Northeastern’s Beanpot Dynasty

By Christian Skroce

“From 30 years, to three in a row, Northeastern is a Beanpot dynasty.”

That was our final call on air Monday night as the Northeastern Huskies raised the Beanpot trophy for the third time in as many years. It was a moment that Husky players, coaches, fans, and yes, even radio guys, will never forget, and it just might be the greatest moment in Northeastern hockey history.

Northeastern is not the first team to win three Beanpots in a row; that honor goes to the 1963–65 Boston College squads. Nor is the Huskies’ streak the longest; for that we look to Boston University’s six consecutive titles from 1995 to 2000. Northeastern’s three-peat is the ninth in Beanpot history and the first by a team not named BC or BU. But make no mistake, this hat trick is as historic as they come, and its countless moments remind us why we love sports and why we love calling games for this team.

Northeastern broke its 30-year Beanpot drought in 2018, pulling out victories against perennial powerhouses BC and BU. The Huskies were led by the best top line in the country, and possibly team history — Nolan Stevens, Dylan Sikura, and eventual Hobey Baker winner Adam Gaudette. The trio showed up in the biggest game of their lives, and a hat trick from Gaudette propelled the Huskies to a 5–2 win over their cross-town rivals and sent TD Garden into a frenzy.

The whole night was unforgettable, but perhaps the most popular image was of a fan in the crowd holding a sign — it turned out to be an XXXXL t-shirt — that simply read, “I can graduate in peace.” Flashes of Gaudette parading the Beanpot trophy around TD Garden danced through the minds of Husky fans for weeks to come after that first Beanpot win. None of them could fathom the run that was to come.

A year later, Northeastern flexed its muscles and asserted itself as one of the premier programs in college hockey. It began in the semifinal against BU, when, less than a minute into overtime, Tyler Madden arrived in dramatic fashion.

In the post-game press conference, I grabbed a mic and sheepishly asked the freshman forward, “How were you able to stay so calm with everything on the line?” At the podium, Madden simply nodded, leaned forward, and announced, “Well, there were bright lights out there tonight, and I shine in those.” Thus was born the legend of Mr. Bright Lights.

A week later, Northeastern retained their trophy with a win over BC. Despite leaping out to a 3–0 lead, Northeastern, ever content to give its fans a show, let Boston College storm back in the third period to make the score 3–2 late in regulation. But the Huskies had been here before. Struggling to maintain their narrow lead, the Huskies found another gear, and with a late push and an even later goal, hung on to become back-to-back Beanpot champions.

Northeastern goalie and future NHL player Cayden Primeau shone during the 2019 tournament, allowing just three goals in two games between the pipes and winning the Eberly Award and Tournament MVP. The team went on to secure the Hockey East title and break the Northeastern single-season win record.

But the Huskies weren’t done, as just a year later, they found themselves in the Beanpot Championship again after a 3–1 semifinal victory over Harvard. The final promised to be a heated affair, as Northeastern faced a BU team fresh off a thrilling 5–4 overtime upset victory over BC in the semifinal.

It was a nightmare start for the Huskies, as BU forwards Jake Wise and Trevor Zegras each scored in the first eight minutes to stun the Huskies right out of the gate. The score held for the next 12 minutes, and the Huskies headed to the locker room searching for answers.

They found them.

Northeastern came out buzzing in the second period, as sophomore forward Tyler Madden brought NU within one with a perfectly placed wrister from the slot. Talented freshman Aidan McDonough evened the game just three minutes later, but the Huskies weren’t done there.

With eight minutes gone, consecutive BU penalties gave Northeastern a five-on-three. After a remarkable passing display, junior forward Zach Solow scored to give Northeastern a 3–2 lead, all on the first power play, meaning NU would kept a man advantage after the goal.

And they took full advantage. One minute after Solow’s goal, senior forward Grant Jozefek notched Northeastern’s fourth straight goal after an incredible individual effort. 4–2 Northeastern.

Despite taking full control of the game, Northeastern didn’t let up in the second period and brought a whole new meaning to “close but no cigar.” One of the craziest plays of the game came just minutes after the Huskies’ fourth goal, as Zach Solow found himself with the puck and an open net just in front of him. While facing away from the net, Solow attempted a backhanded shot that ricocheted off the near post, somehow crossed the goal-line to hit the second post, and ricocheted out of the crease. Husky fans’ mouths dropped as the TD Garden replay showed the puck soaring perfectly over the goal-line while remaining nanometers away from counting as a goal.

