By: Connor Lenahan
I did not grow up with hockey. It was never a part of my life before college. That’s because the area where I grew up – northeastern Pennsylvania – is not a culture that revolves around hockey. I grew up with basketball and football. That’s what life was in Waverly. But that is not the case for much of the city of Boston and the surrounding area.
Hockey, especially college hockey, is the culture. This is made exceedingly clear to anyone who attends Boston University, Boston College, Harvard, or Northeastern. That’s because those four institutions compete annually for bragging rights and the title of the best college hockey program in the area. This tournament is the Beanpot. Last night was the 63rd Championship game of the premier hockey tournament for the city. I went alongside my girlfriend, Laura LaBrecque, to watch Boston University play Northeastern in the finals.
Every Boston University student is taught the same thing upon their orientation to the school – Boston College is the enemy. The BU/BC rivalry burns every single day of the calendar. Every hockey game I have attended has included a “BC Sucks” chant of some kind, regardless of opponent. Agganis Arena fills with students every time the two schools face off on the ice. It’s a sight to be seen. But there’s another rivalry that, quietly, might be even more intense.
Boston College and Boston University are rivals primarily in hockey. But BC and BU don’t face off many other times during the year. This makes sense. BC is in the ACC while BU is in the Patriot League. There’s not much overlap when the former competes in a far larger league. The Hockey East allows equal footing. But Northeastern is the rival that BU gets to see much more often. They are also, you know, actually in Boston, as opposed to Boston College which is located far outside the city. Northeastern gets to play BU in every sport imaginable. In fact, earlier this school year I got to watch the two schools square off in men’s basketball and women’s soccer with the latter coming in the NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately the Huskies took both contests. They had our number for most of the year so far. The operative word here being “had.”
The Beanpot is the ultimate tournament for Boston area teams. I have never in my life seen anything quite like the intensity of the TD Garden last night. A sea of Red/White jerseys side by side with a sea of Black/Red. Northeastern and BU had the entire stadium filled and louder than I’ve ever heard it for the Beanpot last night. It was electric.
A little history for context: There have been 62 Beanpots won before last night. BU has been the dominant force during the Beanpot’s history, winning 29, but none since 2009 (also when BU won the National Championship). Northeastern, meanwhile, has only taken home the trophy four times, none of which have come since 1988. Conversations leading up to the game had Northeastern positioning that this was “their year.” It was their time. Or so they thought. Everyone on Commonwealth Ave agreed that the trophy was coming back home to Agganis Arena and joining it’s 29 brothers.
What happened last night in the championship matchup may very well be my favorite sporting moment I’ve attended live of my entire life. It is without hyperbole that I can safely put Northeastern at the top of my rivalry list – ahead of other strong competitors like American, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Ohio State again, Boston College, Ohio State a third time, Alabama, and American again. Their proximity to our campus and tendency to defeat some of my best friends have them in the opposite of my good graces. That’s why, late last evening, things got amazing.
The first period opened up quickly. Just under three minutes into the contest BU’s Mike Moran broke away from the Husky defense and fired a slap shot into the net to put BU on the board.
Minutes later Northeastern slipped in a shot of their own to tie the game at 1.
The second period chugged along before Robbie Baillargeon snuck the puck around NU’s goalie.
Then the Captain of the Terriers, Matt Grzelcyk, fired an absolute rocket into the net to put BU in a comfortable two goal lead heading into the final 20 minutes of regulation.
Then it got bad. Northeastern worked the puck around and scored what was, admittedly, a beautiful goal close to midway through the third period.
Suddenly the atmosphere changed at BU was no longer in a commanding lead. A scrum in front of our goalie, my buddy Matt O’Connor, left everyone incapable of finding the puck. Somehow, some way, it became just clear enough for a Husky to send it into the back of the net.
The clock ran out on regulation and my heartbeat quintupled. I started holding onto Laura for dear life. I’m not sure I had a heart attack, but I’m not ruling it out. It was aggravating. I have spent the large part of the 2014-15 school year watching my friends and my school fall to our rivals. I was terrified that it was going to happen again.
When Northeastern was called for a penalty under a minute into overtime the stadium got louder than it had been all game. This noise hit a peak when Matt Grzelcyk fired yet another beautiful shot past the NU goalie and into the net.
Overtime over. Game over. Beanpot over.
After spending months watching win after win stolen away from BU by the Huskies nothing felt quite as amazing as being able to dash away their Beanpot chances and bring home the trophy for the 30th time.
The gargantuan crowd of BU students erupted. They took over the stadium while the postgame ceremonies commenced. Matt Grzelcyk was named Beanpot MVP. David Quinn, one of the nicest men I’ve ever met, was handed the first Beanpot of his head coaching career at BU. The players went crazy. So did every fan in attendance.
Last night was special for a few reasons. Obviously being able to vanquish two rivals – Boston College in round one and Northeastern in the title game – on the way to winning the first title in years was special. But to see Boston University come together like it did last night was a sight that brought some small tears to my eyes.
I love this school. I have never been happier in my life than my time spent as a Boston University Terrier. I have said again and again that I would give anything to make this school as special for the other 30,00 students as it is for me. Seeing my neighbors, friends, and fellow Terriers in sheer bliss after this game was as beautiful a thing to see as any. It feels good to see some amazing people come together to support their school on one of the largest stages imaginable.
Last night was not just a victory for BU on the ice. We have a trophy sitting across the way from me now that gives us bragging rights until next year. But we also have the bragging rights to being the best community of students possible. Even if there’s no formal award that doesn’t change the fact that BU is the best school around.
Even better? BU now gets to finish its regular season with two final games. Both of these final games will be played against, you guessed it, Northeastern. Get ready for even more memorable, amazing moments in Boston hockey. Last night was just the beginning. And what a beautiful beginning it was.
The trophy is back home, right where it belongs.
Photos courtesy of Laura LaBrecque and GoTerriers.com