Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Game That Never Was

The Game That Never Was

By David Warner, BU ‘73

On December 13 1972, there was the game that never was.

There have been many memorable games played between Cornell and Boston University. The 1972-73 team included six seniors (Larry Abbott, Ray Cournoyea, Steve Dolloff, Mike LeGarde, David Warner, David Wisener) who were a part of the 1971 and/or the 1972 NCAA championship squads. In December 1971, we were edged by Cornell, 3-2, at the Syracuse Holiday Tournament final as the Big Red avenged the previous season’s 6-5 ECAC consolation game loss, which put BU into the 1971 NCAA tournament. Later, Cornell came into our new Walter Brown arena for the season finale and beat us again, 3-2, for our only home defeat that season. That win earned Cornell the top seed in the upcoming ECAC tournament at Boston Garden.

Going into the 1972 ECAC tournament, we had only lost four games all year, two of those to Cornell. Everything that was to happen from here on out was magical and would impact hockey at BU for the next 35 years.

Those two losses were enough for us to remember and, as a group, rise up and smother Cornell, 4-1, in the ECAC final and shut them out 4-0 in the NCAA championship game. The 1971-72 BU team was like no other. There was a confident locker room attitude that carried out to the ice surface. This team was explosive on offense and stingy on defense. There were 18 players that had been on both NCAA teams. It might just have been the greatest collegiate team ever assembled. Editor’s note: Coach Jack Kelley said of the ’71-72 team, “I always felt this group could win any game when they put their minds to it.”

The 1972-73 team found itself minus a staggering nine letterman lost to graduation and four other key players who turned pro before their senior years. Ric Jordan and Bob Brown followed Coach Jack Kelley to the new WHA New England Whalers organization, Ron Anderson signed with the Bruins; AHL team and Bill Flynn went to the International League.

Still, things were not really that bad because the sophomore class was as good as or better than graduated letterman when they were sophomores. They were a scoring machine. Paul O’Neil would score 35 goals in 28 games, while Vic Stanfield and Bill Burlington would end up All-Americans the following season. Freshman Peter Brown would become an All-American in his senior year. All totaled, the 71-72 and 72-73 teams had eight current or future All-Americans: John Danby, Dan Brady, Steve Dolloff, Ed Walsh and Bob Brown are the others.

On December 13th, we traveled to Cornell’s Lynah arena with a 6-1 record and a number one national ranking. There, we handed Cornell its worst home defeat in school history: a 9-0 drubbing. While it was a solid team effort, one Terrier stood out with three goals, sophomore Dick Decloe. The hattrick gave him nine goals in eight games and it looked like he might have All-American credentials in his future, too. But the matter of a $189.33 school tax and the actions of then Cornell AD John Anderson paved the way for what became known as “L’affair Decloe.”

While Decloe, a tall lanky winger, played junior hockey in Ontario, his Jr. A team had paid a provincial school tax on Dick’s behalf, unbeknownst to Decloe and his family. This was considered an unauthorized educational expense that would make the recipient a professional and ineligible to play college hockey. Tom Burke of The Hockey News commented “How many preppies get their expenses paid to some of the prep schools by the colleges they eventually attend?” Imagine nowadays, we have the $40,000 a year student-athlete who leaves after a year or two for a multimillion-dollar NHL contract.

One of Cornell’s players, a teammate of Decloe in Ontario, had previously been declared ineligible. Anderson and Coach Dick Bertrand conveyed the similarity of Decloe’s situation to the ECAC, ostensibly to rectify their own player’s situation. Or maybe just maybe it was those three straight losses to BU by a combined 17-1 score that pushed their buttons!!

BU’s Athletic Director Warren Schmakel reacted angrily to the Cornell actions. “I’m disappointed that Cornell didn’t contact me directly,” he said. “I don’t think they should have gone to the ECAC.” He added that he couldn’t understand why Cornell didn’t directly fight the earlier decision instead of using Decloe as a “lever” to have that decision reverse, according to The Daily Free Press.

Declared ineligible, Dick left school and returned to Toronto where he would win a Memorial Cup with the Howe brothers. Editor’s Note: Decloe later represented Holland in the same 1980 Winter Olympics in which four Terriers led the U.S.A. to its miracle gold medal.