A second near-miss came a few minutes later, as Northeastern again found themselves on a breakaway. A close-range shot from Madden was popped into the air, deflected twice, and seemed destined to float over BU goalie Sam Tucker for Northeastern’s fifth score of the period. But freshman forward Robert Mastrosimone came to the Terriers’ rescue and batted the midair puck out of the crease.

Eventually the hectic second period ended, and both teams headed to their locker rooms to prepare for a third period that no one could have anticipated.

Just two minutes into the third, BU began its comeback with David Farrance’s brilliantly placed shot from the left dot. With the lead shrunk to one, both teams desperately tried to grab the palpable momentum that pervaded the game, and in one of the most insane regulation finishes in Beanpot history, the hockey gods had one more trick up their sleeves.

With just a minute remaining in the third period, BU pulled its goalie to give them a man advantage. The Terriers used it well, peppering Northeastern netminder Craig Pantano with shot after shot. Despite the rapid opportunities, the NU defense remained strong, turning away chance after chance. That is, until Trevor Zegras struck again.

With just 1.2 seconds remaining, Zegras found the puck just to the right of Pantano and threw everything he had into a backhanded shot that wound up in the back of the net. With bated breath, Husky fans quickly turned their gaze from BU celebrating to the clock overhead that showed a few tenths left, and although many didn’t want to admit it, everyone in the stadium knew that the Beanpot final would be headed to overtime.

After the game, Northeastern players were asked about their thoughts when BU tied the game. Head coach Jim Madigan interjected, “Well, the coaches were saying WTF . . .”

The teams returned to the ice for an initial five-minute overtime period. The Terriers kept the momentum from Zegras’ goal, earning chance after chance, but Northeastern’s defense stayed strong enough to keep the game even and give both teams a much-needed break before the 20-minute second overtime.

“I looked around the locker room and saw no panicked faces,” senior defenseman and team captain Ryan Shea said. “Everyone was just focused on their game and was ready to go.”

The overtime was a defensive struggle, with both teams trading chances. That is, until Shea pulled off a remarkable hustle play to draw a holding penalty with just about six minutes remaining in the overtime frame to give the Huskies a two-minute power play. And that was all they needed.

With 5:27 to go and under 30 seconds remaining on the power play, sophomore defenseman Jordan Harris collected the puck near the blue line in the offensive zone. With his eyes fixed on the goal and the trophy, Harris coolly skated into the slot and let a shot fly. With Zach Solow planted in front of BU goalie Sam Tucker, the puck soared through the air, through the crowd, and into the back of the net.

Harris and his teammates flung their gloves and sticks into the air and sprinted down to the other end to mob Pantano. TD Garden erupted, and I mean erupted. Twelve full sections of Northeastern students and countless more in the arena screamed and cheered as the improbability of the Huskies’ accomplishment sank in.

“Coaches said that if we get the puck near the blue line to push it to the middle and get a shot on net,” Harris said. “Hopefully a lane opens up, which it did, and I took my opportunity, and luckily it paid off.”

The Eberly Award for best goaltender of the tournament went to Pantano, who recorded 40 saves in the championship game. Pantano grew up watching the Beanpot as a local Massachusetts kid, and continued to watch during his time just north of us at Merrimack College. This was his only opportunity to make his own mark on this historic tournament, and when it mattered most, he didn’t blink.

Zach Solow was crowned MVP for his two-goal performance. Though his stats speak for themselves, it’s Solow’s on-ice tenacity and off-ice leadership that have impressed Husky fans and coaches.

But perhaps his greatest trait is this: he doesn’t know what it means to lose a Beanpot game. None of Northeastern’s juniors do either. After three decades of heartbreaking losses, gutsy performances to no avail, and seeing another team lift that pot of beans, Northeastern has achieved all-time greatness in Boston’s most personal and meaningful sports tournament.

The heart-attack Huskies had the added benefit of pulling out their improbable win in front of 17,850 fans, the largest crowd in Beanpot history. BU fans made their mark, but it was the Northeastern faithful who truly took over TD Garden (as they have for years) and made it Northeastern’s home away from home. In the past three seasons, Northeastern is 8–1 there. The bright lights were out on Monday night, and the Huskies shine in those.

“It was a great Beanpot game; I’ve seen a lot of them over the years,” Madigan said. “Congratulations to our players . . . they’ve set the bar incredibly high for this program and they’ve represented the school well.”

