Huskies prove revenge is best served in a pot, bea(n)ting BU 3-1


Colette Pollauf

The Huskies pile on junior goalie Devon Levi after Monday night’s game. With the win, Northeastern will head to the title game against Harvard Monday, Feb. 13.

Julia Yohe and Eli Curwin

The odds were not in their favor.

The Huskies (14-10-3, 11-5-2 HE), ranked 20th nationally, started the season slowly, to put it lightly. From Nov. 15 to Jan. 1, Northeastern went 1-6, with supposed star goalie Devon Levi letting in a woeful 29 goals over eight games — he allowed only five goals in the same span last season — and any chance of returning to a Beanpot championship game or NCAA tournament seemed all but impossible. 

However, since the team’s rough stretch in January, Northeastern had started to turn things around, winning five of its last six matchups and averaging more than three goals per game.

Additionally, over the last six games, Levi earned a .955 save percentage — a stark improvement over the .871 he accumulated between Nov. 15 and Jan. 1. 

As graduate student forward Liam Walsh so gracefully put it at the Beanpot media luncheon Jan. 30, the Huskies “[were] getting [their] swagger back.” 

Still, the Boston University men’s hockey program (20-7-0, 14-4-0 HE), the juggernaut of Hockey East, ranked third nationally and reigning Beanpot champion, was poised to end Northeastern’s Beanpot run once again Monday night. 

The Terriers had only lost six games heading into the tournament, and had routed the Huskies in a 4-3 overtime win in their last matchup. Strutting into the dogfight on a seven-game win streak, part of a 12-2-0 stretch since the start of December, to many, picking the Terriers seemed like the right choice.  

But none of that mattered.

Husky defensemen Jeremie Bucheler and Hunter McDonald battle for the puck along the board. McDonald scored his first career goal in Monday night’s game. (Colette Pollauf)

In their best game of the season, the Huskies defeated the Terriers 3-1 in a top-to-bottom team upset. A rematch of last year’s championship game, this year’s semifinals round was all about one thing: revenge.

“I think we tried not to think about [last year] because any game in the Beanpot against any team is going to be a huge game, and you have to show up and play your best,” said captain and senior forward Aidan McDonough. “But playing them in the first [game] after they beat us [in the finals] last year means a bit more.”

However, the first period started as many expected— BU’s dominant top line kept the puck in Northeastern’s zone, and when the Huskies managed to get possession, they quickly turned it over. Reckless rushes, sloppy shots and poor passes characterized a tumultuous ten minutes for Northeastern.

Though the Huskies’ offense floundered, their defense kept them afloat throughout the first 10 minutes — and the rest of the game. While Northeastern’s offense struggled against BU junior goalie Drew Commesso, the Terrier offense found an emboldened, shot-blocking Husky defense between them and the lead. And when BU did manage to fire a shot past the Northeastern defense, they were met with Levi. 

Both junior goalies had missed last year’s tournament, representing their countries in the 2022 Winter Olympics. And because Beanpot had been canceled in 2021 due to pandemic restrictions, both Levi and Comesso took to the historic Beanpot ice for the first time this year. And they did not disappoint. 

The first frame was a battle of the goalies, with both making timely saves on quick rushes and breakaways. Though Northeastern and BU only totaled 18 shots throughout the first period, Levi and Commesso were each playing at their best — something notably inconsistent for both netminders from game to game this season. But with six minutes left in the period, Northeastern would get the better of Commesso.

After an excellent defensive stop from freshman forward Cam Lund, Northeastern settled into its offense. Zipping the puck around a crowded BU zone, Northeastern freshman forward Jack Williams sent it to freshman defenseman Vinny Borgesi. Borgesi pushed a perfect pass in front of the net, setting McDonough up for a wrist shot that soared above Commesso’s left shoulder. The goal was McDonough’s 18th of the season and the Huskies’ first of the night. 

A minute and a half later, Northeastern committed its first of four penalties that evening — a holding penalty on senior forward Riley Hughes. But with a .850 penalty kill — third best in Hockey East — the Huskies were ready to defend their territory. 

The Terriers failed to make use of their one-man advantage, something that would become a pattern throughout the night. Northeastern’s PK kept BU from the middle of the zone, and forced bad passes and turnovers in each of BU’s four advantages.

