BOSTON — Husky winger Mike Ryan fittingly celebrated the Beanpot’s 50th anniversary with a golden game.
Ryan’s third career hat trick paved the way for Northeastern as the Huskies notched a solid 5-2 victory over Harvard at the FleetCenter in the Beanpot’s early game. Freshman centerman Jason Guerriero also had the Midas touch, assisting on all three of his linemate’s goals.
Freshman Keni Gibson stopped 22 Harvard shots to earn the win. Brendan Bernakevitch and Kenny Turano scored the only goals for the Crimson (9-9-3), while Ryan Dudgeon and Eric Ortlip chipped in a goal apiece for the Huskies (15-10-3).
“I thought the team played exceptionally well — made my night real easy,” Gibson said.
The win gave Husky coach Bruce Crowder an opportunity to ponder the potential impact of NU’s first Beanpot championship since 1988.
“There’s no doubt that every time you walk around the campus at Northeastern — whether it’s the people in facilities or the professors or the cook in the cafeteria — they’re all giving you jabs here and there, Beanpot this, Beanpot that,” Crowder said. “For us it would be fantastic for the university and the alumni. We just wanted to get in a position to play for it, and that’s what we accomplished tonight.
“On our part I thought it was a pretty good team effort,” Crowder added. “We ended up with a little help from everybody.”
Meanwhile, Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni praised his team’s effort on the heels of a lackluster weekend road trip in New York state. The Crimson played well late in the game even when the score was well out of reach.
“In our first couple of years here, when we would get down like that we would press, and it would turn into a one-on-one circus,” Mazzoleni said. “And I thought our kids stayed focused and played as a unit of five and really continued to play with each other.”
After lukewarm Harvard pressure in the opening minutes, the Huskies dominated play in the first, notching six of the first seven shots on goal. Leon Hayward set up a Trevor Reschny redirect at the five-minute mark. Dov Grumet-Morris made the kick save, but the play set the stage for a few more scoring opportunities for NU.
NU’s consistent pressure paid off seconds into its first power play of the game. After a clear by the Crimson, Husky goaltender Keni Gibson passed the puck to freshman Jason Guerriero at the red line near the left-wing boards. Guerriero slid the puck across the stripe to Ryan, streaking toward the offensive zone.
Ryan faked a shot to slow up Peter Capouch defending the play, then moved to his left before beating Grumet-Morris with a low 25-footer. That made it 1-0 at 9:24, though for some reason Gibson was not credited with a deserved assist.
A pair of Husky penalties yielded a handful of moderately good scoring chances for the Crimson — including a Brett Nowak wrister that Gibson didn’t seem to realize that he had between his pads — but on the whole it was not a promising start for the Crimson. As usual, Harvard had to overcome the disadvantage of scheduling, as they had played a tough two-game road trip at Cornell and Colgate over the weekend while the three Hockey East teams played nearby on Friday only.
Early in the second period, though, it appeared that whatever didn’t kill the Crimson would make them stronger. They knotted the game at one when Tom Cavanagh slipped a quick pass from behind the goal line to Brendan Bernakevitch for a one-timer in tight to beat Gibson at 3:25.
The Crimson also were buoyed by a flashy glove save by Grumet-Morris, who snared a Leon Hayward blast from the right-wing faceoff circle at 6:12.
But the Huskies regained the lead on a goal resembling the Harvard tally, as the Huskies’ fourth line paid dividends. This time Jared Mudryk fired the pass from behind the goal line, and Ryan Dudgeon beat Grumet-Morris despite a bad angle in the left circle. It was just the second goal of the season for the centerman and undoubtedly the sweetest to date.
A power-play goal gave the Huskies a 3-1 cushion at 15:44, as Eric Ortlip picked up a Jaron Herriman pass that bounced off a Harvard defender and ended up right in the crease. Ortlip banged at it twice to knock it by the goalie, who had anticipated a pass across the slot.
Meanwhile, the crowd kept filtering in.
“Back home, playing in front of 1,000 people is a big deal,” said Gibson, an Ontario native. “Matthews Arena is great, but this takes the cake for sure. As the game went on, once in a while I’d take a peek in the crowd. It seemed like there were a couple thousand more people every time I took a look.”
Dominic Moore almost got one back for the Crimson in the last two minutes, but his shot went just wide.
The third period was fairly uneventful until 8:36, when the Huskies appeared to put the final nail in the coffin with the prettiest goal of the game. Skating into the Crimson end, Jason Guerriero flipped a backhanded pass to Mike Ryan on his left wing. Ryan deked to make Grumet-Morris go down, then wheeled the puck to his backhand to slip it in low glove-side.
“Guerriero is a terrific hockey player,” Mazzoleni said. “You just watch him out there: He’s a very, very skilled player, a tenacious competitor. He really sees the ice very well.”
It was Ryan’s second goal of the game and his team-leading 19th of the season. He notched the hat trick less than four minutes later, after Guerriero outfoxed Grumet-Morris with a clever backhand pass from behind the net. It started out looking like a wraparound bid, but Guerriero slipped the puck behind him to set up Ryan for a solid piece of empty netting.
That one left the Harvard coach shaking his head about the freshman centerman.
“That last pass that he made — he drew our defenseman to him and passed a saucer pass behind him to Ryan, who just buried it,” Mazzoleni said. “You can see why the kid did so well last year in Texas with the North American Junior Hockey League. He’s a heckuva good recruit for them.”
Harvard got one back shortly afterwards when Kenny Turano buried a wrister for his first goal of the season, but it was a little late to be thinking about a comeback.
Instead, the Huskies were thinking about a shot at the title. So what did the first star of the night have to say to the younger players gearing up for the Beanpot?
“The main thing I just tell them is that you don’t want to play in the consolation game,” Ryan said.
No worries — for the junior left winger, it was as easy as one-two-three.