After their comeback from the first period and their failure in the third, after the enervating shock of losing the championship they thought they had, after the 29 years without that inspired them to never go without again, the Northeastern Huskies were celebrating.
With their 5-4 victory in two overtime periods against Boston University, the Huskies (15-8-3) were celebrating their third successive Beanpot title for the first time in their 68-year history at the tournament. They were celebrating their own resilience, the hard work that made possible their good fortune, and a winning streak that for almost three decades seemed impossible but now feels quite comfortable, thank you very much.
“Three-peat!” chanted the hundreds of students in the upper deck of TD Garden. They’ve adapted quickly to the new normal on Huntington Avenue.
On Tuesday night, elsewhere in Boston, the Huskies will be skating for another win over Boston University in the final of the Women’s Beanpot—with the ultimate goal of sweeping both Beanpots for the first time in 32 years.
The men won theirs Monday on a long slap shot in the second overtime by Jordan Harris, a sophomore defenseman. His climactic goal set off an extended roar 79 minutes and 33 seconds into what was the second-longest Beanpot final in front of a tournament-record audience of 17,850. Harris’s goal was the result of a controversial power play, a tripping penalty that was disputed by the Terriers. But winners never care. Winners, as the Huskies have learned over the past three years, are ruthless.
Harris gathered a corner pass from Aidan McDonough (his third assist, to go with a goal) not far from center ice, took a couple of strides, and let fly a shot that split the legs of BU’s Patrick Curry and skirted a thicket of foes and friends before settling just beyond the right skate of Sam Tucker, the forlorn BU goaltender who had come off the bench to briefly play the part of a hero, and who would be consoled by his teammates.
Harris had been warned by his coaches to expect the pass. He had grown up watching the Beanpot in Haverhill, Massachusetts, and now all the dreams that drove him have been surpassed by the real thing.
“It was a great hockey game,” said Northeastern coach Jim Madigan, who has had a hand in six of the Huskies’ seven Beanpot titles as head coach (these last three), a player (two), as well as an assistant coach. “They pushed, we pushed, they pushed back, back and forth.”
Two goals by BU (10-9-8) in the first period were followed by four from Northeastern in the second. The Terriers responded two minutes into the third with deflected power play goal by David Farrance that drew them within 4-3, and ignited a slow burn of escalation that felt altogether explosive by the end of regulation.
BU’s urgency grew with each unsuccessful charge at Northeastern’s Craig Pantano, whose 40 saves overall would earn him the Eberly Award as top goaltender of the Beanpot. Pantano, a transfer from Merrimack who had taken over for Beanpot MVP Cayden Primeau, had staved off all kinds of challenges. As the final seconds were unscrolled, BU’s Jake Wise, with no space for error, feinted a shot from the right while delivering a brief cross that Trevor Zegras controlled while charging from the other side of goal to finish just in front of Pantano’s dive.
The game had been equalized 1.2 seconds before the Huskies would have celebrated.
Over nearly 20 minutes of overtime, the Huskies would be outshot 15-6. The five-minute session that immediately followed the tying goal could have been demoralizing, which is why everyone who had anything to do with it will embrace it forever. BU, in its semifinal last week, had scored three goals in the closing minutes against Boston College, and then advanced in overtime. But the Huskies survived.
“We needed to get through the first five minutes of OT to get to the locker room,” Madigan said.
During the extended break that preceded the second overtime, senior captain Ryan Shea stood and reminded his teammates of who they had become.
“He gave our guys, not the hope, but the believability,” Madigan said.
“I looked around the room,” said Shea, who contributed two assists and a game-high five blocks. “No one was worried. Everyone knew—not knew, but hoped. Believed. We’ve been in this situation before. I don’t think there was anything to be nervous or worried about. We were confident.”
They had been on their heels while falling behind 2-0 in the opening period, as their back line appeared to fall back into the neutral zone whenever BU reclaimed the puck in its end. The Huskies altered their approach from the start of the second period, and the scoreboard showed the proof shortly after Tyler Madden won a faceoff in BU’s end. He waited for an exchange of passes from Julian Kislin and Aidan McDonough to provide him with the mood-changing goal to pull the Huskies within 2-1 just three minutes into the period.
That launched a spectacular run of four Northeastern goals in nine minutes. Shea encircled BU freshman goaltender Ashton Abel like a shark on his way to delivering a lateral pass that was finished instantly by Aidan McDonough for the equalizer.
Zach Solow, the most valuable player of the Beanpot, took advantage of the space created by a four-on-three power play to backhand the puck to himself—like an archer drawing his arrow—before piercing the bottom left corner. And then, with 8:37 remaining in the middle period, the Huskies went up 4-2 on a goal by Grant Jozefek, who had been responsible for their lone shot during the opening woeful (and by now forgotten) 13 minutes of this volatile night.
That goal forced BU coach Albie O’Connell to replace freshman Ashton Abel with Tucker, a graduate transfer from Yale who, it must be said, played rather smartly. Tucker delivered 18 saves in more than an hour of play. But only the last shot will be remembered.
When it was all done, when the long road to this three-peat had been run, Madigan was asked about possibly winning a fourth straight Beanpot next year.
“I think we’re just going to enjoy tonight,” he said, after hitting his forehead against a microphone in comic exhaustion. “We’re going to celebrate. These young men have separated themselves from every other Northeastern team in our 90-year history.”