To the six seniors, the 9-0 blowout in Ithaca became “The Game That Never Was!” The Terriers had to forfeit eleven wins. Our record went from an 11-4 to a 0-15, from national ranking to the bottom of the pile.

I suppose the seniors could have looked at our championship rings and kissed off the season. No one would have blamed us, but we decided that the “sweaty-palmed men who run the ECAC” (according to the Boston Globe’s Mike Lupica) would not deter us while we were on the ice. Four things were written on the dressing room chalkboard: Beanpot, ECAC, Cornell and the NCAA. These things were our goals! For the next 12 games, we were undefeated with an 11-0-1 mark, the best streak in the country. That run included a 4-1 victory against BC for the Beanpot championship, the third in a row for the seniors.

Before our final regular season game, the ECAC playoff seedings were announced. We were seeded fourth instead of number one, a distinction that went to Cornell. In a lackluster performance, we lost that game in Providence, 3-0. Still, we were on to the playoffs for a home game against Penn.

Perhaps we had our sights on Cornell or maybe we peaked too early having to win virtually every one of our last games just to get home ice. Or perhaps the fired up Penn team wanted to win this one for their coach, Bob Crocker. Ironically, Crocker, a BU grad and former frosh coach, had been passed over for the BU varsity job in favor or Leon Abbott when Jack Kelley left for the pros. Many of the players agreed that we had looked past Penn and only saw Cornell.

I think all of us wanted, at the least, to hip check a Big Red into the stands at Boston Garden in the ECAC final game.

Oh, I did mention earlier that it was magical time and that the “Decloe affair” would impact BU hockey for the next 35 years? Cornell set off a chain of events that isn’t talked about much. We were forced to win all those games and peaked far too early. Coach Leon Abbott lost a third ECAC quarterfinal game (the previous two, by 11-0 and 8-2 scores, were against BU while he coached RPI). Then six games into the following season, Abbott was dismissed by BU. Maybe it had to do with quarterfinal losses or recruitment procedures; no one will say. The reins were handed to Jack Parker and, as they say, the rest is history.

As for me and my fellow 72-73 senior teammates, we wish that we’d had that one last chance at Cornell. But we can look at and polish our NCAA championship rings, knowing that BU has won two more NCAA championships since then and has reached the title game three more times. The talk in Boston for many years was about the “curse of the bambino”. Just think, Cornell has not been to an NCAA final game since losing to BU, 4-0, in 1972. Maybe that is “the curse of Dick Decloe.”

GO BU!!!!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Looking back: Five rings

People continue to speculate as to where this season's team ranks amongst the other four NCAA Title winners. Each teams commends itself for various reasons. I tend to be partial in terms of the first two title winners as I am most familiar with the dynamics of those two squads. I make no judgments, but set forth some of the key points regarding all of the teams. One interesting dynamic is that each of the five teams had quality offense, solid defense, good goaltending and the many solid workmanlike players whose efforts may not have been reflected on score sheets but were valuable throughout the season.

The 1970-71 team was our first to win it all and only the 5th Eastern team to do so in the first 24 years of final four play. The team was dominant offensively scoring 210 goals while allowing but 60 in 31 games. The power play boasted an astonishing 40.2% success rate. 9 players hit double digits in goal scoring (John Danby 28, Steve Stirling 27, Toot Cahoon 24, Bob Gryp 20, Ron Anderson 20, Bob Brown 17, Wayne Gowing 16, Steve Dolloff 15, and Ric Jordan 12). 50 point scorers included Stirling 70, Danby 64, Brown 60 and Jordan 50. Team boasted solid defense. Goalies Dan Brady and Tim Regan each put up 3 shutouts and as the team averaged 6.60 goals per game while allowing 1.91. The squad was 24-1-1 in the regular season but was upset in the semifinals of the ECAC by Harvard. Winning a hard fought consolation game over Cornell boosted the record to 26-2-1 and the selection committee picked the team to be the #2 eastern seed for the final four. The team justified the selection beating Denver and Minnesota, both by 4-2 scores, to win that first title.