Boston University’s power play withered to an end, and minutes later, the first period ended with Northeastern up one.

Northeastern came back to the ice with a newfound determination. Just two minutes into the second frame, graduate student forward Jakov Novak nabbed the puck from a faceoff in BU’s zone and flung it up the ice to senior defenseman Jeremie Bucheler. Bucheler zipped to the front of the net and shoveled the puck towards the goal, pulling Commesso out of his crease, leaving the net completely open on the right side. Novak picked up Bucheler’s rebound and tapped it past the red line, giving the Huskies a 2-0 lead.

As the second frame wound down, aggression between the two teams ramped up. The Huskies took two back-to-back penalties in the final ten minutes of the second frame — a cross-checking minor on Walsh and a holding minor on sophomore forward Justin Hryckowian. 

Despite the lengthy disadvantage, the Huskies persevered, allowing only one shot on goal during Walsh’s stint in the box. Freshman defenseman Hunter McDonald led Northeastern’s d-core during Hryckowian’s penalty, something he would continue throughout the game. He blocked two of BU’s five shots throughout the penalty kill and totaled a team-leading six blocks across all three periods. 

As Hryckowian’s penalty came to a close, BU senior forward Wilmer Skoog took a holding minor, giving the Huskies their first power play of the game, which spilled over into the first 16 seconds of the final period. Though Northeastern dominated much of the second period, the one-man advantage set the team too much at ease. Marked by unfinished passes and messy turnovers, the power play left the Huskies’ lead stalled at two. 

Northeastern’s fourth and final penalty of the game came just over a minute into the third period. Though the Terriers took advantage of Borgesi’s tripping minor, putting four shots on Levi in under two minutes, BU’s last advantage failed to produce, much like the team’s first three power plays. Throughout the game, Northeastern’s defense knew just how to handle the BU power play unit, quickly snuffing out any fires the Terriers tried to light.

“I probably should’ve made a couple of better adjustments,” BU head coach Jay Pandolfo said of the power play unit. “[The Huskies] just kept it really tight. They did a good job blocking shots, so you gotta find a way to get pucks through.”

With a fourth failed power play came a spike in Terrier grit. BU fired 11 shots at Levi’s net in the first ten minutes of the final frame, leading the Huskies in shots on goal for the first time 29-23.

Desperate to find the back of the net, Skoog wove through a mob of Husky defenders and passed the puck to freshman forward Devin Kaplan, who was patiently waiting behind the net. Kaplan quickly sent the puck back to Skoog. As he raced towards the net, he caught the puck and sent it flying towards Levi’s left. Levi, from the right corner of the crease, flung his arm out and back to swipe the puck out of the air.

As the final ten minutes approached, the Terriers took one final penalty — this time, a high-sticking minor on freshman forward Quinn Hutson — but their defense was unrelenting, clearing the puck and holding the Huskies at two goals.

With two and a half minutes left, Commesso headed to the bench, allowing senior forward Matt Brown to take the ice as an extra attacker. Thirty-eight seconds later, the Terrier addition slipped the puck in five-hole, finally putting BU on the board and cutting the Huskies’ lead in half. 

Brown’s goal gave the Terriers a momentary glimpse of hope, a glimmer of potentially sending the game they had been losing for 57 minutes to overtime. The Terrier fans grew antsy in anticipation, cheering the loudest they had all night, wondering if they could pull it off..

And ultimately, they couldn’t. 

Seconds after the Terrier goal, McDonald seized the puck in NU’s zone, flew up the ice unattended, slipped right up to BU’s still-empty net and slammed a shot through. The Huskies had regained their two-goal lead.

The game came to an end 30 seconds later, with the disgruntled Terriers dethroned. Roars from Northeastern students, who spanned over eleven sections, echoed throughout TD Garden. Huskies jumped out of the bench and onto Levi as the former Beanpot champions glowered off the ice.

“When I was growing up, it seemed like everybody in the city was either a [Boston College] or a BU fan,” said McDonough, a Milton native. “You look around the Garden now, and there’s a lot more Husky sweatshirts and jerseys, and that’s the way we like it.” 

Northeastern’s win secured a spot in the title round for the fifth-straight year, where the team will face Harvard in a first-ever Husky-Crimson championship game Monday, Feb. 13 at TD Garden.