Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Back on the ice; Remembering the Arena Christmas Tournament

World Junior Championships

Team USA won its first preliminary round game, defeating Latvia, 5-2, with three third-period tallies. Lane Huston did not have any points. The U.S. takes on Slovakia on Wednesday in a 5 p.m. ET start. NHL Network will air the game.


Author Brian Shaugnessy's new book “Frozen in Time: A History of the U.S. Men’s College Hockey Championship,” explores the 75 years of the NCAA Men's Ice Hockey Championships. 

The cover photo features BU All-American Shawn McEachern in the 1991 title game against Northern Michigan, won by the Wildcats, 8-7, in a triple overtime thriller.

100 percent of the book's sales will benefit the non-profit Matt Brown Foundation, which provides equipment and other assistance to individuals living with serious spinal cord injuries. 

USCHO.com Retrospective look at 75-year history of men’s NCAA college hockey tournament a book all fans need in collection

Looking back to the Boston Arena Christmas Tournament

For 17 seasons between 1953 and 1970, the Boston Arena Christmas Tournament was played  between Christmas and New Year's in what is now Matthews Arena. BU hosted or co-hosted the tournament each season; Northeastern eventually became a co-host. 

In the early years, there were between six and nine teams participating in the round-robin tournament, including Canadian schools like Dalhousie and McGill and Western teams including Michigan State, Colorado College, Michigan and Michigan Tech. Beginning in 1961, there were just four participants with each playing three games on consecutive days.

The Terriers were the only team to play in all 17 BACT events and own the most tournament titles, six, including a co-title in 1966.

BU’s only title in the 1950s came in 1957 when the team’s captains were Bob Dupuis and Sarge Kinlin. Jack Kelley's Terriers would claim the title in the final four seasons, including wins over Providence and Notre Dame in the 1970 event, en route to the Terriers’ first national championship three months later.

The most famous of the BACT events came in 1966 when undefeated BU and undefeated Cornell played for the title after each had beaten both Harvard and Northeastern.

[An except from our previously posted “Red Hot Hockey Since 1925” Terrier Tale in the sidebar.]

Dec. 30, 1966— Boston Arena—BU played two three-game tournaments in December 1966. A week after sweeping Princeton, Minnesota and Clarkson at the Holiday Festival at Madison Square Garden, the Terriers skated on their home ice, Boston Arena, in the Arena Christmas Tournament
They beat Harvard and Northeastern to improve to a 12-0 record and a #1 ranking. Meanwhile, Cornell dispatched the same two teams and was also undefeated at 11-0 and ranked #2, setting up what is considered one of the greatest college hockey games ever played.

Both squads were far from fresh as they were about to play for the third time in as many days before a capacity crowd of 5,450. The officials for the game were Giles Threadgold and Bill Cleary, later coach and athletic director at Harvard.

According to the Ithaca Journal, “Cornell had a wide edge in territorial play in a penalty-marred first period, but the Terriers capitalized on their opportunities and thwarted the Big Red's power plays.”

All three first-period goals came on power plays. Cornell drew first blood just 2:13 into the game. With two Terriers in the penalty box, Harry Orr took a pass from Mike Doran and beat goalie Wayne Ryan.

BU senior Jim Quinn scored the equalizer four minutes later, converting a feed from Fred Bassi. Then, with half a minute left in the period and BU up two men, a Brian Gilmour slapper whizzed past Cornell goalie Ken Dryden for a 2-1 Terrier lead.

Cornell regained the lead early in the second on a pair of goals by Bob Ferguson and Skip Stanowski. Ryan got a glove on both shots but couldn’t keep them out of the net. Play raged up and down the ice throughout the period with 33 shots taken, but no further goals.

The pattern continued well into the third period with Dryden keeping BU’s high-scoring ”Pinball Line” of Herb Wakabayashi, Mickey Gray and Serge Boily off the scoresheet. Finally, in the latter part of the period, BU got the tying goal from an unlikely source, sophomore defenseman Darrell Abbott.

“I think there were about 3 or 4 minutes left in the third period and we were losing 3-2 when either Pete McLachlan or Brian Gilmour—our two veteran, all-star defensemen—got a penalty, and the other, shortly before that penalty, had been injured,” Abbott recalls. “Coach Kelley had no choice but to put the two rookies—Billy Hinch and me--out together. It was the first time Billy and I had played together as a pair so I'm sure Coach was more than a little concerned.

“Cornell dumped the puck into our end in the process of making a slow line change. Billy set up in front, while I picked up the puck behind our net, fully expecting to look up and ice it, seeing as how we were a man short.

“But when I looked up there was only one Cornell player standing at center ice and the others were just coming over the boards. With no pressure I began to skate up ice only to realize that I could beat this guy. At this point everything happened so fast. There I was, going in on a partial breakaway and, contrary to all logic, I roofed a backhander into the net over Dryden’s shoulder on the short side to tie the game.”

The game went to a 10-minute overtime and, the Ithaca Journal reported, “Cornell had the edge in the first three minutes of the first overtime with Ryan making a sensational save on Doran from in close, but BU outskated the Big Red during the last seven minutes. Dryden had brilliant saves on Boily and Bill Hinch late in the period.”

The two coaches agreed to play one more overtime period, but neither of the weary teams mounted much of an attack in the second overtime and the teams were declared tournament co-champions. Goalies Ryan (32 saves) and Dryden (40 saves) shared the MVP award.

Abbott added that “It was the first game that my Father had attended at BU so it was even more special for me. He was sitting in the first row of the balcony, right above our bench. Of course having seen the success that Ken had subsequent to his days at Cornell, I feel I was very fortunate to have scored at all, but it is amazing how many people remember that goal even to this day. I was especially honored by the fact that Ken still remembered me years later, even after all the Stanley Cups and the Russian experiences. His comment to me was ‘I always remember the big ones’.”

Wikipedia History of the BACT

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