BOSTON — In last year’s semifinal against Harvard, Northeastern started flat, allowed three quick strikes to the Crimson, and ended up losing both Beanpot games.
This year was a completely different story, as the Huskies won a yawner against BC. Northeastern equaled its season high in goals with six, and after a 1-1 tie early, the Eagles never sniffed a lead.
So what was the difference?
“It’s the guy at the end of the table [NU goalie Brad Thiessen],” said Northeastern coach Greg Cronin. “I always say a goaltender in hockey is like a quarterback in football, or a pitcher in baseball. You can’t win without a good one.”
Even though his record in Beanpot games is a pedestrian 2-3, Thiessen is the reigning Eberly Trophy winner, given to the goaltender with the highest save percentage during the tournament. He’s got quite a start on the competition this year, as he stopped 45 of 46 BC shots. Earlier this season, Thiessen stopped 38 of 41 BC shots in a 4-3 NU win.
“I thought Thiessen was outstanding,” echoed BC coach Jerry York. “One of our goals tonight was to take a lot of shots and create a lot of scoring chances, and I thought we did that. But he made some remarkable saves. They were a better club tonight, and their goaltending was very, very strong.”
Cronin also brought some attention to an unlikely source: senior defenseman Denis Chisholm, who didn’t have a point in the game or a shot on net. Chisholm was handed a game disqualification at the end of the second period and didn’t return for the third.
“[The young guys] can say all they want about how they were confident, but they were nervous early,” said Cronin. “I could feel it. Human emotion spread through the bench and there were some nerves there.
“You can’t just give a freshman experience. A guy like Chisholm doesn’t get much media attention because he isn’t flashy and doesn’t score many goals, but it is so important to have a guy like that, who has been there before and can show the younger players how it is done.”
That’s Quite A Duffle Bag
A remarkable streak was broken in Monday’s Beanpot game. During his time in Chestnut Hill, goaltender John Muse had played every minute in net for Boston College, including all 44 games of last season’s NCAA championship team, and all 23 (non-exhibition) games of this season.
After giving up six goals to Northeastern, York took out Muse and brought in backup netminder Chris Venti, a freshman who stopped all three shots he saw. Muse’s streak ended at 4,226 minutes played.
Northeastern became the first team to chase Muse from the net. How will he react?
“John will have to learn from it,” York said. “In baseball, Sandy Koufax would go out, get shelled, come back and win -something games. Goaltenders bounce back from these types of outings. John will be fine; he’ll wake up tomorrow morning and get back to where he was.”
Previewing Next Week
With the win over the Eagles, Northeastern advanced to the Beanpot championship game for just the 13th time in the tournament’s 57-year history. Of the 12 previous visits to the title game, 10 of them have come against next Monday’s foe, Boston University. The Huskies have a 3-7 record in those 10 games.
If Northeastern and Boston University both win their games on Friday night and national No. 2 Notre Dame were to do no better than a split this weekend against No. 15 Ohio State, the title game could shape up as a battle between No. 1 and No. 2 in all the land.
For Northeastern, the semifinal win over BC was just the fourth time the Huskies have beaten the Eagles to advance to the championship game in 20 tries.
The evening game was a first for the entire Northeastern squad, as every Northeastern Beanpot game for the last three years has been at 5:00.
“The crowd was incredible,” said Ryan Ginand, Northeastern’s leading scorer, who got the scoring started with a power-play goal in the first period. “The energy was remarkable. And that was just the first round. Now I have played in one, and I can’t wait for next week.”
“Last year we didn’t really know how to win. At colleges like BC and BU, the kids go there and just put on the jersey and they just know how to win. We’re trying to instill that in our team this year.” — Thiessen
“I try to be the first guy in every time. It’s the simplest role.” — Chris Donovan, who scored a goal and added three assists.
“I expect to win every game. I don’t know how else you go into a game. You don’t go into a game thinking you are going to lose, or that you’re the heavy favorite. I just think we’re going to win every game.” — York
“It’s just a game. The Beanpot is just a game. The spotlight, all the media spotlight, makes it more than a game. I’ve tried to get them back to just playing a game. We play another game on Friday. We’re trying to win a Hockey East championship. We put this win in the bank and move on.” — Cronin