The 1971-72 team was the first team to play in the Walter Brown Arena and became the first and to date only Eastern team to win back to back NCAA titles. It put up 155 goals (4.85 per game) while allowing 69 (2.16 per game). Danby and Brown each scored 50 points while Danby led 7 double digit goal scorers with 26. After losing the regular season title to Cornell in the last game of the year. It was totally dominant in the 5 games of the post season beating RPI (8-2), Harvard (3-1) and Cornell (4-1) to give BU it's first League tournament title ending many years of frustration in that tournament. The team won the NCAA in spite of losing 2 regulars (Goalie Dan Brady and defenseman Bob Murray) to injury. Tim Regan who had spent most of the season with the silver medal winning US Olympic team literally came off the bench to backstop the title pitching a shutout 4-0 over Cornell in the NCAA Championship game to win Most Outstanding Player honors. Danby had as good a post-season as anyone has had for BU, scoring 8 goals and 5 assists in 5 games, including the hat trick in the 3-1 ECAC semifinal win over Harvard and the hat trick in the 4-1 NCAA semifinal win over Wisconsin.

The 1977-78 team dominated much like the 1970-71 team but like that team was unable to get past the league semifinal tournament game losing to Providence 5-1. After winning the consolation game over Brown the team was 27-2 and the NCAA Selection committee determined that a qualifying game would be played between BU and Providence in Providence to determine the ECAC #2 team who would join tournament champion BC in the final four. BU prevailed 5-3 over PC at Schneider Arena and returned to Providence Civic Center for the NCAA where they beat defending champion Wisconsin 5-2 and BC in the title game 5-3. This team boasts the highest winning percentage of a BU team (.937) and Mark Fidler (30) led 8 goal scorers in double digits with Dave Silk (27) and John Bethel (25) joining him in the 20 goal club. Team scored 199 goals (average 6.13) while allowing 127 (average 3.92). Terriers converted 32% on the power play. Like its predecessors the team had solid goaltending with Jim Craig and Brian Durocher and had solid defensemen as well as those would could score from the blueline. 50 point scorers included Fidler (64), Bethel (63), Dick Lamby (59), Silk (58) and Jack O'Callahan (55). BU teams of the 1970's dominated the ECAC and won three NCAA crowns.

The 1994-95 team ended a 17 year drought along with 4 years of final four frustration in the 1990's when it beat Minnesota 7-3 in the semifinal and Maine 6-2 in the title game . The team also had the honor of winning the final Beanpot and final college game played in Boston Garden (HE Final) before the building was torn down to be replaced by the present building. The team was loaded in terms of scoring distributed over 4 lines. 10 players hit double digits in goals: Jacques Joubert 29, Mike Grier 29, Chris O'Sullivan 23, Shawn Bates 18, Mike Prendergast 17, Steve Thornton 17, Bob Lachance 12, Chris Drury 12, Ken Rausch 12, and Mike Sylvia 10. 50 point scorers were O'Sullivan 56, Grier 55, and Joubert 52. Team had seven solid defensemen maybe the most depth ever at that position. Team scored 224 goals (5.60 average) while allowing 117 (2.93). Tom Noble and Derek Herlofsky provided solid tandem goaltending much the same as its predecessor title teams. The team tied for the league regular season title but was seeded second in the quarterfinal round.

The 2008-2009 team, however, accomplished something that sets it apart from the others: win the league regular season title outright, win the Beanpot, win the League tournament, and win the NCAA. Like its counterparts the team was solid in all phases, had offensive defensemen, defensive defensemen, and role players who could transition seamlessly as needed. The team recorded the most wins in school history with a 35-6-4 record. The team consistently came up large when needed in the post season (putting the health of some of us older folks at risk) beating BC 3-2, Lowell 1-0 in the HE Title game. UNH 2-1 in the regional final inside the last 20 seconds, Vermont in come from behind fashion in the NCAA semifinal and, of course, the incredible win in the title game.

There are differences between the teams. For example, in 1970-71 and 1971-72 you could not check in the offensive zone. Freshmen were not eligible and we only began to play four lines in the regular season finale against Cornell and in the ECAC and NCAA tournaments. Today you have four lines and six defensemen.

I think also that the top flight players of one era could play in other eras as well because they brought superb skills to the table whether it be scoring, playmaking, defense or goaltending.All 5 teams had players beyond the acknowledged stars who complimented and filled out the squad.

