Northeastern and Harvard have never met in a Beanpot men’s final. Could this be the year?

hands holding beanpot trophy
The Huskies will be seeking their fourth title in five appearances when they open the Beanpot on Monday at TD Garden. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Could this be the year for another first at the men’s Beanpot?

In 69 tournaments dating back to 1952, Northeastern and Harvard have never met in the final of the four-team Boston hockey event. But that could change Monday as both teams surge into their respective semifinals at TD Garden.

At 8 p.m. Monday, No. 19 Northeastern (13-9-3) will meet No. 3 Boston University (19-6-0) in a rematch of last year’s final, won by BU, 1-0. 

That game will be preceded by the semifinal between Boston College (9-10-5) and No. 8 Harvard (15-5-1), which last won the Beanpot in 2017. Both semifinals, as well as the final and consolation games on Feb. 13, will be televised by NESN.

Northeastern’s streak of three straight Beanpot titles ended last year when it surrendered a lone goal in the final three minutes that provided the Terriers with their 31st Beanpot championship—and their first since 2015.

After going three decades without raising the trophy, the Huskies have dominated Boston hockey in recent years with four straight finals appearances. Their title streak was sandwiched around championship victories over BU in 2018 and 2020. (The 2021 Beanpot was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.)

“Our senior class, they’ve won this tournament,” Northeastern coach Jerry Keefe says. “Once you win it, it makes you that much more hungry to win another Beanpot.”

The prospect of an unprecedented Northeastern-Harvard final is based on the latter’s season-long excellence and the former’s return to form. After suffering six losses in seven games over a span of six weeks, the Huskies embarked on a five-game winning streak in January. Their 2-1 win over Boston College on Tuesday boosted them to No. 2 in Hockey East, a point behind BU—positioning Northeastern to defend its regular-season championship from last year.

The Huskies have the reigning national goaltender of the year in junior Devon Levi, who has been named Hockey East’s top goalie each of the past two weeks while allowing six goals during the winning streak. 

“Devon is the best goalie in the country, so that’s No. 1,” Keefe says. “Focusing on shot-blocking, focusing on our neutral zone has been really important for our team. That’s something that we’ve been putting an emphasis on making sure that we’re really good in the middle of the rink.”

Complementing Levi is senior forward Aidan McDonough, the Hockey East points leader who ranks third nationally with 17 goals. Three years ago, McDonough celebrated his Beanpot debut by contributing to a double-overtime win over BU in the final.

“We had that pressure of being that freshmen class,” McDonough says. “The teams before us had won two in a row. You don’t want to be the guys that come in and ruin it. It was amazing going through that experience here—and now last year being on the other side of it.

“The Beanpot is a lot of fun, but you only get to truly experience it if you win it.”

Such is the ambition of Jakov Novak, a graduate student who arrived from Bentley in 2021.

“That’s definitely one of the reasons why I transferred to Northeastern, just to get the opportunity to play in a Beanpot,” says Novak, who scored the third-period winner in Northeastern’s 2-1 victory against BC on Tuesday. “In the last three to four weeks we’ve really become close as a group—playing through the middle, playing for each other, blocking shots. This is the best time of the year to get that going.”

Northeastern’s rotation was deepened by a spree of early-season injuries that forced Keefe to rely on backline freshmen Vinny Borgesi, Jackson Dorrington and Hunter McDonald, who leads the team in blocked shots. Up front, freshman Cam Lund has contributed 18 points (five goals) to McDonough’s front line, and freshman winger Jack Williams has added 13 points. But the Huskies recognize that playing in the Beanpot will create an entirely new challenge for their young players.

“When you’re a freshman like, as Dunzo (McDonough) always says, you’re just trying to not fall,” senior defenseman Jeremie Bucheler tells Northeastern Global News. “But now, as you get older, you’ve been around it so you know what to expect a little more.”

“The upperclassmen do a really good job with that,” Keefe says of helping the younger players prepare for the Beanpot experience. “You lean on your older guys to help them, to settle them down. Every player is a little bit different, whether it’s getting a hit or getting the puck deep or getting a shift or two in that first period. Because then you want to play like it’s any other game.”

The deep Terriers are driven by senior forward Matt Brown (their leader with 11 goals and 24 assists) and freshmen brothers Lane Hutson, a defenseman (31 points) who is three years younger than forward Quinn Hutson (20 points). Junior goalie Drew Commesso, who made 40 saves in a recent 3-1 win over BC, was a second-round NHL draft pick by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2020.

The Huskies are counting on the upper-deck support of The DogHouse, whose students annually provide Northeastern with the loudest section at the Beanpot.

“Last year when it was the first (Beanpot) game since the pandemic and we were hearing how loud it got when our guys got called for the starting lineup—the guys said they’ve never felt chills come from so far within,” Bucheler says. “It got us so ready for the game and it had a huge impact on us.”

It’s intriguing to imagine an unprecedented Northeastern-Harvard final in an event that will be celebrating its 70th year. But Keefe will have no part of such talk at this early stage.

“You have to focus on the first week,” he says. “We can’t think too far ahead. It’s that first Monday where you’ve got to play your best hockey. Because every one of these teams is good and anyone can win it.”

Ian Thomsen is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email him at Follow him on Twitter @IanatNU.