BOSTON -- There was nothing to console Boston University coach Dave Quinn in the Beanpot consolation game at TD Garden on Monday, as the first-year bench boss saw his Terriers squander a precious first-period lead and lose to the Harvard Crimson, 6-2.
It marked the first time that BU (8-16-4; 3-3 Hockey East) has finished last in back-to-back Beanpots in the 62 editions of the tournament, which the Terriers, with 29 championships, once called their own. Despite all the blue-chip talent wearing BU's scarlet-and-white jerseys, including six NHL draft picks, the Terriers are coming perilously close to watching their season slip away.
Meanwhile, the Crimson (8-12-3; 4-9-3 ECAC) may have helped salvage their season. Ted Donato's squad has the somewhat dubious honor of owning the Beanpot consolation game of late, taking the early game on the second Monday in February for the fourth straight year. Three of those victories, though, have come against the Terriers. At least one, in 2011, propelled the Crimson into a second-half rally that carried them all the way to the ECAC championship game.
With lackluster seasons to date, both teams came into the game in desperate need of a spark. It was Harvard that got it. The win over BU marked the first time that the Crimson have recorded back-to-back victories this season, and only the second time they were able to pull out a win after surrendering the first goal.
Not surprisingly, both the Crimson and Terriers came out attacking. In one 12-second flurry, BU's Nick Roberto glanced a shot off the post to the right of Crimson goaltender Steve Michalek, then Harvard's Kyle Criscuolo failed to finish off an odd-man rush after drawing BU's Sean Maguire out of his net.
At 10:42, the Terriers got the first goal, when Evan Rodriguez finished off a great pass play by linemate Robbie Baillargeon. Cornered behind the Crimson net, Baillargeon slipped the puck past two Harvard defensemen to an unmarked Rodriguez, who fired it low glove side past Michalek for a 1-0 Terrier lead.
The goal didn't bode well for the Crimson, who were 0-8-2 when trailing after the first period this season, and had only won once all season when trailing at any point in a game. However, that single victory was a 7-4 come-from-behind spanking of the Terriers on Jan. 4.
Harvard began clawing back into the game at 1:14 of the middle stanza, when Criscuolo atoned for his earlier miss. Flying down the right side, the sophomore saw that BU's Doyle Somerby wasn't closing him down, and he unleashed a pinpoint slap shot that beat Maguire cleanly blocker side to knot the game, 1-1.
A fortuitous bounce allowed Harvard to double its lead at 3:33. Jimmy Vescey's chip caromed off BU's Cason Hohmann and landed on the stick on an unmarked Brian Hart, who spun and fired the puck past Maguire.
Harvard's Luke Esposito got the Crimson's third unanswered goal at 6:59. Crimson defenseman Max Everson came steaming up the left wing and snapped off a wrist shot that Maguire kicked right up the slot to a waiting Esposito, and the freshman from Greenwich, Conn., buried it for a 3-1 Harvard lead.
The two-goal bulge was a promising sign for Donato's squad, which was 7-0-1 when leading after two periods. BU blueliner Ahti Oksanen got the Terriers back within one, 3-2, at 7:20 of the third with his sixth goal of the season, but Harvard responded immediately with Esposito's second tally of the game just 37 seconds later to put the game out of reach.
Harvard added an empty-net tally by Vescey at 17:57, and freshman Crimson forward Tyler Moy tipped a slap pass from Victor Newell past BU's Anthony Moccia at 19:34 to complete the scoreline.
For Quinn's Terriers, it was a maddening result, coming on the heels of encouraging performances over the past week, including a 2-2 tie at home against No. 7 UMass-Lowell and a hard-fought 3-1 loss to No. 1 Boston College in the Beanpot opening round last Monday.
Clearly, it's time for some serious soul searching on Commonwealth Avenue.