BOSTON — The words exciting and thrilling have been used to describe many a hockey game over the years — the Beanpot consolation game has never been one of them.
Now, no one is claiming that this year’s 8-7 Northeastern win over Harvard will go down as one of the most memorable games in college hockey history, but it sure made for an interesting experience for the few souls who ventured out of work early this afternoon to catch the 5 p.m. contest.
Over the span of two and a half hours, fans were entertained by a 15-goal performance from two teams who this past weekend had combined for only two goals in two games. Northeastern was defeated by New Hampshire, 5-2, while the Crimson was shut out by Dartmouth, 7-0. In fact, the astronomical 15-goal total will go down in history as the most scored in a Beanpot consolation game. The previous high was 13 goals set back in 1987 when Boston College defeated Harvard, 7-6.
Open ice and loose defense allowed for the two teams to consistently penetrate deep into the zones and control momentum by scoring in quick spurts. The teams combined for 70 shots on the night, a majority occurring deep in the red zone.
“It was entertaining wasn’t it?” said Northeastern head coach Bruce Crowder. “You know, we are a team that has to go out and just play and we did that tonight. We sat back in first period and Harvard exploited us pretty good. As for scoring in bunches, I’m not sure why that happened, but I’m glad that it did.”
The Huskies had the last laugh, however, as they came back from a 6-3 deficit midway the second period to capture the one-goal victory. The comeback was powered by three unanswered goals scored in the final 14:35 of play. It was Northeastern’s first victory in more than three weeks.
The hero in this game was senior Graig Mischler, who capped off a four-point night with the game winner at the 17:03 mark of the third period. Mischler held off a Harvard defenseman in front of the net, collected a centering pass from Mike Jozefowicz and wristed a shot past Harvard netminder Oliver Jonas.
The loss was particularly stinging for Harvard, which posted its worst loss of the year this past Friday in the 7-0 loss to Dartmouth.
“We’re struggling right now. Anyone who has watched us play over the last week can see that,” said Harvard head coach Mark Mazzoleni. “We’ve lost the edge defensively. We are not executing at all in our defensive zone. I thought that we played well in the neutral zone and that our forecheck was effective, but once the puck was dumped in on us in our D-zone we struggled. We ran around.”
After one period of play, things didn’t look as hopeless as one would expect. The Crimson broke out to an early 2-0 lead thanks to tallies by freshmen Abe Kinkopf and Tim Pettit. Kinkopf’s goal was especially unexpected considering that he was playing in only his second collegiate varsity game. He was called up from the junior varsity team early this week to replace Kyle Clark, who left the team and signed a three-year contract with the Washington Capitals.
The Crimson lead was short lived however, as the Huskies stormed back with a flurry of goals in a span of 47 seconds. Brian Sullivan’s first collegiate goal in 49 games cut the lead in half at the 12:09 mark after he one-timed a deflection through the pads of Jonas. Brian Cummings netted the equalizer seconds later when he tipped home a centering pass from Mike Ryan in front of the Crimson net.
Harvard responded over the waning minutes of the period to reestablish a two-goal lead heading into the second.
“It was one of those games where our kids got stronger as the game went on,” said Crowder. “I thought that our first period was questionable in terms of our commitment to come out and play. As we went along, I liked how we played, and we came up with an important ‘W’.”
The Huskies inched closer to the Crimson in the second period by outscoring them, 3-2. The Huskies had clearly started to control play, were within one goal at 6-5, and had 20 minutes remaining in the game. The stage was set for the comeback.
As all good stories go, the dramatic finish was delayed slightly. Harvard senior Steve Moore gave his team what appeared to be a 7-5 cushion at the 4:36 mark when he deposited his team’s 10th shorthanded tally of the year.
Much like they did in the first period, however, Northeastern didn’t waste much time in squashing the Crimson confidence. Less than a minute after Moore’s goal, the Huskies exploded for two unanswered goals in 33 seconds.
“Our kids didn’t quit and they kept coming at them,” said Crowder. “This is a good confidence boost for us. … it was nice to come back and come all the way back this time.”
Crowder’s squad had been in the midst of yet another losing streak. A common thread in his team’s most recent losing streak has been their tendency to get down in games early. This time around, they found a way to reverse their fortunes.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Harvard, which falls to 11-11-1 on the season. To compound the misery, the Crimson will now be without the service of yet another player; Tim
Pettit suffered a fractured jaw and will be out indefinitely. That fact does not bode well for a team which must face Clarkson and St. Lawrence in critical league games this coming weekend.
“We have to talk to our doctors and see who we have left,” said Mazzoleni. “By the third period, we were down to four ‘D’ and three lines. That was all we had left. I don’t like to trap, but I may have to do that this weekend because we don’t have the manpower.
“We are fragile mentally right now. We’re playing scared. We’re playing not to make a mistake,” added Mazzoleni, who was quick to point out that he will be suiting up 17 freshmen and sophomores next season. “It takes time to rebuild a program. Luckily for me I signed a five-year deal when I came here.”
(Also see: Beanpot Championship Notebook)