Who is Northeastern’s first opponent? The Huskies will play Boston University in the latter semifinal at 8 p.m. on Monday at TD Garden. The winner will advance to the championship one week later (Feb. 11) against Boston College or Harvard, who are meeting in the other semifinal Monday at 5 p.m.
This position of strength must feel routine to the Huskies. They won the Beanpot last year, and now they’re in good shape to win it again this year. Quite the opposite, actually: They’re entering the Beanpot as defending champs for the first time in 30 years. Their triumph last year was a huge breakthrough for coach Jim Madigan, a former Northeastern player who has been rebuilding the program since 2011.
Nonetheless, you’re saying they have a good chance to win again. I’m guessing the best players from last year are still leading this team? Not really. Their top three scorers from a year ago—when they totaled almost 200 points offensively—are all gone, including Adam Gaudette, winner of the Hobey Baker award as the nation’s best player. He’s with the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks now.
So who’s scoring the goals? The real question is who is stopping them. The two best players are goaltender Cayden Primeau, a star of the recent World Junior Championships in Canada, and defenseman Jeremy Davies. Both are Hobey Baker nominees, and the Huskies have built a defensive identity around them. Teamwork and depth have driven them to the second-best start in program history.
In that case, they sound like a team that needs to get out to an early lead. Not exactly. The Huskies already have won five games that they were trailing after two periods. Which means they have more final-period comebacks this season than in the previous three years combined.
I’m having a hard time figuring this team out. That’s what makes them so endearing. They keep the games tight, for the most part, they always believe they have a chance, and they never know who is going to score the winning goal. Last year’s Big Three of Gaudette (30 goals), Nolan Stevens (24), and Dylan Sikura (22) accounted for 56 percent of Northeastern’s scoring. The leader this year is Zach Solow with 11. These Huskies come at you with line after line, and there’s never any telling when the goals will come.
What can you tell me about BU? The Terriers are young and highly talented, as always. At 10-10-3, however, they’ve had trouble scoring, and they’ve been prone to surrendering soft goals. But goalie Jake Oettinger is a first-round pick of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, and if he’s having a hot night, then he and Primeau may produce a low-scoring showdown.
It sounds like Northeastern has cleaned up against BU so far this year. Sorry. The Terriers earned a 5-5 draw at Matthews Arena, then went home to thump Northeastern 4-1. But those games were three months ago. More relevant to this Beanpot will be the Terriers’ memories of last year, when they surrendered an early 1-0 lead on their way to a 5-2 loss to Northeastern in the final. BU’s seniors haven’t won a Beanpot, and that hunger could be an important factor on Monday.
What is Northeastern’s motivation? The Huskies want to prove they can do it again, and in a different way than last year. Their character was revealed a couple of weeks ago, when they responded to a 6-1 beating at No. 1 UMass by knocking off the Minutemen 2-1 in overtime one night later at Matthews behind a career-best 45 saves by Primeau.
Another Northeastern advantage will come from its students, who have bought more than 1,000 tickets and are expected to provide the noisiest support at TD Garden.
So how do you think this will go? There’s no predicting an outcome for either of these teams. Expect a tight, low-scoring game, with power plays making the ultimate difference.