First Northeastern-Harvard Beanpot men’s final. Huskies advance with 3-1 upset of Boston University

A group of Northeastern hockey players celebrate a win together on the ice.
The Huskies celebrated their advancement to a fifth straight Beanpot final—with the promise of a fourth title in that span. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

For the first time in 70 tournaments, Northeastern will be facing Harvard in the championship game of the men’s Beanpot.

In terms of history, it is a mind-boggling quirk that the two teams have never met in the final of their four-team event. For those in attendance at TD Garden on Monday, however, the Huskies’ outcome—a 3-1 semifinal upset of No. 3 Boston University—made exquisite sense.

It was a comprehensive team victory of pressing defense, superb Devon Levi goaltending (in the final period especially) and opportunistic scoring that began with a game-changing goal in the opening period by senior captain Aidan McDonough.

On an night when the inspiring support of the DogHouse gave his players “butterflies and goosebumps,” according to Northeastern coach Jerry Keefe, the Huskies (14-10-3) continued their annual domination of Boston hockey by reaching a fifth straight Beanpot final—with the chance of earning a fourth title in that span. 

They also avenged themselves in their rematch of last year’s final, won by BU, 1-0, on a heartbreaking goal in the final three minutes. This time the Huskies took charge early on, squelching the explosive Terriers and limiting them to only 18 shots on goal through the opening two periods as Northeastern seized a 2-0 lead.

“We try not to think about it because you have to show up and play your best,” said McDonough, who ranks among the nation’s top scorers with 18 goals this season. “But playing them after they beat us last year, it definitely means a bit more.”

The desperate Terriers (20-7-0) amplified the pressure, pelting Levi with 16 shots in the third period. With 1:51 remaining and their goalie pulled to the bench, the Terriers finally broke through on a goal by Matt Brown.

But Northeastern freshman Hunter McDonald responded by stealing a loose puck at BU’s blue line and slamming home the empty-net clincher to send his Huskies onto the final. 

Levi, the reigning national goalie of the year, made 33 saves overall and snuffed out three power plays while shutting down BU’s seven-game winning streak. The Terriers have yet to beat Levi in regulation in five meetings over the past two years.

The hot Huskies, winners in six of their last seven games, move on to the long-awaited championship showdown with No. 10 Harvard (16-6-1), which overcame a large deficit in shots to beat Boston College, 4-3, on a dramatic goal with 1.5 seconds left in overtime of Monday’s first semifinal.

“I’d like to think our program over the last seven or eight years has taken a big step—and Harvard has too,” Northeastern coach Jerry Keefe said. “It is surprising that Harvard and Northeastern haven’t played yet.” 

In this topsy-turvy, up-and-down year, Levi has been the source of Northeastern’s gravity. Things were bad from Thanksgiving through the holidays—a prolonged 1-6 slump for the defending Hockey East champs—and yet they believed their season could be saved, in part because Levi can save just about anything. 

He proved as much in his Beanpot debut on Monday. He also proved that he can’t do it alone. 

Enter Levi’s offensive complement, McDonough. As a freshman in 2020 he generated a goal and two assists the night the Huskies last won the Beanpot. Now he was committed to bookending that title with another one to close out his Northeastern career. When center Justin Hryckowian fed him the puck on the edge of the left circle, close to goal, McDonough made his opening goal look like a gimme putt with six minutes left in the opening period.

The Huskies’ 1-0 lead shifted the focus back to Levi during a timeout that preceded a BU power play nearing the end of the first period.

Levi skated away from his net and knelt between his two circles as he always does—the timeout music thumping from the speakers overhead and the ice-cleaning shovelers skating all around him. The sight of him facing his own goal with his stick across his lap like a lightsaber made the frantic night feel almost tranquil before he upped himself back to his feet with a kind of yawning shrug and readied himself for whatever the favored Terriers would throw at him.

Which turned out to be less than expected—thanks to Northeastern’s suffocating team defense that stifled BU’s speed and limited the assaults on Levi. The Huskies, benefiting from the healthy return of three senior defensemen, blocked 21 shots overall in an effort that lived up to their pregame mission.

“When you’re getting hemmed in in your zone there for some period of time, and if guys are teeing up shots, you’ve got to get in front of it,” McDonough said. “I think that’s the biggest thing we talked about before the game was just doing it for each other. It’s just us in this room and we have an opportunity here that not many people have, so let’s do it for each other—and I think the guys really bought in when it comes to blocking shots.” 

Levi snuffed out a BU power play near the end of the opening period, stabbing to his right to knock down a Quinn Hutson shot and fending off another attempt by Brown, the Terriers’ leading scorer this season.

“I say it all the time: He’s the best goalie in the country,” Keefe said. “I’ve got a lot of confidence in him and you can see our guys want to play in front of him too. We know he’s always there and he has our backs.”

The second period wasn’t two minutes old when Northeastern assistant captain Jakov Novak knocked in the rebound of a Jeremie Bucheler shot. Now the Huskies’ lead was 2-0 and back to Levi’s end the action went.

From Levi holding his ground to his attackers at the other end taking full advantage of their chances and then back to Levi again, so did the eyes of every fan in TD Garden scan back and forth across the white icy page as though reading a narrative both compelling and beyond prediction.

Levi was the last line of a defense that was working together to bottle up BU. A couple of minutes past the halfway mark, the explosive Terriers had managed only 11 shots (to 19 by Northeastern).

A second BU power play amounted to nothing—and no sooner had it ended than the Huskies were very nearly adding to their lead in a wild skirmish culminating in a Riley Hughes shot drifting just past the open BU net.

A final BU power play in the fading minutes of the middle period was especially dangerous. A loose puck in front of the net that Devin Kaplan tried to sneak past Levi. A post-up by Luke Tuch with his back to Levi that he knocked away. Another shot from Tuch, this one from the circle, that Levi fought off too.

“They obviously made a heck of a push in the third,” Keefe said of the Terriers. “And [Levi] was there to make a couple of outstanding saves when we needed them.

“To win big games, to win trophies, you have to make a commitment to defending. And our guys know that.”

Onto the frantic final period it went, with Levi holding strong—and Harvard waiting for a final yet unseen in seven decades.

“I had no idea that that was the case,” McDonough said as he looked ahead to the first-ever championship meeting with the Crimson. But then he spoke about the gains that the Huskies have made over the past half-dozen years and concluded that no one should be surprised by their achievements any longer. “We’re here,” he decided.

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