By Trish Bradle, Special to HockeyEastOnline.com
With a shorthanded goal at 11:06 of the second period, Boston University rookie sensation Clayton Keller (Swansea, Ill.) helped his Terriers clinch a spot in the 65th annual Beanpot championship game in his first year in the illustrious tournament.
The scarlet and white are set to face off with the Harvard Crimson for Boston bragging rights, Monday, February 13 at TD Garden beginning at 7:30 p.m.
With his team-leading 14th tally on the year, Keller extended his point streak to a league-best 15 games, the longest such streak for a Terrier since Jay Pandolfo matched the number in 1995-96.
"It's pretty cool, but something I'm not worried about," Keller said, who notched 25 points on 11 goals and 14 assists during his streak. "The most important thing for me and my team is the next game. I'm not really paying attention to it."
Playing in high-stakes contests like the Beanpot semifinal was a familiar environment for Keller, who earlier this year helped the U.S. National Junior Team capture a gold medal at the IIHF World Junior Championship.
"[The TD Garden] was a great atmosphere," the rookie forward said. "Obviously playing against Boston College, it's a great rivalry game. It was pretty cool."
Terriers Head Coach David Quinn also noted how much he and his squad appreciated the intensity of the atmosphere during The Beanpot, and that Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson's (Stockholm, Sweden) goal just 4:29 into the contest gave the Terriers a leg up.
"Anytime you play in The Beanpot, in this environment, BU versus BC, you certainly put yourself at an advantage getting an early 1-0 lead," Quinn said. "I think we really played well in the first."
Quinn remarked on Keller's athletic ability, nothing that his high-end skill set is a product of impressive coordination and creativity. The coach noted that his unique abilities make Keller one of the most potent shorthanded goal scorers in the country, as the freshman has potted the puck a national-best four times while his team is in the penalty box.
"I don't know if I've ever coached a guy that has the hand-eye coordination that he has," Quinn said about Keller. "He's so dangerous killing penalties. When you're on a power play and have him coming at you, I think you get a little nervous because you know what could happen."
Keller's marker to make it a 3-1 contest came just 4:07 after Boston College pulled within one score of the Terriers. Quinn said his team weathered the storm after the Eagles began to apply significant pressure, and that his defense played an important part to securing the win.
"We have a tendency to make life difficult for ourselves," Quinn said. "You've got to be able to defend and get out of your own end. I think we did a good job of that in the third period."
Quinn knows that a win over BC isn't an easy feat.
"Anytime you can beat Boston College, you know you played pretty well."
The last time BU took home The Beanpot title was in 2015, led by Jack Eichel during his one season with the Terriers, the 30th title in school history. Harvard is searching for its 11th Beanpot, and first since 1993, after advancing past Northeastern, 4-3. The last time the two programs faced each other in the championship game was in 1998 when Boston University took a 2-1 win in overtime.