The last time Northeastern defeated Boston University in the Beanpot, Ronald Reagan still served as the U.S. President, Larry Bird played for the Boston Celtics and New Jersey Devils coach Jim Schoenfeld had not yet told referee Don Koharski to have another doughnut.
That 1988 Beanpot championship game capped Northeastern’s lone stretch of excellence in the tournament. The Huskies’ only four titles came between 1980 and 1988.
Since then, they’ve been relegated to the dreaded consolation game in all but six of the last 24 years. In five of those six exceptions, the path to the title game came courtesy of fellow-consolation regular Harvard. Against Boston College, the Huskies managed only two wins in 12 chances (one of those in a who-cares consolation game). Against BU, they’d lost 15 straight.
“I’ve been part of this tournament for a long time and I’ve heard all the facts and figures about what Northeastern’s record has been since we [last] beat BU,” Northeastern coach Jim Madigan said after his team upset the Terriers 3-2 in Monday’s semifinals. “At the end of the day, facts and figures don’t win hockey games. It’s will and our guys’ ability to go out there and compete.”
Which Northeastern did on this night in spades, stifling the Terriers power play, holding it to only four shots in six man-advantage situations, including a five-on-three that lasted 1:56.
Freshman forward Kevin Roy recorded a hat trick and senior goaltender Chris Rawlings stopped 32 of 34 shots. But the win was one of the team variety in every way.
“[Boston University] dominated this tournament for many years,” Madigan said. “So for our guys to go out there and beat them on this ice is a tribute to the hard work, effort and dedication they put forth.”
Also, their mind-set.
Madigan arranged for Northeastern legend Wayne Turner to speak with the team on Saturday. Turner’s overtime wrist shot gave the Huskies their first Beanpot in 1980, a year in which finished with a 7-20 record, not unlike this year’s squad that has fallen into the cellar of Hockey East with a 4-11-3 league record.
Turner told the Huskies that they were not going to get faster or smarter in the next two days. It was all about mind-set, just like it had been in 1980.
“I was fortunate to play and coach and have some good teammates in the 80s when we won four [Beanpots] and I was part of three,” Madigan said. “Those were great years. I want our players, our team to have that experience moving forward.
“So it’s not about what happened in the past. You can go back in the history books and it makes a good story. [But] we’re just focusing straight ahead with this team at this time because the stuff before this isn’t good. We don’t have a great history here.
“We’re just [staying] in the moment and moving forward. We’re trying to take all that negativity out. We’re just focusing straight ahead.”
Straight ahead to a much-needed league game against Massachusetts on Friday. Only after that mission is accomplished will the Huskies turn their eyes to next Monday and Boston College, when the potential for their first Beanpot championship in 25 years beckons.