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Northeastern defends Women’s Beanpot with historic championship win at TD Garden

The 14th-ranked Huskies beat Boston University 2-1 in overtime Tuesday night for their record 19th title as the Women’s Beanpot made its debut at the NHL arena.

Was this the Huskies’ greatest Women’s Beanpot triumph? Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

All of Northeastern’s record 19 Women’s Beanpot Titles are cherished by Husky Nation. But this epic victory may be without equal.

The defending champion Huskies beat Boston University 2-1 in overtime Tuesday in the first Women’s Beanpot final held in TD Garden. Both of Northeastern’s goals were scored by junior center Skylar Irving, the tournament Most Valuable Player, who delivered each shot with the patience of the NHL stars she grew up watching in this building.

Gwyneth Philips, who won the Bertagna Award for the second straight year as the tournament’s most outstanding goaltender, made 23 saves. She and her defensive-minded teammates (who combined for 13 blocked shots overall) staved off four BU power plays across the opening two periods — no fluke for the nation’s second-best penalty-killing unit.

A noisy crowd of 10,633 — a record for women’s hockey in New England — enthusiastically endorsed the efforts of both teams in a tightly-fought game that celebrated how far the sport has come while launching its ever more promising future.

“It’s really an historic moment,” Northeastern coach Dave Flint said. “Credit to all the fans who came out — and thank you to all the people who put in the hard work to promote the event and make it a special memory for all of our student-athletes.”

BU, having pulled goalie Callie Shanahan (28 saves), dramatically forced overtime via a 6-on-5 goal by Catherine Foulem with 57 seconds remaining in regulation. It was preceded moments earlier by a potentially clinching shot for Northeastern from Taze Thompson that was knocked just wide of the empty net by BU’s Brooke Disher. 

The game ended abruptly just 27 seconds into the extra session when Irving finished a cross by Abbey Marohn, triggering an explosive roar punctuating the history that had been made. The apparent calm of that shot mirrored the sure-handedness of her opening goal in the final minute of the second period. She carried off those plays while dealing with the energy-draining magnitude of the evening, her coach said.

“She scored her first goal and she went into the tunnel and she threw up,” Flint said of Irving, who leads the Huskies with 16 assists and 23 points this season. “Then in the last couple of minutes of the game she threw up on the bench again.”

The efforts on both sides revealed just how badly the players wanted to rise to the high standard of this long-anticipated moment.

“It was truly amazing just being here at the Garden,” Irving said. “It’s historic that we are able to play here [with] all the hard work that has gone into us being able to. … It’s an extra special moment and it’s something that I’m going to definitely treasure for the rest of my life.”

The victory came with the backing of the DogHouse, the Northeastern band, President Joseph E. Aoun and many unnamed fans who will no doubt be hoarse the morning after.

Massachusetts Gov. (and Northeastern law school graduate) Maura Healey joined with Boston Mayor Michelle Wu in presenting the trophy to the Huskies.

Their triumph opens the door for a back-to-back sweep of both Beanpot trophies. Northeastern can add to its record six Beanpot sweeps when the men’s team seeks to defend its championship next month at TD Garden. 

Irving’s thrilling goal gave Northeastern a fourth straight win this season against BU.

The Huskies, who have gone 8-1-1 since Thanksgiving, had earned their place in this memorable title game thanks to a 1-0 semifinal win against host Harvard.This big year for the sport began weeks ago with the launch of the Professional Women’s Hockey League, driven in no small part by the nine former Northeastern Huskies who are part of the inaugural class. It continued with the TD Garden debut, which set a new standard for attendance thanks in no small part to Northeastern-led efforts to increase awareness and support of the women’s tournament as it made the big move to the NHL venue.

“When I walked out for the opening introductions, I got chills,” said Flint, who compared this championship game to his coaching appearances at the Olympics. “I looked around like, whoa, I can’t believe this. The atmosphere was incredible.”

By comparison, the Huskies’ victory in the Women’s Beanpot final last year at Boston College drew 1,346 fans. Attendance for the Boston franchise in the new Professional Women’s Hockey League has averaged 4,010 for its first two home games. 

Fans were banging on the glass as players arrived on the ice. The jumbotron was filled during timeouts with celebrating images of girls and young women, many representing youth hockey organizations.  

It was against that backdrop that Philips — the reigning national goalie of the year — took little time to introduce her supremacy, snuffing out power plays in the opening and closing minutes of the first period. Her most startling save came in-between when she reached back to somehow stop a point-blank weakside shot by BU’s Brooke Disher.

The Huskies succeeded in staving off two more opportunities for BU in the middle period. The latter penalty, Northeastern’s fourth thus far, was earned by Philips for roughing. (She spent the next two minutes atoning.)

Sandwiching BU’s wasted opportunities in the second period were the game’s two best chances, both taken by the Huskies. Freshman Allie Lalonde’s shot pinged BU’s left post in the early moments of the period. Then, 35.2 seconds before intermission, Irving glided patiently across the midsection of the circle, freeing her right hand for the shot that cleared Shanahan’s right shoulder for the long-awaited opening goal.

The Huskies controlled play for much of the final period before BU provided fans with those extra few seconds that will long be remembered by all Husky fans in attendance.