Mike McLaughlin has experienced the Beanpot from both sides: the thundering applause after scoring a goal in the tournament finals, and the early morning silence while analyzing hours of video as Northeastern’s director of hockey operations.
His current job may not have the glamour and glory of being a four-year letterman and team captain, but it’s essential to the success of this year’s team as it prepares for tonight’s Beanpot championship game with Boston University. The faceoff will at 7:30 p.m. at the TD Garden.
“As a player, you have no idea what goes on behind the scenes each and every day,” he says. “You show up at 1:30 for practice, skate for an hour, and go home. But as coaches and staff, we spend hours and hours preparing for each of those 60-minute practices.”
McLaughlin’s primary role is analyzing game video—both to scout opposing teams to help develop game strategy and spot flaws in Northeastern’s recent play to help develop practice priorities. This is the part of his job that he loves the most.
Over the past several days, he’s compiled clips from games that show patterns and weaknesses in BU’s play.
He compiled a similar series of video clips from Northeastern’s 3-0 first-round Beanpot victory against BC, this time looking for strengths and weaknesses in Northeastern’s play that BU is likely to adjust to.
“I’m looking at our games through the eyes of the BU coach,” he says. “What do we do best? How are they likely to counteract that? Obviously, they have to be planning for our power play, which is one of the best in the country.”
McLaughlin was recently given the additional title of director of student-athlete leadership for all Northeastern athletics. His new responsibilities are the product of two developments—his master’s degree in sports psychology from Boston University and several job offers from NHL teams, including the Boston Bruins.
McLaughlin is now working on his MBA from Northeastern. He finds his growing list of academic credentials ironic, to say the least, given that his transition from high school to college wasn’t the smoothest.
“I didn’t play my first five games,” he says. “It was a big reality check. I figured that if I wasn’t going to play, I better start studying.”
What he found is that he was pretty good at it. He was named to the Hockey East All-Academic Team four years in a row and honored as the conference’s top scholar-athlete in his senior year.
The stakes are high
Growing up in Seaforth, Ontario, McLaughlin knew nothing about Boston and had never even heard of the Beanpot.
“I came here for my official school visit in 2007 during the Beanpot and saw all the buzz and the police escort to the Garden—I was hooked. I was supposed to visit another school the next day and canceled my flight. I was sold on Northeastern.”
As a freshman, McLaughlin made the varsity team, and scored a goal in the 2009 Beanpot championship against BU.
“I can still see it and hear it and hear the roar of the crowd,” he says. “The Garden was sold out. I scored on a power play in the first period and the crowd went nuts. It’s something I’ll never forget.”
Northeastern lost that one. But two years later McLaughlin was back in the Beanpot finals against BC—a game that is remembered as one of the most exciting Beanpot championships of all time. Each team held the lead three times and at the end of regulation the score was tied 6-6. The teams battled for six minutes in overtime before BC scored a goal that crushed the Huskies’ dreams of a championship.
Northeastern is still waiting.
“We haven’t won the Beanpot since the year I was born,” says McLaughlin, referring to the 1988 victory.
“The pressure is on,” he says. “In 2009, we were ranked third in the nation but we lost to BU, who went on to become the national champion. We made it to the national tournament, but were upset by Cornell in the first round. We were a good team, but we didn’t leave our mark.
“This is the first time we’ve been the highest ranked team in the tournament. It’s time for us to step up and show we can be the best team in Boston.”