Harvard is no stranger to the Beanpot consolation game, having been there nine of the past 10 years. But the Crimson also know how much a win can mean - last year’s victory over Boston University started them on a 7-3 run that took them to the ECAC quarterfinals.
Harvard used that knowledge as motivation last night and took advantage of a slow-starting Northeastern team and won its second straight Beanpot consolation game, 3-2, at TD Garden.
“This game can be used as a springboard. Last year it emotionally gave us a lift and we’re looking for that again down the stretch,’’ said Harvard coach Ted Donato. “We wanted leave the game with a good feeling and establish how we were going to play as a team.’’
Neither team got off a shot in the first four minutes, but Harvard quickly picked up the intensity with 12 shots to Northeastern’s 6 in the first period - the Crimson outshot NU, 39-26 overall - and drew first blood.
Alex Killorn opened the scoring at 11:44, drawing goaltender Clay Witt out of the crease, then tucking the puck past Witt’s left foot.
Northeastern came out stronger to start the second period and tied the score at 4:07. Robbie Vrolyk took a wrist shot from the right point that bounced off goaltender Steve Michalek’s blocker and into the net.
The Crimson regained the lead at 18:13 when Alex Fallstrom fired a shot from the left circle over Witt’s shoulder.
Luke Greiner padded the lead with a shorthanded goal with 6:16 remaining in the game. He intercepted the puck at the blue line and blasted a shot five-hole from the right point.
That cushion proved necessary, and saved Harvard from an NCAA-record 11th tie, as the Huskies climbed back within one goal just 23 seconds later with a power-play goal from Luke Eibler that bounced off Michalek’s glove.
Fallstrom’s second-period goal was his first in three Beanpots, thus his first at TD Garden. The Minnesota Wild draftee (fourth round, 116th overall in 2009), whose rights were traded to the Bruins, is looking forward to many more games on the Garden ice. “It was kind of a broken play in our zone,’’ Fallstrom said of the goal. “I came cutting across the middle and [Tommy O’Regan] hit me with a low pass and I fired it low post. It was great scoring and hopefully one of many at the Garden.’’ . . . In the 261 minutes Harvard has spent serving 106 penalties, the Crimson did not have a shorthanded goal entering the game. Greiner changed that with his third-period strike, which was also the winning goal.
BC received some extra inspiration against BU before its 3-2 overtime win in the title game.
Former Red Sox manager Terry Francona visited the Eagles for a pep talk recently, as did former BC captain Brian Gionta, now the captain of the Montreal Canadiens.
“[Francona] was talking about how important the energy level is,’’ said BC coach Jerry York. “He used Dustin Pedroia as an example. He just lights up the dressing room when he comes in. [He’s] more competitive, you need those types of people. That has helped us understand we have to have energy every day in practice. For a hockey team to be at the top of its game, it has to have a tremendous amount of energy. He kind of stressed that and we’ve kind of taken that and run with it.’’
York said it’s too bad Pedroia didn’t lace them up.
“A scrappy little guy,’’ said York. “He’d have been great for us.’’
Gionta drove down from Montreal to see BC’s game at Vermont Friday night.
“He’s out with a biceps injury,’’ said York. “It was good to see him. He came into the locker room and talked to us and that’s always neat when they can do that.’’
BC has won five in a row, and York said he is pleased with his team’s recent play.
“We’ve shown a lot of improvement as the season has progressed,’’ he said. “But there is still really room for growth on our team and that’s what I like the most about it. We are playing better with the puck, without the puck, our goaltending is better. But there is still that nice push that we can make to even get better at it. I’m really pleased with how our team has evolved.’’