Matt Grzelcyk Leads Terriers to Beanpot Title
BU captain and Charlestown native Matt Grzelcyk was sidelined with a shoulder injury during the 2014 Beanpot. He made up for the lost time Monday night.
The Terriers captain scored twice, the more memorable of the pair coming 51 seconds into overtime to give BU the 4-3 win against Northeastern and their first Beanpot title since 2009.
“It’s obviously a childhood dream [to win the Beanpot], growing up close to the Garden and my dad working here and stuff,” said Grzelcyk, whose father worked in the ‘Bull Gang’, a group responsible for setting up the TD Garden for events. “It still hasn’t really set in.”
For the BU mens hockey team, the Beanpot win is another check mark in a redemption season from 2013-14, when they went an un-Terrier-like 10-21-4. The Terriers notched their 20th win of the season Monday night while erasing a five-year drought atop the four-team tournament, their longest in 49 years. David Quinn’s group needs just one point to clinch the top seed in the Hockey East tournament for the first time since 2009.
Quinn — whose roster features 12 players who are either freshmen or sophomores — attributes the turnaround to the leadership of his veterans.
“I can’t talk enough about our two seniors [Evan Rodrigues and Cason Hohmann] and our captain [Grzelcyk],” said Quinn. “After what we went through last year as a group and the season we had, to come back in the fashion that we have, without question has everything to do with [Rodrigues, Grzelcyk] and Cason Hohmann.”
The night got out to a quick start. The two teams traded goals, with the Terriers opening the scoring on Mike Moran’s fourth goal of the season 2:19 into the game. The Huskies responded 28 seconds later when John Stevens tied the score on a feed from Garre Cockerill. It was the lone blemish of the first 20 minutes for Matt O’Connor, who made 14 saves in the opening period.
“Kind of a flat first period for us,” said Quinn. “But give Northeastern credit, I thought they came out with a little extra juice in their game, a little extra step in their game. I thought coming out of it 1-1, we were a little bit fortunate.”
The Terriers fared better in the middle period, taking the lead at 5:31 of the frame, when Robbie Baillargeon put home the rebound of a Hohmann shot. It was Baillargeon’s second goal of the year, his first since the season opener against UMass. Picking up assists on the goal were his linemates Ahti Oksanen and Hohmann. Since being assembled on Jan. 10 against Wisconsin, the threesome have scored a combined 14 goals and 32 points in 12 games.
For the second goal of the middle 20, it was the third line’s turn. Winning the battle on the wall, Matt Lane kicked the puck out to Nikolas Olsson, who dished the rubber to Grzelcyk at the left point, who buried his initial goal of the night with 5:42 to play in the second.
A breakdown in the middle of the third period led to two goals for Northeastern in a 1:35 span. Kevin Roy, never to go quiet in the Beanpot, stickhandled through a gap between Grzelcyk and Jack Eichel before putting a wrist shot past O’Connor. Dustin Darou, the hero from the semi-final game against BC, buried the loose puck in a net-front scrum to tie the score.
The sequence set up the overtime period and epic finish at the Garden. This time, it was the first line’s turn.
“As soon as [Northeastern] scored the third goal, we looked at each other and said this was our time,” said Rodrigues, who skates alongside Eichel and Danny O’Regan to assemble that nation’s best first line.
Winning the faceoff to begin the period, Eichel took the puck down the right side before throwing the puck toward O’Regan, streaking down the slot. The pass didn’t connect, but O’Regan drew a hooking penalty against Northeastern’s Matt Benning nine seconds into the period.
With the Terriers on the powerplay — a unit that had converted just one of its 16 previous chances — Eichel won the battle off the half-wall. Rodrigues collected the loose puck. Like Olsson two periods before, Rodrigues spotted his captain at the point. Same play, same result and the Terriers were Beanpot champs once again.
“I saw [Oksanen] on the boards and I knew we were going to win that battle,” said Rodrigues. “I took a peak over and I saw [Grzelcyk] waiting there, so I knew if I got a play on the puck I was just shooting it over.”
Grzelcyk, a junior defenseman, played just 19 games in 2013-14 as a sophomore, his season ended in January with a shoulder injury. He was voted a captain by his teammates in the offseason, and now has 25 points (7-18-25) in 31 games.
“He sets such a great example, he’s as likable a kid as you’ll ever meet,” said Quinn. You add all that up, you’ve got a guy all his teammates have an awful lot of respect for, his coaching staff has an awful lot of respect for, trainers, the equipment people, people around campus, that’s what makes him a great leader.”
Quinn has been placed with the arduous task of replacing a legend, taking over for Jack Parker after the longtime BU coach retired following the 2012-13 season. The 48-year-old coach had won two Beanpots as a player (1986-87) before winning four in five seasons as Parker’s assistant from 2004-09. This one was his first as a head coach.
“I haven’t really thought about it,” said Quinn on winning his first Beanpot as the Terriers bench boss. “Just to see the way these guys enjoyed the victory and how much it meant to them and how much they put into it. I was just standing there watching them and just feeling so good for our players, and particular our senior, because they’ve been through a lot.”