It may be harder to get to the Frozen Four these days but for a long time you had to be #1 or#2 in the league tournament to make it. Teams like Vermont this year would not have made it to the NCAA after having been ousted in the quarterfinal of their league tournament.I think it's fair to say that there are more schools playing the game and thus greater distribution of talent.

I can also say that the NCAA Title and Frozen Four was not promoted in the way it is today. The Frozen Four while in the shadow of March madness nevertheless is on a National stage. It has reached a magnitude that was not there in 1971 and 1972. When we won in 1971 it was a fairly small celebration in the hotel in Syracuse. The next day we rode the bus home, went to the Dugout and Jimmy O'Keefe closed it to all but the team and we had a great time. In 1972 the security at the Sonesta herded people into their rooms at some point ending the revelry although others went to the Dugout.

The 1995 game was played at noon time and I recall the team heading back to Boston on the bus. The team was recognized by the Governor and Mayor Menino.

I have never seen a display of fan support and enthusiasm that I saw at the team hotel following the Miami game. The band, students cheering, alumni, parents and team all mingled enjoying what had just transpired. The parade was an amazing turnout and even at the banquet the lines seeking autographs stretched beyond the confines of the Sherman Union.

To the student fans who are leaving, you can always support the team whether near or far. We all go through establishing careers and having families and as such our ability to support the team may not be in the manner in which we would like. However when you reach my age (and don't rush it) and the children are grown and you have found some stability it is a great thing especially if you live close by and are able to take advantage of the chance to be at the games. I will never forget the organized cheering and chants at the Frozen Four both at the arena and then at the Hotel.

The five NCAA title-winning teams have a special place in the program's history because they each attained the ultimate goal. They each deserve the accolades of our fan base. But we should always remember that each and every team owes so much to those who came before who worked hard to put each of these teams into position where they could reach the lofty heights.

Finally let's not forget the Coaches, Jack Kelley and Jack Parker, who have placed their brands on the program. The wisdom and stability that each brought to BU hockey, and the contributions of fine assistants over the years have played a huge part in the success BU has enjoyed

Sunday, May 10, 2009

2007-2008 Video Highlights

Nov. 24--BU 6 Cornell 3 (at Madison Square Garden)
Dec. 3o--BU 5 Merrimack 2
Feb. 15--BU 2 Maine 1 OT
Feb. 16--BU 1 Maine 0 OT
Feb. 23--BU 3 Northeastern 2
Feb. 29--BU 3 Massachusetts 0
Mar.7--BU 2 Providence 0
Mar. 16--BU 4 Lowell 2

