BOSTON — It took four years, but Northeastern is finally headed back to the Beanpot championship game.
When senior defenseman Tim Judy’s shot found its way through a screen at 2:01 of double overtime, the blueliner made sure that he and his classmates would return to a game they last skated in as rookies with a 2-1 win over the Harvard Crimson at the Fleet Center.
“By far,” Judy said, “this is the biggest goal of my career.”
“We know we have a good team,” remarked Northeastern netminder Keni Gibson, “a lot better than our record shows. We looked forward to getting to the finals all year long.”
Ironically, the Huskies beat Harvard to advance in 2002 as well.
“My joy was very much the kids’ joy,” said Northeastern coach Bruce Crowder about his excitement over the winner. “Harvard had just missed one, so maybe we needed a little lady luck.
“If you’re not going to get excited about a game like this one, then you shouldn’t be in this business.”
Judy’s third goal of the season also prolonged the misery of the Harvard Crimson (14-6-2, 11-4-1 ECACHL), which has not won the Beanpot since 1993.
“I am disappointed for our guys,” explained Harvard coach Ted Donato. “I have great feelings, especially for our senior class. When you’re a senior, you start to see things as the end of your college career. I was hoping they would experience a Beanpot final.”
The Crimson jumped on the board early in the game.
After taking sophomore Ryan Maki’s pass from the defensive blueline to just outside the Huskies’ zone, classmate Kevin Du poked the puck around Northeastern defenseman Brian Deeth and skated in alone on Gibson.
Du streaked down the right side before cutting across the slot, faking Gibson to the ice and flipping the puck over the prone netminder for his fifth of the season. The tally came just 59 seconds into the contest.
But the Huskies were not fazed.
“It’s tough with the momentum the other team gets,” said Gibson about the early marker. “We’ve been there before and have battled back. There were 59 minutes to play, so you know you have time to come back. We didn’t worry about it too much.”
It showed. The Huskies didn’t panic; instead, they stayed with their game plan.
Eventually, Northeastern responded to tie the score off a faceoff deep in the Crimson zone. Huskies’ captain Jason Guerriero won the draw back to linemate Mike Morris, who wristed a shot that deflected off a Harvard player and over the shoulder of a surprised Dov Grumet-Morris at 17:23. It was Morris’ team-leading 14th goal and a shot that the Crimson netminder never saw.
“We got off to a slow start,” admitted Harvard captain Noah Welch, “but we battled. They don’t give up much and they have good goaltending. It was a dogfight.”
The game remained knotted at one through regulation with the teams playing a physical, grinding style. On occasion one of the combatants would be awarded a power play, but neither side could do anything with the advantage.
As the first overtime began, however, the teams picked up their play.
Harvard started the extra session on the power play, but did not manage a shot. The Crimson proceeded to get two more power plays in the first overtime, but again was stagnant. The Huskies, who were awarded a man-advantage of their own late in the initial overtime, could do no better.
In the meantime, five-on-five action provided the most exciting moments of the contest. Northeastern’s best chance came shorthanded when Guerriero was denied on a 2-on-1 break with Morris.
Harvard was turned aside later in the frame when Gibson stopped Welch’s shot from the top of the right circle at 14:27. The senior goalie turned the trick again at 14:55 when he made the save on sophomore blueliner Dylan Reese.
“You need your goaltender to be the difference-maker,” Crowder said.
From there, it was on to a second overtime where the Crimson almost ended it just 1:35 into the stanza. Defenseman Tom Walsh leaned into a one-timer from the right point that made its way toward the net before hitting the leg of teammate Dan Murphy and sailing through the crease — inches from the goal line.
Less than 30 seconds later, Judy made sure there would be no other close calls.
“Two overtimes,” explained Judy, “starts to wear on your body a bit. We kept shifts short and made great plays. We showed a lot of heart and character.”
Huskies sophomore Yale Lewis picked off Harvard rookie Jon Pelle in the Crimson zone, which began a flurry that saw the puck bounce off bodies and sticks before making its way to Judy at the blueline.
With Pelle getting to his feet but still out of the play, Judy had time to skate in from the blueline to the high slot, where he wristed a shot that neither he nor Grumet-Morris ever saw go into the net.
“The forward line deserves the credit,” said Judy. “I never saw it go in. I just saw the red light.”
“It was a tough no-call at the end,” said Welch in reference to the apparent interference on Pelle. “We shouldn’t have let it get to that point. We had opportunities. We should have buried it.”
Gibson finished the game with 39 saves and improved to 3-0-0 against the Crimson in the Beanpot. Grumet-Morris ended the night with 34 stops. Each team was 0-5 on the power play.
Northeastern moves on to play Boston University, a 2-1 winner over Boston College in the nightcap, hoping for its first title since 1988.
“In that game,” Judy said, “anything can happen.”
Harvard, which is now 3-7-0 in its last 10 Beanpot games against Northeastern, plays BC in next Monday’s consolation.