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Dump and Chase: Closing in on the Beanpot

This is part of a partnership between the Huntington News and the Husky Hockey News blog. The opinions expressed herein are those of writer, not necessarily The News. For more from Husky Hockey News, visit their website at huskyhockeynews.com and follow them on Twitter at@HuskyHockeyNews

As much of campus grieves over the Patriots’ AFC Championship game defeat, there is something else approaching besides Super Bowl XLVII  in a couple of weeks.  That, of course, is the 62nd annual Beanpot Tournament.

In a mere two weeks, Husky fans will pack their designated corner of the TD Garden in hopes of finally ending what has now become a quarter century of despair and suffering, mostly at the hands of crosstown rivals Boston University (BU) and Boston College (BC).

To put that number in perspective, remember that 25 years ago, in 1988, the Berlin Wall was standing and Homer Simpson didn’t exist yet. That’s the last time Northeastern left the Garden with hardware.

Northeastern entered this past weekend desperate for Hockey East points, hoping to climb up the standings and separate themselves from the infamous playoff bubble. A road match at No. 9 BU and a home bout against No. 2 BC certainly provided no easy pickings for NU to gain any ground.

The weekend began with an exhilarating 6-5 victory over the (BU) Terriers at Agganis Arena on Friday night. Northeastern and BU will become very familiar with each other over the remainder of the season with three games still to go between the two programs, including a first-round matchup in the Beanpot.

After jumping to a 5-2 lead, the Huskies were stunned as BU roared back with a three-goal outburst to start the third period. NU would ultimately prevail 6-5 as former Terrier Vinny Saponari scored the game-winning goal with just over two minutes to go in regulation time.

The following night, Northeastern was soundly defeated by Boston College, 9-3, in a game that early on looked like an inevitable shootout, but later turned into a rout. After matching the Eagles goal for goal, the Huskies were outscored 6-0 from the second period on. NU’s weekend was certainly full of ups and downs.

Northeastern’s offense, which has struggled much of the year, was able to score nine goals in a two-game span without the services of sophomore forward Ludwig Karlsson, the team’s leading scorer from a season ago. The defense, however, surrendered a stunning 14 goals, often as the victim to quick multi-goal outbursts by the Terriers and Eagles.

The Huskies’ defensive struggles are understandable given the amount of rookies and level of inexperience on the blue line coupled with injuries that have plagued the group throughout the year. The defense looked especially timid early on against BC when the Eagles scored their first two goals on nearly identical odd man rushes. NU’s blue line will have to shore up if players are to anchor a Beanpot championship.

Freshman star forward Kevin Roy continued his fantastic rookie campaign with a goal and two assists against the Terriers. Entering the weekend, Roy had become the fastest Northeastern freshman since former Hobey Baker Award finalist Jason Guerriero to reach the 20-point plateau.

Roy is sixth in all of Hockey East scorers with 23 points, tied for fourth with 10 goals and leads all freshmen in the NCAA, scoring at a 1.15 points per game clip. The freshman has been one of the most exciting players in college hockey and Northeastern will need his continued production to end their Beanpot drought.

With exactly 11 days to go before the tournament begins, Northeastern has faced the each of the other three Beanpot schools already this season. The Huskies are 1-2 against BC and 1-0 vs. BU and Harvard. Northeastern should now have zero doubt that it can prevail in its opening bout against BU in the Beanpot.

In the meantime, the Huskies have a weekend series against a red-hot UMass-Lowell team, which has won nine games in a row. This series provides a huge opportunity for NU as the River Hawks are only five points ahead in the Hockey East standings.

If Northeastern maintains the offensive creativity it showed against its Boston foes, it will have a good shot to take at least three crucial conference points from the weekend.

-Kwabena Stefan can be reached at info@HuskyHockeyNews.com

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