The helmets were bursting off their heads like so many champagne corks. The dream that came true one year ago was giving way to this unimaginable reality. As they skated into each other’s arms, these Northeastern Huskies found themselves celebrating an achievement that lay beyond the reach of so many predecessors—their first back-to-back Beanpot titles since 1984-85.
They beat Boston College 4-2 on Monday night at TD Garden in a championship final that consistently defied the scoreboard. Sophomore goaltender Cayden Primeau was named the Beanpot’s Most Valuable Player for allowing a stingy three goals in two games. He was the backbone of a team that spent the final 7:46 holding off a furious charge by the Eagles, whose pair of third-period goals narrowed Northeastern’s lead to 3-2 and threatened to ruin this breakthrough so many years in the making.
Then, with 5.3 seconds remaining, the upper deck of Northeastern students and fans let loose enough noise to fill the building as Zach Solow vanquished the old ghosts with an empty-net goal, unleashing consequences unseen since those long-ago days when their coach, Jim Madigan, was winning successive Beanpots as a player.
When you’re trying to achieve something that hasn’t been done in 34 years, it isn’t supposed to happen easily.
“I talked to this team that this is the the opportunity to differentiate yourselves from the rest of the Northeastern teams by winning back-to-back,” Madigan, who has had a hand in five of Northeastern’s six Beanpot titles (including one as an assistant coach), said after the game. “This is the benchmark team that other teams will chase.”
After suffering through years of institutional heartbreak and hard luck, the No. 14 Huskies (17-9-1) were the beneficiaries of an apparent technical glitch in the seventh minute of the 67th Beanpot final. BC’s David Cotton appeared to score a bobbling goal just before teammate Oliver Wahlstrom knocked the net loose. It was ruled no goal on the ice, but the replay wasn’t working. Officials were unable to view the video that might have overturned their call.
“The refs had no video of the goal,” said BC coach Jerry York. “That was tough; I’m not sure if it was a goal or not a goal.”
Northeastern broke through with 38.8 seconds left in the opening period when a shot by Jordan Harris was picked up behind the goal and wrapped around by Lincoln Griffin. BC goaltender Joseph Woll appeared to lose touch with the puck: His glove had saved it, but he was looking behind him to see if it was in the net. Before he realized the puck was still in play, Austin Plevy—a fourth-line forward with only two scores this season—knocked it loose for the opening goal. It was a frustrating result for the Eagles (10-14-3), who had withstood an early run of attack by the Huskies.
The Eagles were controlling possession in the middle period—Cotton was in the middle of everything and incessantly threatening to take over—but they entered the final set with a two-goal deficit thanks to a virtuoso move down the right side by Tyler Madden, the Northeastern freshman whose overtime goal won the semifinal over Boston University last week. This time he beat two Eagles and then crashed the net in an extraordinary diversion that enabled Matt Thomson to find Patrick Schule for the slap shot that put the Huskies up 2-0.
Within a half-minute the Huskies were threatening to put it out of reach when Woll succeeded in snuffing out a breakaway by Lincoln Griffin. But Griffin made up for it 85 seconds into the final period when he cleaned up a failed clearance to give Northeastern a 3-0 advantage. For all of the good work done by Woll, he yielded a number of rebounds—and this one hurt him when Liam Pecararo’s shot bounced clear. Griffin had time to control the puck and shove it high before Woll could regain position.
But 18:35 was too much time, and the three-goal advantage was barely enough.
“It was nerve-wracking,” said captain Eric Williams. “I think we were a little too worried about protecting the lead, rather than winning the game.”
A couple of lapses behind Primeau’s net enabled Cotton to make up ground quickly. He burst into the crease for BC’s first goal in the fifth minute, then held the puck long enough to deliver a pass that found JD Dudek arriving with 7:46 remaining. It was 3-2 and now the Huskies were having to count on Primeau.
“He was unbelievable tonight—and last week,” said Williams of Primeau, who won his second straight Eberly Award as the Beanpot’s top goalie. “We don’t win the tournament without him. He gives us so much confidence.”
For much of the game his teammates had taken pressure off Primeau by blocking shots and forcing the Eagles to settle from the outside. But now he was fending off pucks like an emerging young Jedi. He and his teammates were trying to eradicate the last of their institutional memories, like a debt that had to be repaid before they could finally move on with this new era that Madigan has been creating.
As the trophy was raised on the ice, Northeastern’s fans upstairs were carrying on with their familiar chant. “Let’s go Huskies!” they sang. In this tournament, on this night, no longer were they looking back on what had been lost. They were singing of the future, and a destiny proudly theirs at long last.