But the Huskies were held off the scoreboard until midway through the third period, and it had a lot to do with their hesitation to take shots. NU coach Greg Cronin (Boston, Mass.) noticed it, and so did his assistant, Albie O’Connell, who watched the Huskies falter against his alma mater from the Garden rafters.

“My biggest problem,” Cronin said, “was that we wouldn’t shoot the damn puck. Albie O’Connell kept radioing down, saying, ‘Why won’t they shoot the puck?’”

The Terriers certainly didn’t have that problem. Not only that, they were stout defensively, especially the closer Northeastern came to Millan’s net.

“I think we have been bearing down a lot more in front of our own net,” said junior defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. “We’re kind of limiting other teams’ second opportunities and I think we did a great job of that in the third.”

There wasn’t any scoring in the first period, but there was plenty of drama, and at the center of it was Rawlings. He was tested to the tune of 13 shots in the frame, and made a pair of outstanding saves from the seat of his pants midway through.

BU broke through in the second period. Nick Bonino (Unionville, Conn.) zipped a pass across the slot to Chris Connolly, who redirected it down to Colby Cohen, stationed below the faceoff dot on the left wing. He opened fire from there with a slap shot that found its way through Rawlings to make it 1-0 BU with 11:37 left.

Northeastern had a shorthanded 2-on-1 breakaway later in the period with Steve Silva and Wade MacLeod bearing down, but Millan ably stayed with the play, getting in front of MacLeod’s bid.

The Huskies took a five-minute major in the third after Alex Tuckerman plastered BU’s Sean Escobedo into the end boards and stood over the hobbled freshman.

That ended the night for Tuckerman, who picked up a game misconduct in addition to the major 2:46 into the third, and put the Huskies in a bad position. But they treaded water for the five minutes, and although they allowed a few BU shots – including a Shattenkirk blast off the post – they maintained composure long enough to kill the penalty and pick up a power play – and a goal – of their own at the tail end.

David Warsofsky’s (Marshfield, Mass.) contact-to-the-head penalty came at the 7:20 mark of the period, and 21 seconds later Colby Cohen joined him on a cross check. Warsofsky eventually escaped the box, but with seven seconds left in Cohen’s penalty, Kyle Kraemer fired a wrister from the point through traffic to tie it.

“We just wanted to put pucks at the net and create traffic on Millan,” Kraemer said. “He’s a great goalie, so you have to create traffic on him, and that was our plan.

“When we scored that goal, I thought we were going to win the game.”

NOTES: Next Monday’s final will be the fourth meeting of BU and BC, and it will also come in the fourth different venue – the Terriers and Eagles played at BU’s Agganis Arena on Dec. 5, then at Fenway Park on Jan. 8, and again at BC’s Conte Forum on Jan. 22. BU leads the season series 2-1. … It’s also the first time the rivals have met in the final since 2007, when BU beat the Eagles 2-1 in overtime.