“The winning culture that we’ve built — along with the guys before us — has been everything,” Shea noted. “I came to Northeastern to win a Beanpot, and now we’ve got three of them.”

There was a distinct theme throughout the postgame press conference: “Never forgot their roots.” Northeastern has 14 Massachusetts natives on its roster, all of whom grew up watching the Beanpot and dreamt of winning it someday. Milton, Massachusetts resident Jim Madigan praised two Huskies who also grew up there — Ryan Shea and Aidan McDonough, who had an impressive four-point performance in the Championship game.

“I had [McDonough] at my house during the Stanley Cup when he was nine,” said Madigan. “I’ve known him a long time and he’s grown into a great young man, and an even better hockey player . . . we’re a Mass team now.

“These young men have separated themselves from every other team in the 90-year history of this program,” Madigan said. When asked about a potential four-peat, Madigan smiled, shook his head, and said, “I think we’re just going to enjoy tonight.”

On a personal note, thank you to everyone involved with Northeastern hockey. This has been a truly incredible ride that thousands of people — alumni old and new, current freshmen, family — have loved being a part of.

And to my WRBB Sports family, thank you for everything. There are so many people who deserve to be a part of this run, and I like to believe that everyone at WRBB, past and present, was a crucial part of this broadcast. Like Jim Madigan said, I think I’m just going to enjoy this for a little while.

IT’S A BEANPOT SWEEP!

By Dale Desantis

BOSTON — It was déjà vu in the best way for the Huskies.

Twenty-four hours after Jordan Harris’ game-winner propelled the men’s team to a Beanpot championship, Lauren MacInnis, refusing to let Harris be the only #2-wearing Husky defender to sink Boston University with a double-overtime goal, ended the night.

It was the Huskies 17th Beanpot title, their first since 2013, and the first time since 1988 that both Northeastern teams held the title simultaneously.

The Huskies and Terriers had squared off three times this year, and although Tuesday night’s game had no Hockey East repercussions, the two foes were physical throughout, knowing the gravity of what was at stake. A record crowd of 1,790 at Walter Brown Arena knew it too. After the drama of the men’s game the night before, expectations were high.

BU opened the scoring early. BU’s Kristina Schuler blew by Brooke Hobson in neutral ice to dip and dunk on Aerin Frankel with unbelievable pace. The No. 9/9 Terriers were the underdogs against the No. 2/3 Huskies, so the opening goal was vital against the stout Husky defense.

It was all BU for most of the opening period as the Huskies looked flat. BU Goalie Corinne Schroeder looked comfortable in the net and defenders Abby Cook and Alex Allan were aggressive on everything coming into their zone. Finally, Northeastern caught a break in the waning minutes of the first as Chloe Aurard ripped one five-hole on a two-on-one breakaway, bringing the Huskies even.

After the break, it seemed like Northeastern would take control of the game. They started to settle the puck more, with Alina Mueller’s tremendous handling creating great opportunities. Eventually lightning struck twice, as Chloe Aurard, the eventual MVP, put away her second goal of the game and third of the tournament with 13:26 left.

Then all hell broke loose. Two minutes after Aurard’s goal, NU’s Skylar Fontaine was assessed a game misconduct after getting into it with Breanna Scarpaci in front of the net. Scarpaci was hit with a two-minute cross-checking minor, but Fontaine’s contact-to-the-head roughing penalty deprived Northeastern of its best all-around skater for the rest of the game.

After two minutes of four-on-four play, the Huskies still had three minutes of disadvantage to kill. They managed just one, as Abby Cook launched an absolute rocket from the blue line to bring the Terriers back in the game.

It looked as though the opportunity was starting to slip away from Northeastern, but as they have all season, they fought back. Late in the third period, Jess Schryver converted the Huskies’ first power-play goal of the night. Mueller’s wrister rebounded perfectly to the freshman forward as she shoved it between Schroeder’s legs to regain the lead with five minutes to play.

But as we learned on Monday night, no one raises the trophy until the final whistle blows. BU pulled its goalie around the two-minute mark, accelerating their offense. They put bodies in front of Frankel, clogging the doorstep and dumping pucks in from all angles. With only twenty-two seconds on the clock, a Nadia Mattivi slap shot trickled behind Frankel, where BU captain Sammy Davis gave it a little tap in to tie the game.

