Terriers Head to NCAAs Licking Wounds
BOSTON This wasn’t how Boston University envisioned its season.
One month ago, the Terriers came to TD Garden for the Beanpot final, heavily favored over Harvard. After a couple early power plays set the tone for the Crimson, BU was overrun in a decisive 6-3 loss, where it was outshot 46-17.
BU returned to the Garden Friday night with a chance to put that disappointment behind them, and end rival Boston College’s season in the process. Despite two goals from forwards Jordan Greenway and Clayton Keller in the final 2:24, the Terriers couldn’t do enough to erase the deficit, and fell to BC for the first time in four meetings this year.
The Terriers haven’t had much luck at the Garden since 2015, when the team won the Beanpot and the Hockey East Tournament final and Jack Eichel roamed the halls. Two Beanpot final losses followed — one to BC a year ago and this year’s to Harvard. Last season, BU was swept by Massachusetts-Lowell in the quarterfinal of the Hockey East tournament, not even making it to the final weekend.
Let’s not forget, BU lost its biggest game in recent memory at the Garden, collapsing against Providence in the third period of the national championship game in 2015.
This year was supposed to be different.
The much-hyped freshman class was expected to jell with the established sophomores and upperclassmen to create an unstoppable force that would sweep every trophy available. It hasn’t happened. Sure, the team won a share of the Hockey East regular-season title, but BU wasted a number of opportunities to pick up Hockey East points down the stretch.
“We definitely talked about the past at the Garden the past couple of years,” BU captain Doyle Somerby said. “We wanted to go out on the right foot as a senior class, and sat down the younger guys. We try not to look at it too much, but definitely mentioned it a little bit. Unfortunately, it ended the same way.”
The signs of a great team have been there.
After a shaky start that can be blamed on a lack of cohesion with young, talented players, BU went on a tear. Winning eight straight in the middle of the season, it looked like everything was coming together. This didn’t last. Down the stretch, the team managed just a 7-6-1 record. It’s respectable, but not what you want in a team that expected championships.
The pressure to win on Commonwealth Avenue is high, no matter the year. But this season, with all the hopes and expectations, the stress may be affecting the team, especially as chances to win hardware slip through their hands.
“When you have the roster we have with the high picks that we have, there’s obviously a lot of hype around the team,” Somerby said. “For the most part this season, we’ve done a pretty good job of blocking it out.”
Of course, it isn’t over. The Terriers are a lock to make the tournament, and will likely have a favorable matchup in the opening round.
“This loss might have helped us a little bit,” Somerby said. “It might upset us and help us realize there’s no tomorrow after this. When you fail this way twice in the Garden, it starts to kick in. Luckily for us, a lot of our younger guys have played in big games and big stages, with World Juniors and USHL in front of a lot of people. They have the experience. We just really need to tie it together.”
A national title would erase any sense of failure this season. But BU has plenty to do before it even gets that chance.
The Terriers have four first-round picks, four second-round picks and a goaltender who should be a high pick this summer on the roster. There are impressive bursts on the ice that can captivate. It just doesn’t happen consistently enough to win, let alone dominate like everyone thought.
“Everybody’s backs will be against the wall once the national tournament starts,” said BU coach David Quinn. “This generation has a short attention span, so I think (the team) will move past what’s happened and focus on our next game, no matter who our opponent will be.”
BU played its final game in Boston a little earlier than planned, and they’ll head out this week to play in a regional semifinal fans will expect to win. Considering the confounding results this season, it’s fair to doubt them.
“This is going to hurt,” Quinn said on the loss to BC. “This is going to hurt for a while, but we’ve gotta move past it quickly because we know we have a tournament to play starting next weekend. Who knows where we’re going. Who knows who we’re playing. That stuff is irrelevant. But we had a good enough season where we know we’re in the national tournament, which is a great feeling. But that’s not going to take the sting away from tonight’s loss, that’s for sure.”
The Terriers are 9-7-1 against the top 20 teams in the Pairwise. This may be heartening, but it depends on which team shows up next week. This was supposed to rank among the best BU teams ever.
It’s time to show it.