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Push underway to fill TD Garden for historic Women’s Beanpot final between Northeastern and Boston University 

A group led by Northeastern graduates is launching a grass-roots movement to attract fans to the breakthrough women’s game at the NHL arena.

Crowd of Northeastern fans cheering on the men's hockey team.
Fans routinely support the men’s Beanpot at TD Garden. Will they turn out when the Women’s Beanpot makes its debut at the NHL arena on Tuesday? Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

Defending champion Northeastern takes on Boston University in the first Women’s Beanpot final at TD Garden with much at stake for the Huskies — the promise of back-to-back titles and a 19th championship overall that would add to their Beanpot record. 

When the puck drops at 8 p.m. Tuesday, those ambitions will be fused into a larger groundswell for women’s sports overall. Inspired by the emergence of the Women’s Professional Hockey League as well as the turnout of 92,000 people last summer for a women’s volleyball match in Nebraska, a startup group led by Northeastern graduates has been urging fans to seize the moment by attending this historic event at Boston’s NHL arena.

“Why can’t we fill TD Garden?” says Mary Ciampa, a Northeastern graduate who founded WomenX, a leadership platform for women. 

Ciampa has been building support for the 45th Women’s Beanpot alongside former Northeastern stars Linda Lundrigan and Kelly Dyer Hayes. Representatives of Northeastern’s Beanpot rivals have joined the effort to connect with potential fans especially within the New England hockey community.

Tickets to the Women’s Beanpot doubleheader (starting with the 5 p.m. consolation game of Boston College vs. Harvard) are available here.

The 14th-ranked Huskies (15-9-1) advanced with a 1-0 semifinal win against host Harvard — an inordinately tight outcome despite Northeastern’s 40-9 shots advantage. The Huskies’ up-and-down scoring issues have defined the season following the departure last spring of current PWHL stars Alina Mueller, Maureen Murphy and Chloé Aurard, who combined for 669 points over their prolific NCAA careers.

The Huskies have generated 49 goals in their 15 wins this season — and just four goals in their nine losses.

“Feast or famine,” acknowledges coach Dave Flint, who nonetheless saw promise in his Huskies’ ability to grind out the win at Harvard. “We’ve grown in a lot of areas,” he said after the semifinal.

The Huskies struggled to an 8-8 start but have gone 7-1-1 since Thanksgiving, thanks to some breakout games offensively along with a renewal of their defensive strength led by the starting backline of Megan Carter and Lily Yovetich, who are back on the ice after recovering from injuries. 

Gwyneth Philips, the reigning NCAA goaltender of the year and Bertagna Award winner as the Beanpot’s top goalie last year, ranks among the nation’s leaders with a 1.12 goals-against average and a .955 save percentage. The semifinal shutout was Philips’ fifth of the season and 21st overall, elevating her to second place in team history.

The Huskies’ resilience contributes to the intrigue of their matchup against the underdog Terriers (11-10-3), who upset BC in a 1-0 shootout after their Beanpot semifinal ended in a 3-3 tie.

The Huskies have swept BU in their three meetings so far this season — though Flint was quick to point out that the most recent victory, 2-1 in overtime on Dec. 1, hadn’t come easily.

“They totally outplayed us,” Flint said of the Terriers. “We walked out of the rink lucky we won. They’ve got some firepower and some veteran defense.”

He said this knowing how difficult it can be to beat the same team four times in a span of 16 weeks — which is the mission facing his Huskies on Tuesday.

The unpredictability of the Beanpot is part of its allure, says Lundrigan, who won two titles as a Northeastern player (in 1990 and ’91) and another pair as associate head coach alongside Flint (2012 and ’13).

“Anything can happen in the Beanpot,” Lundrigan says. “What I love about the Beanpot is the opportunity to raise a trophy within your season. The athletes will look back on it and say it’s an experience like none other.”

Expectations around the TD Garden debut have been building for months. 

“It’s a really special moment,” Flint says. “It’s such a historic place, and to play in any NHL arena is an opportunity that a lot of young women don’t get.”

“It’s obviously very exciting,” Carter, the team captain, said after the Beanpot semifinal. “Really proud of the group, of how we banded together and held on to a 1-0 lead. The energy in the locker room was very positive.”

Ciampa, Lundrigan and their colleagues have been working with Boston-area youth teams to raise support. For perspective, Northeastern’s victory in the Women’s Beanpot final last year at Boston College drew 1,346 fans. Attendance for the Jan. 3 PWHL Boston opener was 4,012.

Last year, by comparison, Northeastern’s championship in the men’s Beanpot was attended by 18,258 at TD Garden — the result of decades of attention across all media platforms.

Lundrigan appreciates the higher-calling approach taken by WomenX in promoting the Women’s Beanpot that transcends the rivalries among schools.

“Mary has been elevating the event and the sport for what it is,” Lundrigan says. “To organize this movement the way we have has been motivating and really kind of righteous.”

Ciampa recognizes that the effort may take years.

“I was always asking, ‘Why aren’t the women playing at TD Garden?’” Ciampa says. “And then when I heard they were going to have the Women’s Beanpot at TD Garden, I was like, ‘We have got to do something about this. We have this momentum in the sports industry, it’s bringing us together, and as a community we’ve got to show up for that.’”