By Chris Judd, News Staff
In search of its first Beanpot title in 26 years, the Northeastern men’s hockey team valiantly took the No. 1 team in the country, Boston College (BC), down to the wire of the third period. With the game tied 1-1 for the majority of the final 20 minutes of regulation, the Dog House’s incredible energy made it seem like the school’s desperate fans could will the players to an upset victory. The Eagles’ empty-net goal with 2:16 remaining, which pushed BC’s lead to 3-1, was the final dagger for another Beanpot heartbreak.
“I liked the way our team played. We competed hard, they battled for the whole game and through two periods I liked where we were,” Northeastern coach Jim Madigan said following the 4-1 loss. “If you can be 1-1 or up a goal or down a goal going into the third period, you have a chance to win. I liked where we were going into that third period, we just couldn’t generate the offense.”
In the first period, Northeastern outshot BC 16-11 and both teams had several scoring opportunities
Northeastern nearly scored the first goal of the game seven minutes in when senior forward Cody Ferriero had the puck in the BC zone. He left a drop pass near the middle of the zone for freshman forward Ryan Belonger. BC goalie Thatcher Demko made the initial save, but Belonger found the rebound on the left side of the net and blasted it in. But while Northeastern celebrated, the officials reviewed the score and determined Northeastern freshman forward Tanner Pond dislodged the net when crashing, causing the refs to rule it a no goal.
BC scored two minutes later when Johnny Gaudreau came streaking down the right side. He went behind the red line and passed backwards to Kevin Hayes, who beat junior goalie Clay Witt through the five hole.
The Eagles nearly opened up a two goal lead with five minutes left in the period when Witt was out of position. Ryan Fitzgerald was open in the slot and fired a shot for the left side, but Witt spun around and knocked the puck away with his stick.
The Huskies offense exploded with two minutes left in the first, putting constant pressure on BC’s defense. Snydeman fired a shot from outside the blue line, which Demko saved. Freshman forward Mike Szmatula was in the area and had a shot, but couldn’t convert. A strong forecheck kept the Huskies in the offensive zone for the majority of the rest of the period. With 21 seconds left, sophomore forward Mike McMurtry passed to sophomore defender Mike Gunn in the middle of the ice, who fired a slap shot. Demko made the save and Hayes had a breakaway. Witt went low and made the key save to keep it 1-0 BC going into the second.
The Huskies continued pressuring Demko early in the second period. In a three-on-two rush, Szmatula passed to junior forward Adam Reid on the left side. Reid passed back to Szmatula, who was at the red line and could not put the puck in the net.
Later, Witt preserved the one goal deficit with about three minutes left in the period when a puck bounced up on him. He swatted it away with his stick to kill the offensive opportunity.
Northeastern then tied the game up with 1:24 left in the second period when sophomore forward Kevin Roy forced a turnover in the offensive zone from BC’s Scott Savage. He took the puck to the front of the net and fired a shot, but Demko deflected it away. Freshman forward John Stevens came in, scooped up the loose buck and sent a backhander past Demko and tied the game going into the third period.
Through two periods, the Huskies had 55 shot attempts to BC’s 41, a testament to Northeastern’s swarming offense. But the Huskies couldn’t take advantage more than once.
“When it comes to big games like this, it is all about the little plays,” senior forward Braden Pimm said. “You have to bear down and make sure you finish your opportunities. We had the chances but we couldn’t bear down to get one by.”
The Eagles started to get more of the offense in the third period. While Northeastern still had chances, they had trouble sustaining pressure in the offensive zone.
“We just couldn’t match their speed in that third and they came at us, and we didn’t have a correct response,” Madigan said.
The Huskies had a good scoring opportunity eight minutes into the period when senior Braden Pimm had the puck on the sideboard. He fed it to Stevens behind the net, who passed to Roy in front, but couldn’t connect.
The Eagles scored the game winning goal with 5:30 left in the game. Isaac MacLeod fired a shot from the blue line. Stevens knocked down BC’s Patrick Brown in front of the net, but Brown extended his stick and redirected the puck to the left side of Witt.
“I thought we did a good job on that winning goal in tying up Brown down at the net, and he was falling and we had his stick and somehow he got his stick on it,” Madigan said.
Gaudreau then scored the empty net goal with 1:30 remaining in the game, following freshman defender Matt Benning’s costly turnover at the blue line. Fans rushed to the exits following the goal, knowing it was all but over.
The Eagles scored their final goal with 49 seconds left. Brown streaked down the right side, and beat Witt high and to the right.
BC has now eliminated the Huskies from the Beanpot each of the past four years. This season’s loss, was the third championship match-up Northeastern had against the Eagles in that time frame.
The Huskies will now shift their attention to the remainder of Hockey East conference play. They’ll visit the University of Massachusetts Amherst on Saturday at 7 p.m.