By Matt Neiser
BOSTON — Finally, the day college hockey fans in Massachusetts have waited for since the season started in October. The Beanpot is back for its 68th iteration, and the two-time defending champion Northeastern men’s hockey team kicked the festivities off on Monday against the Harvard Crimson in the early game.
Harvard came into the game with the third-best offense in the nation at 3.9 goals per game, and fresh off an eight-goal performance in a win against Union Friday. Unperturbed, the Northeastern defense held strong, allowing just one goal on the night. Adding three of their own on offense, the Huskies skated away with a 3–1 victory to advance to next week’s championship game for the third year in a row.
On Monday, the Huskies will face the Boston University Terriers, who outlasted Boston College in a double-overtime thriller. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 PM EST but may start later if the consolation game goes long. Follow @wrbbsports on Twitter to stay up to date on any delays. Once again, Christian Skroce, Matt Neiser, and Dale Desantis will be on the call.
Special teams were bound to be a factor in this one, with the Crimson boasting the best power play in the nation (.307) and the Huskies countering with the fourth-best penalty kill (.892). That showed early when Harvard drew a tripping call on Northeastern defenseman Jordan Harris. Jack Drury converted on the ensuing man advantage, taking a feed from Nick Abruzzese and flipping it past Husky netminder Craig Pantano just five minutes into the game.
Northeastern fought back on a power play of their own later in the period, needing just 22 seconds from the time of the whistle to put the puck into the Crimson net. Senior captain Ryan Shea blasted a one-timer at the goal off a feed from Tyler Madden, and Zach Solow positioned himself in the perfect spot to redirect the drive past Mitchell Gibson.
Both teams struggled to find their footing out of the gate in the second period, trading possessions without many shots. After a failed power play earlier in the frame, the Huskies once again found themselves on the five-on-four after Harvard’s Austin Wong was called for an elbowing minor. The PP technically yielded no goal, but the situation it created allowed Northeastern to jump out in front.
Just as the minor expired, freshman Riley Hughes helped the puck along to Grant Jozefek in the right corner of the Crimson zone. Seeing this develop, grad transfer Brendan van Riemsdyk drifted his way in front of the opposing net. Jozefek rewarded him for the move, feeding a perfect pass to his teammate who gladly redirected into the net for his second goal of the season.
The Huskies were forced to defend that lead under dire circumstances to start the third period, as a cross-checking penalty 15 seconds in — following a tripping call as time expired in the previous frame — put Harvard on a five-on-three power play for nearly two minutes. The stellar Northeastern PK unit weathered the storm with aplomb, combining a series of blocked passes with three essential saves from Pantano to ward off the top-ranked Crimson power play squad.
“I think killing penalties gives us more motivation than scoring a power play goal,” Shea said. “Our compete level just went up five notches once that happened.”
Husky head coach Jim Madigan emphasized the importance of that kill after the game: “It really gave us momentum. If there’s a turning point in the game, it’s that point obviously.”
Pantano was immense throughout the final 20 minutes, saving all 14 shots he faced to hold the Huskies in front. The Merrimack graduate transfer tallied 27 saves on the night, allowing just one goal against a team that averaged almost four scored per game coming in.
“I thought [Pantano] was the difference in the game. He made a lot of key stops for us . . . in this tournament you need great goaltending, and we got that here tonight,” said Madigan.
In desperate search of a late equalizer, Harvard pulled Mitchell with just over two minutes to play. Matt DeMelis almost notched an empty netter soon after, but his backhand attempt went wide. The Crimson pressed back into the Husky zone, but Shea wrestled the puck away and cleared it the length of the ice, slotting it perfectly into the vacant goal to seal the Husky victory.
“This is a big, emotional game for all our guys; any time you can get a win in this tournament, in this venue, it’s special . . . that was a real good hockey club we just played,” explained Madigan. “We had a bend, don’t break mentality and it served us well.”