BOSTON — It was billed as one of the most-anticipated Beanpot title games in recent memory. In the end, the battle between No. 1 Boston University and No. 3 Northeastern was simply more of the same.
Sparked by three shorthanded goals, including two on the same power play in the third period that turned a one-goal nailbiter into a three-goal rout, the Terriers battled to a 5-2 victory over the Huskies to capture the school’s 29th Beanpot title, more than the three other tournament participants combined.
With 7:06 remaining and BU holding a 3-2 lead, Joe Pereira was whistled for an ill-advised slash. It put Northeastern on the power play for the eighth time in the game with the Huskies having already scored once with the man-advantage.
But instead of drawing even, the Huskies surrendered two shorthanded two-on-one opportunities. On the first, defenseman David Warsofsky fired a shot off the right post and past Northeastern goaltender Brad Thiessen (29 saves) at 6:06.
And before the Terrier fans could finish celebrating, Kevin Shattenkirk and Colin Wilson walked in on the odd-man rush with Wilson finishing off a perfect pass.
Just like that, BU’s Beanpot dominance returned. And Northeastern’s futility, having not won the title since 1988, continued.
“That game is won on three shorthanded goals,” said BU head coach Jack Parker. “I’ve never seen that in my life in the Beanpot. Special teams was big for us, just in a different way than I thought it would be.”
Certainly, Parker and his club hoped to dominate the game with their own power play, one of the best in the nation. But despite scoring a five-on-three tally early on, it was the Terriers’ penalty kill denying nine of 10 Northeastern power plays and, of course, depositing three shorties that keyed the victory.
“You’re not going to win a lot of games when you give up three shorthanded goals,” said Northeastern bench boss Greg Cronin. “Their first shorthanded goal [to start the second period] was a bad omen. But give BU’s penalty killers credit. They were the difference in the game.”
One also could argue that the difference-maker was Boston University rookie goaltender Kieran Millan, who made 23 saves, the biggest ones with the Terriers clinging to a one-goal lead and Northeastern on the man-advantage to start the third period.
“The turning point in the game was their power play when they stormed us early in the third period and Kieran Millan played great,” said Parker. “After that, we had a chance to regroup and get after them.”
An entertaining opening period saw plenty of good scoring chances, particularly late in the period. Each team struck once and both goals come on the power play.
After Northeastern was unable to convert on its first full man-advantage halfway through the frame, despite Steve Silva having an incredible bid in front at 11:29, BU struck shortly thereafter.
With Northeastern’s Mike Hewkin off for holding at 14:38 and Louis Liotti whistled for cross-checking at 15:16, the BU power play got to work quickly. Kevin Shattenkirk set up a Colby Cohen one-timer that ricocheted of the left post and it at 16:09.
As the period would down, BU’s Luke Popko was whistled for hooking, leading to the Huskies’ third power play of the frame. This time, they converted.
A turnover by Shattenkirk along the right halfboards allowed Joe Vitale to center a pass. The puck was swatted by the stick of BU’s Chris Higgins to right to NU’s Mike McLaughlink who fired it under the crossbar to ignite the pro-Huskies crowd at 19:34.
On the play, Higgins tripped a Northeastern player in front. With a player already in the box, Higgins’ penalty had to be served, putting the Terriers on the shorthand for the final 26 seconds of the first and the opening 1:34 of the second.
The momentum, though, swung immediately back to the Terriers. As the second period began, BU’s Brandon Yip stole a puck and skated in shorthanded. Though he missed the net by more than a foot, his shot bounced off the glass and back to the slot where Nick Bonino fired off the crossbar and in at :27 to give BU a 2-1 lead.
Bonino, who scored two goals in BU’s 4-3 win over Harvard in the Beanpot semifinal, was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
Midway through the frame, Northeastern again pulled even. A Rob Rassey shot from the right halfboard turned into a pass to Tyler McNeely. Unmarked in the slot, McNeely caught the puck on his blade, pulled it around Millan and fired it into the empty net.
Again, though, BU answered immediately. After sustaining pressure off the ensuing draw, Chris Higgins fired a cross-zone pass from the left half-wall to Jason Lawrence, who stood alone at the right post for the easy redirect. That goal, giving BU a 3-2 lead at 11:06, came just 55 seconds after Northeastern drew even.
Before the period ended, a scrum in front of the net resulted in some extra curricular activities. When no penalties were whistled, McNeely and referee Tim Benedetto appeared to have a discussion that led to McNeely being whistled first for a 10-minute and then a game misconduct, ending the night for the talented NU forward.
Northeastern entered the third on the power play and almost immediately that became a two-man-advantage for 45 seconds. This was when Millan was forced to play his best, stopping McLaughlin on a rebound and then getting a piece of a cross-crease feed that would have found Ryan Ginand at the far post.
As BU took back momentum, Northeastern killed a penalty midway through the period to get momentum of its own when Pereira was sent off with 7:06 left. All of that, though, was snuffed out by BU’s penalty kill and transition that led to the shorthanded tallies that put the game away.
“It all happened so fast that I think we were shocked,” said Cronin.
By the time the final buzzer sounded, the celebration had begun around the Boston University goaltender, as it has so many times in the past at the Beanpot.
Though both teams will feel the effects of the game, BU for the positive and Northeastern a bitter sting, each will need to regroup as they are entrenched in a battle for a league and national title.
“The guys can lick their wounds tonight and tomorrow,” said Cronin. “Then we have to get back at it. I told them this is a [single] game. They have to learn from it.”