February 8, 2013

Hockey East Journal: Strange times for the Terriers

By Andy Merritt

Coach Jack Parker and the Terriers' Beanpot drought is now at four years and counting. (Dave Arnold Photography)

It used to be about as close to a lock as you get in sports: Boston University shows up for the Beanpot. No matter how their season was going, the Terriers always came to play the first and second Mondays in February, and the tournament would usually mark the point when they start playing their best hockey.

In 2010, the Terriers entered the tournament’s first night with a 9-11-3 record, but starting with an opening round win over Northeastern, went 9-6-0 over their final 15 games, earning a home quarterfinal series in the Hockey East playoffs. In 2007, the Terriers were a respectable 13-5-8 heading into the Beanpot, and although their season ended with losses in the Hockey East semifinals and NCAA first round, they still brought home some hardware: their 28th Beanpot title.

Even when the Terriers haven’t won the Beanpot, it’s almost never been a long wait until they got back to lifting the trophy on that second Monday. Since 1995, the Terriers had never gone more than a year without winning the tournament, and since 1965 that had only happened five times.

What also hadn’t happened since 1965 is for BU to go four years without a Beanpot title. Four years, of course, is meaningful because it’s the length of the conventional college career. In the 50s and 60s, freshmen didn’t play with the varsity, so you only got three years with the big team. That means that this year’s seniors are the first to play four years at BU without getting to lift the trophy and skate around the Garden ice even once.

Four years ago, that seemed as unlikely as Jack Parker (Somerville, Mass.) putting on a Boston College jersey. Four years ago, the Terriers won the 2009 Beanpot to kick off a spring of coronation that also included the Hockey East and NCAA titles. The Terriers were the toast of the town, a seemingly unstoppable force that lost just six games all year, and only one of their last 25.

But that was four years ago, and since then BU has won zero titles, and have compiled a 73-55-13 record, including this year’s 13-11-1 mark heading into Monday’s Beanpot consolation game against Harvard (Friday’s game against Merrimack was postponed due to the incoming blizzard). That .517 win percentage over the last three-and-a-half seasons pales in comparison to the .609 they compiled over the previous four years, including the 2009 Beanpot-Hockey East-NCAA sweep.

During the last four years, the program has seen its share of shortfalls off the ice, as well. The suspension of Corey Trivino and dismissals of Vinny and Victor Saponari that came after the 2010 seasons were just a prelude. Trivino and another player were accused of sexual assaults the following season, and last summer brought a scathing report of drinking and debauchery within the program – including a raunchy late-night party at Agganis Arena after the 2009 NCAA championship.

On the ice, the Terriers are still competitive, finishing among the top four in Hockey East in each of the last three years. But BU has never been a program that is satisfied with “competitive.” Excellence is expected, and it’s rare for the team to go more than a couple of seasons without any hardware at all. Yet as Parker and captain Wade Megan, one of the six seniors on this year’s squad, sat on the dais for the postgame press conference after Monday’s opening-round Beanpot loss, the tears that Megan tried to wipe from his eyes while talking about missing out on a Beanpot championship during his BU career said it all.

History and conventional wisdom tell us this period of frustration at BU won’t last long. Recruits still flock to Commonwealth Avenue, and Parker recently picked up top-rated Cam Askew, a Cushing Academy standout who decommitted from Northeastern to pledge his sword to the Terriers. But right now, the Terriers find themselves empty-handed, heading into a Beanpot consolation game for the fourth time in as many years.

Player of the Week

Kevin Roy, fr., Northeastern

Roy scored three goals in Monday’s Beanpot opener, picking up the first hat trick in the Beanpot since former Husky Mike Regan did it in 2002, and retaking the scoring lead among the nation’s freshmen with 15-15—30 totals.

Game of the Week

Boston College vs. Northeastern, Monday, 7:30 p.m.(NESN)

It’s always hard not to get into the “is this the year?” hype with the Huskies, who are looking to end a 25-year Beanpot title drought, but as injuries and a midseason slump have made the Eagles look a little more vulnerable than usual – and given the crackerjack final these two teams played in 2011 – Monday’s championship game ought to at least be a fun one to watch.

Power Rankings

  1. New Hampshire (16-7-2, 11-6-1 HEA) – Coach Dick Umile (Melrose, Mass.) shook up his lines recently, and the top line of freshman Dan Correale, sophomore Grayson Downing and senior Austin Block has made him look pretty smart, combining for four goals in their three games together.

  2. UMass-Lowell (14-9-2, 8-8-2 HEA) – UML’s momentum came to a screeching halt, as the previously red-hot River Hawks lost one-goal games to Merrimack and Maine last weekend, marking their first back-to-back losses since Nov. 30/Dec. 1 – also the last time UMass-Lowell lost at all.

  3. Boston College (16-7-2, 12-6-1 HEA) – The Eagles won back-to-back games for the first time since Nov. 24, beating Vermont and Harvard by 4-1 scores in efforts led by unheralded fourth-liner Quinn Smith (Fairfield, Conn.), who scored three of those eight goals and is on a three-game point streak.

  4. Merrimack (12-10-5, 10-6-2 HEA) – The Warriors have quietly put themselves among the Hockey East elite, moving into third place after a stellar weekend led by Sam Marotta’s 76-for-77 save performance, which put him atop the league in goals against average.

  5. Providence (10-10-5, 8-6-4 HEA) – Senior Alex Velischek played his way into the record books in Friday night’s tie, joining his father, Randy, in the 100-games-played club. The Velischeks are the first father-son duo to both reach the plateau.

  6. Boston University (13-11-1, 10-7-1 HEA) – One source of hope for the struggling Terriers: The freshman class is leading the team in scoring, with 21 goals and 39 assists, and the three-man sophomore class (excluding the departed Yasin Cisse) is responsible for 16-40—56 totals, second-best among the four classes.

  7. UMass (10-12-2, 7-9-1 HEA) – Once again, the Minutemen have excelled at being giant killers this season, with Friday’s 5-1 victory over then-No. 9 BU the fourth win over a ranked opponent this year.

  8. Northeastern (8-13-3, 4-11-3 HEA) – Good news: The last time the Huskies beat BU in the Beanpot was in 1988 – in the last final they won. Bad news: The last time Northeastern saw BC, the Eagles handed them their worst loss of the year, a 9-3 drubbing on Jan. 19.

  9. Maine (8-14-5, 4-9-5 HEA) – Once lost in the woods, the Black Bears are all of a sudden one of the hottest teams in Hockey East, having gone undefeated in their last four after a pair of overtime wins last weekend.

  10. Vermont (7-14-4, 4-10-4 HEA) – Friday’s 4-1 loss to BC was the first official road game since Dec. 20 for the Catamounts, who were the designated home team for the Jan. 19 game against Penn State at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, and otherwise had played seven of their previous eight games in Vermont.

Andy Merritt can be reached at amerritt@hockeyjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @a_merritt.