By Andy Merritt
BOSTON – Boston University had plenty to play for in Monday’s Beanpot consolation game, but Harvard had nothing to lose.
The Crimson beat the Terriers 7-4 in the early game Monday night, in Harvard’s biggest offensive output in a Beanpot game in more than a decade. With it, the Crimson improved to 6-15-2, while the Terriers fell to 13-12-1, and almost certainly dropped out of contention for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
Luke Greiner’s hat trick – the second of this year’s tournament – led the way for Harvard. His first of the night, coming off a feed from Conor Morrison with BU’s Patrick MacGregor (Hamden, Conn.) trying to haul him down by any means necessary, put the Crimson up 4-3 with 15:28 to go in the second. They never looked back. Greiner scored again with 3:27 to go in the middle frame, and Marshall Everson gave Harvard some more insurance early in the third.
By the time Cason Hohmann gave the Terriers a little life with 9:36 to go in the game, it was probably too late, but Greiner made sure of it with an empty-netter to polish off the hat trick.
While the seven goals were the most in a Beanpot game for Harvard since an 8-7 loss to Northeastern in the 2001 consolation game – and the most in a Crimson victory since the first round in 1993, the last year the Crimson won the tourney – it was also a stellar night for freshman goaltender Peter Traber (43 saves), who withstood a 47-shot barrage from the Eagles in just his third career start.
“He only had two starts, but he’s played a lot of hockey, and he’s played well in practice,” Harvard coach Ted Donato (Dedham, Mass.) said of the decision to start Traber over Raphael Girard, who played in last week’s first round and Sunday’s rescheduled tilt with Dartmouth. “[Traber] deserved the appearance. As with most freshmen, it takes a little time. But sometimes a guy comes into a situation, and he has that right attitude, and the other guys want to play hard for him.”
The Crimson stood up well for the rookie netminder, taking 31 shots of their own and never trailing after Greiner’s first goal. They did it without stud Jimmy Vesey, out with an undisclosed injury.
“We’ve been taking it one game at a time,” said Danny Biega, who scored to briefly tie the game late in the first. “We’re trying to improve every day, and despite the fact that it’s not in the finals, we were excited for this game. We all took it as an opportunity to improve.”
It’s the second time in three years that BU has finished fourth in the Beanpot – the first time that’s happened since the 1961 and ’63 tournaments. And it comes in the midst of a profound slump for the Terriers, who are 1-5-1 over their last seven games, and 3-7-1 since returning from the Christmas break.
“I loved the way we played together, we competed together in the first semester,” BU coach Jack Parker said. “But we have not played up to the way we did in the first semester. We can’t seem to get ourselves emotionally ready to play.”
Senior Ryan Ruikka, who moved from defense to forward to help the banged-up Terrier offense last week, said defense is one of the big things bringing BU down this season – something that rang particularly true on a night when goaltender Sean Maguire (24 saves) didn’t have a great deal of help in front of him.
“We’re not playing defense the way we used to play defense,” Ruikka said. “You can’t win games giving up six goals. That’s just unacceptable.”
Unacceptable is just how the Terriers may find themselves when it comes to tournament selection time if they don’t turn things around soon. Heading into Monday’s game, they were ranked 13th in the Pairwise rankings, which mimics the NCAA’s selection process. They also have only a tenuous grasp on a home-ice playoff spot in Hockey East, which will take on even more value as their path to an at-large bid grows darker.
“It’s been said already,” BU coach Jack Parker (Somerville, Mass.) said. “It’s been said before this game, this game is not important to Harvard, Harvard’s not going to get in the national tournament by an at-large bid. We had a chance to do that, and now we’ll drop well down in the PairWise poll on that.”
The Crimson don’t have the same concerns. Even a home series in the ECAC playoffs series at home is essentially a pipe dream at this point. Yet with nothing to gain from a win in the consolation game, they played as if their season was on the line.
“It has the ability to turn a team around,” said Biega. “We can pick it up and start to roll off this, and I think there are good things to come.”