Milestone goals and games

We're building a video clip library of memorable goals and games, beginning with a collection from blog contributor Sean Pickett. Check back periodically as new clips are acquired and added.
2-6-78: Beanpot Opener—BU thumps BC 12-5 as the Blizzard of '78 brings Boston to a standstill.
2-22-80: Miracle on IceFour Terriers, captain Mike Eruzione, Jim Craig, Jack O'Callahan and David Silk help lead Team USA for the Olympic upset of the ages. Eruzione's third-period goal is the game-winner and Craig bars the door to any Soviet comeback. Team USA wins, 4-3. Two days later, they win the gold medal.
2-9-87: Beanpot Championship—Mike Kelfer scores game-winner on a turnaround shot to beat Northeastern, 4-3 in overtime.
3-6-87: Mike Kelfer scores with one second left in regulation to beat Lowell, 3-2, at Walter Brown Arena.
2-6-89: Beanpot semifinal—Mike Sullivan scores shorthanded to tie Northeastern with 3:00 minutes remaining. Chris Lappin scores his second career goal in overtime for a 5-4 win.
3-24-90: NCAA Quarterfinals— Third-period goals by Mike Sullivan and Tony Amonte lead BU past Michigan State, 3-2, tying the best-of-three series.
3-25-90: NCAA Quarterfinals—Down 3-1 in the second, BU scores four times to eliminate the Spartans, 5-3 and move on to the Frozen Four.
3-10-91: Hockey East Championship—Shawn McEachern scores take a Tony Amonte pass beats Garth Snow with a backhander to beat Maine in overtime, 4-3.
3-30-91: NCAA Championship game: Scott Lachance's lunging pass sets up David Sacco who knots the title game at 7-7 in the final minute of regulation, but BU would fall to Northern Michigan in 3OT by an 8-7 score.
11-15-91: Mike Prendergast scores a shorthanded, game-winning goal with 21 seconds left to beat Maine, 5-4, at Walter Brown Arena.
2-19-93: Mike Prendergast scores the game-winner in overtime at Alfond Arena as BU handed the Black Bears their only defeat of the season, 7-6.
12-31-94: Mariucci Classic Championship—Ken Rausch receives a beautiful pass from Chris Drury and scores the winner against the Minnesota Golden Gophers in overtime, 4-3.
4-1-95: NCAA Championship—Steve Thornton wins the face-off and scores the first goal of the game late in the first period. Mike Sylvia scores off of a slick Shawn Bates pass in the third period to make it 4-2 en route to the Terriers’ 6-2 win over Maine. Full-game highlights.
1-5-97: Mike Sylvia skates out from the corner and scores in overtime to beat New Hampshire, 3-2, at the Whittemore Center.
3-22-97: NCAA Regional Championship—Chris Drury converts the rebound of a Chris Kelleher shot in overtime to send “a few good men” to Milwaukee for the Frozen Four.
3-27-97: Terriers avenged their loss to the Michigan Wolverines in the previous year's Final Four, taking down the top seed in the NCAA semifinals, 3-2, on goals by Chris Heron, Tommi Degerman and Greg Quebec.
2-9-98: Beanpot Championship—Nick Gillis tips in Tom Poti’s shot from the face-off circle to win in overtime, beating Harvard, 2-1, for the Beanpot title.
2-1-99: Beanpot semifinal—Russ Bartlett dives to redirect Chris Heron’s pass into the net for the overtime winner as BU beat BC 3-2.
12-4-99 vs Massachusetts—Tommi Degerman scores with 17 seconds left in overtime to win it for the Terriers.
1-16-00: Dan Cavanaugh scores the game-tying goal against Maine (3-3) with 3:40 to play and climbs onto the dasher in front of Section 7 at Walter Brown Arena.
3-14-03: Hockey East semifinal—Against BC, Justin Maiser knocks down the puck with his stick, turns and fires it into the net for the game-tying goal with 3:22 to go in the third. Then, completing a hattrick, Maiser scores the game-winner in double overtime (6-5) to put the Terriers in the Hockey East championship for the first time since 1997.
3-6-04: David van der Gulik scores in overtime to beat New Hampshire, 4-3, in the final regular season game, leapfrogging BU over Northeastern into 8th place to qualify for the Hockey East Tournament.
12-3-04: Jack Parker’s 700th win—Brad Zancanaro scores the game-winner to beat BC 3-2.
1-2-05: Final game at Walter Brown— Memories of WBA; Minnesota edges the Terriers, 2-1.
1-3-05: First game at Agganis Arena— Travis Roy drops the first puck and Brad Zancanaro scores the first goal as BU beats Minnesota, 2-1.
2-7-05: Beanpot semifinal— John Laliberte scores twice to lead BU past BC, 2-1.
2-14-05: Beanpot Championship Bryan Miller scores BU's first goal; then his end-to-end rush in overtime sets up Chris Bourque's game-winner as the Terrier edge Northeastern, 3-2.
2-6-06: Beanpot semifinalChris Higgins scores highlight reel goal (#2 on ESPN) en route to 5-3 win against Harvard.
3-18-06: Hockey East Championship Game—Brandon Yip finishes a 3-on-2 rush in overtime to beat BC, 2-1, for BU’s first Hockey East title since 1997.
2-12-07: Beanpot Championship Brian McGuirk scores from a faceoff to give BU a 2-1 overtime win over BC for its 28th title.
4-1-09: NCAA Championship: "The D.C. Miracle." A pair of goals in the final minute of regulation by Zach Cohen and Nick Bonino bring BU back from a 3-1 deficit; then, Colby Cohen's deflected curveball in overtime makes the Terriers 4-3 winners and national champs for the fifth time. (Full game highlights)
1-8-10: Frozen Fenway: Wade Megan's second-period goal, batted out of the air, proves the game winner as BU bested BC, 3-2, at a sold-out Fenway Park in the teams' first-ever outdoor matchup.
3-17-13: Jack Parker's final game behind the bench at Agganis Arena is a 5-3 win over Merrimack in the quarterfinals sending the Terrier to the Hockey East semifinal