February 14, 2017 PRINT Bookmark and Share

One Drought, Over

Harvard Grabs First Beanpot Title in 24 Years

 (photo: Harvard Athletic Communications)

(photo: Harvard Athletic Communications)

by Christopher Boulay/CHN Writer

The past 13 years at Harvard under coach Ted Donato have been bumpy, to say the least. He came in at a time when Harvard was making NCAA tournaments again, but couldn't get over the hump, either in the NCAAs or withing its own city.

Donato's task was to get the team back to the performances of the late-'80s and early-'90s, when it was a local and national force. In his time, the former star on the ice achieved two ECAC tournament victories and four NCAA tournament appearances. However, success in two of the most important tournaments eluded the Crimson.

After 23 years without a title, one drought is over.

Harvard won its 11th Beanpot trophy and first since 1993 on Monday night, upending Boston University 6-3 in the 65th edition of the tournament in front of an impressive turnout by the school’s student section.

“I didn’t think it was going to take 13 years,” Donato said.

The appearance in the final is just the second under Donato. Harvard previously lost to BC, 6-5, in overtime in 2008.

This victory gave Donato — who played for Harvard from 1987-91 — his second trophy in the tournament. He won his first as a player in a 9-6 victory in 1989. He’s a living example of how much this tournament means to those from the city who have participated in it or attended one of the four schools.

“I grew up in Boston. I’ve played a million street hockey games being one of these Beanpot teams," Donato said. "It’s a tournament that connects people. Maybe it’s once a year, you take your group of friends from college and you go to the game. It’s a little bit more enjoyable when you know you won a Beanpot with that group.”

Harvard fans started to dream with 19:29 left in the third period. With the Crimson on its second 5-on-3 of the night, Alexander Kerfoot received a pass from Tyler Moy in the crease and fired it on BU goaltender Jake Oettinger, pushing the rebound over the line past his skate.

The goal put Harvard up 4-2, and the trophy seemed to be in Crimson hands from that point on. In part, due to the penalties, Harvard dominated the shot count, 46-17, including an 18-2 first period. Donato’s team had 1-0 and 3-2 leads at the end of the first two periods, due to two Nathan Krusko goals and a tip-in from Luke Esposito.

Harvard sold out its student ticket allotment for the game, and was animated all night. While not something many other fans are used to seeing from the school in recent years, and there’s some explanation for it. Harvard has 43 varsity sports to attend, and many students are busy with schoolwork and other tasks.

However, players have been on the fan recruitment path this year in order to bolster the attendance at local games, a task Donato supports and encourages.

“It was nice to see such a great crowd,” Donato said. “It was nice to finally hear that ‘10,000 Men of Harvard’ song after a Beanpot game. I really believe it’s about having success, but more importantly, it’s about being good student-athletes and being good citizens on campus and having friendships and a network of people outside of hockey that appreciate everything that these guys are trying to accomplish.”

With the victory, Harvard (18-5-2) won its sixth-straight game and increased its unbeaten streak to eight games.

The task for the Crimson was daunting. Boston University aimed to capture its 31st Beanpot trophy, which would have extended its lead over Boston College to 11 titles in the yearly tournament.

Harvard has been playing outstanding hockey, but of course, the Crimson have had some strong regular seasons before under Donato, only to fall maddeningly short of any success in The Beanpot or NCAAs.

This victory over the Terriers (19-9-2) is a culmination of a long and grueling process for the team’s senior class, especially with the efforts made by Donato and his staff to improve the view of Harvard hockey on the national level.

“I think it just makes it all that more special, to be part of the culture change the last four years,” Esposito said. “We focus a lot on the ice, but even more off the ice in working on the type of people we are.

“(It’s a) really incredible experience to come full-circle in four years here and bring the Beanpot back to Harvard.”

Harvard’s history, along with the Beanpot drought, are spoken about every February. Even some of the most talented teams in past 24 years were unable to get over the hump. However, for senior Alexander Kerfoot, the players had to push it out of their minds as best as possible.

“You think about it leading up to games like this, and maybe after games like this,” Kerfoot said. “Playing at a program like Harvard, it’s got such a rich history. So many great alumni have come through this program; so many great players and great people involved in it. You’re proud of the history and you’re proud of the part of the history. But when you’re going into games, you just treat it like any other game.

“We’ve done a better job of (it) this year than in the past. We’ve been a really good hockey team, at times, but we’ve struggled at playing in big games. This year, we’ve done a much better job of that.”

Harvard fans now get bragging rights against their successful rivals down the road, providing the Terriers their third disappointment on the TD Garden ice since that win. Of course, the Terriers lost the 2015 National Championship to Providence in the arena, as well as the 2016 Beanpot to Boston College.

While it may be easy to point out that Harvard has a NCAA championship drought active since its title in 1989, the Crimson need to focus the next step of winning a game in the opening round of the tournament for the first time since 1994. The team convincingly beat Boston University — a city rival that has dominated this tournament — Monday night for a cherished trophy that will only help continue the positive strides on the ice, but also boost the hockey interest starting to permeate through student culture at the school.

Donato’s culture change at Harvard is in full effect and 13 years of hard work is starting to pay off. One drought has ended and another could be on the way. Either way, Harvard hockey can’t be ignored in Boston any longer.

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