This Morning in Sports: To Witness History

 

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Photo by Gabi Turi

By: Max Wolpoff

Tuesday night marked the first time I had ever attended a BU Women’s hockey game as simply a fan. I had no responsibilities to write, produce, broadcast, or photograph any of the 41st Women’s Beanpot at Harvard. I simply wanted to watch. As a fan.

Wandering Bright-Landry Hockey Center for the minutes before puck drop, I ran into an assortment of parents and relatives of players that I came to know over my three years covering BU’s team in varying capacities. Spend three years of weekends following around one hockey team and it is easy to spot the same kid in a flashy suit with a headset on.

The parents I got to know the best over that time were Arthur and Jill Davis, parents of Terrier captain Sammy. As ususal, Mr. Davis had his customized jersey with the family name and the No. 16 on the back. It was good to catch up with them before the game started.

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Photo by Gabi Turi

Let me travel back in time for a few paragraphs and take you back to Feb. 2, 2016. BU enters the Beanpot semifinal on home ice on a three-game winning streak to challenge Northeastern, ranked No. 5 in the nation coming into the matchup. This year marked the last year of Kendall Coyne’s illustrious time at Northeastern. She tallied twice in the game, her second goal serving as cushion enough as the Huskies staved off a late rally to win and enter the final round.

I was part of the WTBU Sports coverage for that tournament, but not on the main event. It was television color commentary for the undercard game between eventual-champion Boston College and Harvard. I had a lot of dues to pay before I saw action with the big game. BU proceeded to lose the consolation game to the Crimson.

Fast-forward to Jan. 31, 2017 and I am now a writer for BU News Service sitting amid a crowded row of writers at Matthews Arena. With three minutes left to play against Boston College, Caitrin Lonergan scores the game-winner to send BU back to the undercard. At this point, it was a question of “will they ever win again?” with this tournament. Five straight years they lose in the semifinals and get stuck playing for a trophy-less prize. At the “any last questions?” prompting, I opted to be frank with BU head coach Brian Durocher: are you tired of playing the consolation game?

He chuckled, praised it as “an honest question,” and basically said yes, he was. BU proceeded to tie, 6-6, with Harvard the next week, a game that only sticks in my brain because each team scored goals equivalent to the period number (one in the first, two in the second, three in the third).

Now zoom ahead to Feb. 13, 2018. With a class taking up my Tuesday evenings so that I am unable to work the Beanpot at Chestnut Hill, I am lying awake in bed nearing the midnight hour, glued to my phone playing the WTBU call of what many writers called the best Women’s hockey game of 2018. Victoria Bach was in the midst of the best season of her BU career, Corrine Schroeder played amazing in net; this had to be the year.

BU took a late penalty to send BC on the advantage. I still remember hearing Akshai Wadhwani and Brian Lombardo fall silent after Toni Ann Miano scored to give BC their third straight championship. The goal horn at Conte Forum echoes easily. I heard it again and again, thinking that was as close as BU would ever come to the Beanpot in my time here as a student.

Skip 364 days and we come to last night. Steady snowfall and icy glasses be dammned, I am going to Harvard to watch this game. Two friends, Andrew Mason and Daniel Multz, joined me in the heart of the Harvard section of fans to watch the game. We screamed, we chanted, and we celebrated.

Following my first-ever taste of TD Garden broadcasting to watch Northeastern win an overtime decision over the Men’s hockey team, I finally fulfilled a goal to broadcast this tournament. That said, BU lost, and I was done with my duties for the tournaments.

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From left to right: Denny Hackett, Brian Lombardo, Matt Dresens, Max Wolpoff at TD Garden

Across town, and again thanks to a class on Tuesday leading right up to the game, I could only watch and listen as BU went back to the final on a shootout win over a top-five team in the country. Everything else in my life could wait for one night. I needed to be at this game.

Full credit to Boston University and the fans in Allston that night. Our band was louder, our fans were louder, and it somehow felt like a home game at Walter Brown Arena instead of a Tuesday night game miles away. Student-athletes from softball, soccer, and club hockey that I could spot came out in force to join the legions who braved the weather. It took until overtime for the Harvard students to find their voices and get into the game. BU was ready before the puck dropped.

A special game unfolded that Tuesday in Allston. Hunting for their first Beanpot since 1981, BU arrived in their scarlet road uniforms. Looking to keep their home-ice magic in this tournament and win an eighth Beanpot as the hosts, Harvard entered in their home whites.

Within 70 seconds of each other, the Terriers and Crimson traded power-play goals in the first period. Harvard got their only lead of the night five minutes into the middle frame after video review upheld the goal, only to see it evaporate with a crazy moment in front of Lindsay Reed that somehow saw Natasza Tarnowski score.

Reed stopped 51 shots for a tournament total of 103 saves. She deserved the Bertagna Trophy for best goaltender of the tournament. Tarnowski’s goal was one of the few times she did not cover the loose puck after it bounced off her padding.

To watch Schroeder make three mammoth stops in short sequence is to watch poetry in motion, each save better than the last to keep overtime moving. Of all the things for Harvard to finally get nailed with, a roughing call on their captain, Lexie Laing, when she knocked a Terrier down after the whistle was pretty low on a list of likely outcomes.

Jesse Compher, who was on the ice for the Miano goal last year, slid a perfect crease-length pass to Davis for the final shot. Time halted, if only briefly, to understand the gravity of what just happened. Sammy Davis, injured and unable to play all of last season, secured hockey immoratality in triggering a celebration decades in the making. And celebrate, we did.

Gloves, sticks, and helmets crashed to the Harvard ice as the players hounded Davis along the glass behind the netting she just scored on to end a 3-2 game in favor of the visitors from Boston. The band fired up more tunes, the traveling students chanted “we’re not leaving,” and the captains hoisted the Beanpot Trophy with the senior class.

Everybody had to get their picture with the hardware. It marks the first trophy of any sort won by the team since winning the Hockey East title in 2015, before any of the current players were on the team. My favorite image of the night remains watching Arthur Davis call over the tournament MVP to get a picture of his daughter holding the Beanpot. Then she turned to find another photographer rushing over to capture the moment. The two posed, separated by only the protective glass, for a snapshot of greatness.

I understand the impulse to look immediately ahead to Saturday afternoon’s game against New Hampshire. The mid-season trophy is great, but there are still important Hockey East standings points up for grabs to secure home-ice advantage for the quarter-final series. For one night, though, it is worthwhile to enjoy and bask in victory.

Think again on the long road to get to this exact moment. 38 years it took following their first taste from the chalice. 364 days following a loss to the dreaded Eagles. A year of recovery for Sammy Davis. To witness history is to see the intersection of many great stories rising at once to elite status. To see Sammy and Arthur Davis pose for a picture the two have waited on for four years is to understand how much this tournament means to the warriors who fight for it every year. Tonight, Boston University reigns as the best women’s hockey team in Boston. They will hold that title until someone takes it from them.

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Photo by Gabi Turi

Author: Max Wolpoff

Max is in his final undergraduate year, and prefers not to be remembered for his now-infamous viral goal call (https://russianmachineneverbreaks.com/2016/12/12/boston-university-hockey-announcer-channels-john-walton-to-deliver-viral-goal-call/). Between classes, applying for law school, and working for the Worcester Blades, he co-hosts “Scarlet and White” and writes the “This Morning in Sports” column. Max is from the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. Follow Max on Twitter @Max_Wolpoff and on Instagram @maxwolpoff for the latest #MaxWolpoffSuitOfTheGame.

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