Men's Hockey, Hockey, Winter, Sports

Notebook: Missed Second Chances and Lazy Penalty Kill Cost BC in Beanpot Loss

Eighteen years ago—on Monday, Feb. 7, 2005—Ted Donato logged his first Beanpot game as the head coach of Harvard men’ hockey. He was just 35 years old, with a mighty track record as a former four-year player with the Crimson and a former player in the NHL for 13 seasons, including nine with the Boston Bruins. 

This was just the beginning of Donato’s head coaching stint at Harvard, one that led to him becoming the longest-tenured head coach in the 2023 Beanpot.  

Fast forward to Monday, Donato went head-to-head with a first-year head coach—Boston College’s Greg Brown—in the 2023 Beanpot semifinals. And while Brown’s Eagles clawed all the way back from a 3–1 deficit with under five minutes left to play in the third period, Donato’s experience eventually paid off. 

The Crimson came out on top 4–3 in overtime, as Harvard’s Marek Hejduk netted the game-winner with 1.5 seconds remaining on the clock. 

While the game marked Brown’s first-ever Beanpot loss as a head coach, Donato’s Beanpot history hasn’t been filled with luck either. In his 18 years at the helm of Harvard’s program, he has lost in the first round of the Beanpot 15 times. 

But on Monday, Donato’s acquaintance with the tournament mattered, and Brown will move on from the game and toward next year’s Beanpot just like he has any other this game this year—with more experience under his belt. 

Here are three observations from the loss. 

Missed Second Chances

It’s not everyday that a goal gets overturned. 

Fifty-one seconds into the first period, Harvard’s Jack Bar potted an early goal with no one at the point to stop him. Bar flung the puck from below the blue line, and while it nearly tipped off the post to goaltender Mitch Benson’s left side, the shot landed in the back of the net and gave the Crimson a 1–0 lead. 

Luckily for Benson, he got a second chance. 

After officials reviewed the play, they called too many Harvard men on the ice and overturned the goal. The contest stayed even with 19:09 left to play in the frame, and Benson could let out a sigh of relief. 

But Harvard continued to pester Benson, and the goaltender had little defensive help to stop the Crimson’s barrage of shots. There wasn’t a whole lot that Benson could have done, and he seemed to be the only one taking advantage of the fortunate call. 

Just over eight minutes after officials overturned the call, Hejduk notched the first goal of the game. And similar to the first play, nobody was out in front to block his shot.

Losing momentum through giving up first-period goals is a nightmare scenario for most hockey teams, and the Eagles were lucky that Harvard’s early goal was reversed, so as to lessen the damage. But it’s crucial for defenders to put their bodies on the line, and BC’s back line was caught playing sloppily. 

Even after earning a second chance, Benson didn’t get the protection he needed on Mejduk’s goal, which quickly led to a downward spiral and a 3–1 Crimson lead heading into the third period. 

Power Play Galore

The tempo of the first period—which was fast paced with very little stoppage time—dramatically flipped in the second period, as penalties started to break up the flow of the game. Officials didn’t call a single penalty during the first period, but called four in the second. 

Just over one minute into the second period, Lukas Gustafsson received a minor penalty for holding. With Harvard skating circles around the Eagles, the Crimson set up its power-play unit and looked daunting. 

Initially, Harvard’s Sean Farrell slid a cross-ice pass to his wing, where Matthew Coronato was waiting to retrieve the puck. Coronato re-directed the puck from outside the circle on a one-timer that squeaked past Benson to put Harvard up 2–0. 

But this was just the first of three power-play goals registered in the second frame alone, which made for a greuling period in which Benson got very little leisure time, meaning he was unable to reset after giving up a goal or making a save. 

But forward Mike Posma took over after Gustaffson’s penalty with a next man up mentality.

Just under six minutes into the second frame, Harvard’s Mason Langenbrunner received a penalty for goaltender interference after slamming hard into Benson. And the Eagles’ power play—which ranks 15th in the nation—finally converted. Posma tapped in his fourth goal of the season to cut BC’s deficit to one. But even still, that wasn’t all.

BC quickly received another power play after officials sent Coronato to the box for boarding just over 10 minutes into the period. But the Eagles were sloppy on the man advantage, and forward Colby Ambrosio made crucial mistakes on back-to-back undisciplined plays that practically let the Crimson knock in a third goal. The sequence was reminiscent of Gustaffson’s late penalty against Northeastern on Feb. 1, a game in which missed power-play opportunities also plagued the Eagles.

After mishandling the puck in front of Benson’s crease, Ambrosio made a no-look pass into the defensive zone without anybody there to pick it up. That is except for Harvard’s Farrell, who drew a hooking penalty on Ambrosio as he maneuvered his way to the net with the puck on his boardside handle. 

As one faulty mistake led to another, BC was quickly on a penalty kill—which ranks 52nd in the nation with a kill percentage of .761—just seconds after being on a power play, and Harvard’s Coronato wasted no time out of the box to net his second goal of the game and Harvard’s third. 

Cut(ter) Him Some Slack 

If there’s one moment from the game that BC fans are going to remember, it’s Cutter Gauthier’s shot from the high-left slot that tied the game 3–3 with just 1:31 left to play in the third period.   

It’s a moment that’ll be etched into the history books of BC hockey, just like Gauthier’s first collegiate goal on Oct. 18, his four-point game against Boston University on Dec. 9, and his goal against UMass that propelled the Eagles to victory at Frozen Fenway on Jan. 7.  

But what was more spectacular about the goal was that Gauthier was in somewhat of a slump heading into the first Beanpot game of his hockey career. 

In the seven games prior to Monday, Gauthier recorded just two goals and five total points. In comparison to the seven games prior to that—in which Gauthier recorded six goals and 10 total points—his most recent stretch of hockey ahead of the Beanpot hadn’t been the rookie’s best.

But things turned around for Gauthier with his late goal, which brought back life into the packed BC student section filling the Garden with noise.

“It’s a streaky thing,” BC head coach Greg Brown said of being a scorer. “Sometimes you’re only getting one chance and it goes in and sometimes you get five chances and they don’t go in. So, as long as [Gauthier] keeps playing the right way, keeps being detailed, keeps being prepared, I think the shots will start to go in again.”

And it did. For Gauthier, the shot went in right when it mattered the most.

February 7, 2023