The hockey gods were laughing at Northeastern. It felt way too much like the night before. But the Huskies were about to be blessed for the second time in 24 hours. After five minutes of one overtime and 16 minutes of another, after the game had, for record and statistical purposes, ceased to count, after the only purpose was pride and glory, MacInnis stepped into the spotlight.

With Fontaine gone, head coach Dave Flint sent extra minutes MacInnis’ way. On her first power play of the season, after playing more minutes than she had all year, MacInnis fired a rebound into the back of the net and etched her name into Beanpot lore.

Flint explained that MacInnis has spent many hours in practice on the scout power play facing the team’s legendary penalty kill, and thus was prepared for the moment.

The team will now look forward to Hockey East playoffs and potentially a Frozen Four appearance at Agganis Arena in a few weeks. But for now, they can bask in the glory of a trophy that eluded several talented classes. For the first time since 2013, they are the Queens of the Beans.

IT’S A THREE-PEAT!

By Christian Skroce

BOSTON — The heart-attack Huskies just couldn’t help themselves.

In a Beanpot final for the ages, one that lasted late into Monday night, it took two overtime periods to crown a 2020 champion, and the game of the decade did not disappoint.

Boston University — which qualified for the game after another double-overtime thriller against Boston College in the semifinal — grabbed the lead off a Jake Wise backhander just three minutes into the contest. After a Craig Pantano spill in front of the Northeastern net, Wise was perfectly positioned to finish off the first goal of the game.

BU followed up with a second goal just five minutes later, as Trevor Zegras put a simple wrister past Pantano on the power play.

And then Northeastern kicked it into high gear.

The first period intermission was kind to the Huskies, as they bounced back with a four-goal second period to seize control of the game. Tyler Madden and Aidan McDonough got the scoring going, tying it up after great individual efforts just six minutes into the period. The scoring continued for Northeastern as Zach Solow put the puck in the back of the net on a five-on-three.

After taking the 3–2 lead, Northeastern continued to pressure BU, with Grant Jozefek burying one from distance on the power play to cap the Husky blitz.

After foiling a Northeastern power play to begin the third period, the Terriers began their climb by converting on a power play of their own with a great mid-range shot from defenseman David Farrance.

The squads battled throughout the third, with Northeastern barely clinging to their 4–3 lead. With just seconds remaining in regulation, BU mustered all their might toward a final offensive onslaught, and with just 1.2 seconds remaining, freshman forward Trevor Zegras scored the biggest goal of his career — a backhander past Pantano to send the Beanpot final into overtime.

The teams played to an even first five minutes of overtime, with Northeastern escaping to the locker room after BU forced them onto their heels. Because a normal, non-Beanpot game would have ended after one overtime, Monday’s contest goes down in the books as a 4–4 tie. Officially, the game was decided. But for the players on the ice and the fans in the stands, there was still a score to settle.

Northeastern entered the second overtime with as much energy as they could muster. After trading blows, the Huskies finally gained a momentum advantage when a BU tripping penalty gave the Huskies a power play they couldn’t afford to waste.

With 5:30 left to go, Jordan Harris collected the puck near the blue line. With eyes on goal, Harris wound up and fired his shot toward the BU net. With Zach Solow planted in front of BU goaltender Sam Tucker, the puck sailed through the air and miraculously found the back of the net. In a split second, the crowd of 17,850 — the largest showing in the 68-year history of the Beanpot — erupted into a deafening roar. After going 30 years without a Beanpot trophy, the Huskies had their first-ever three-peat.

An ecstatic Jim Madigan praised his team after the game saying, “They pushed, we pushed, they pushed back. It was a great Beanpot game. Congratulations to our players on three in a row. These young men have separated themselves from every other team in the 90-year history of this program.”

Solow was crowned the tournament’s Most Valuable Player after scoring a goal apiece against Harvard and BU. Craig Pantano went home with the Eberly Award, given to the player with the highest save percentage across both games. Pantano saved 40 shots in the championship game.

This season has presented its fair share of challenges for the Huskies, and they haven’t always shone under the spotlight. But under the biggest college hockey spotlight in a sports-crazed city, as the cheers of the Doghouse rained down on the ice at TD Garden, there was no mistaking the sight — the Huskies were champions again.

The Northeastern women’s hockey team will face BU in their Beanpot final Tuesday night. Dale Desantis and Alex Bensley will be on the call; follows @wrbbsports on Twitter for updates on start time. WRBB will also upload a more in-depth story on the three-peat later in the week.

Men’s Hockey Tops Harvard to Open Beanpot

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.

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“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.”