BOSTON — When the final buzzer sounded at the TD Garden to end the nightcap at the 58th annual Beanpot, there were still 66 minutes before Groundhog Day began.
Unless, of course, you’re with the Northeastern Huskies.
Beanpot king Boston University used an Alex Chiasson goal with 5:47 remaining in regulation to break a 1-1 tie as the Terriers knocked off the Huskies, 2-1, to advance to the Beanpot championship game for the 42nd time in the last 48 years.
The loss for Northeastern continued its Beanpot futility against the Terriers. The Huskies have not won a Beanpot title since 1988, have not beaten BU in the tournament since 1985 and have not won a semifinal game versus Terriers since 1983.
The BU win sets up a championship game matchup against the Terriers’ top rival, Boston College, the 20th time the two schools will meet to decide the title, with BU holding a 12-7 edge.
“We like to play anyone in the Beanpot final,” mused BU coach Jack Parker when asked about playing BC next Monday night.
This semifinal game played out like many in the past. BU and Northeastern battled back and forth like heavyweights, both teams getting stellar performances from their goaltenders. In the final minutes, the game was tied at 1 thanks to power-play goals from each team, Colby Cohen scoring for the Terriers in the second and Kyle Kraemer getting the equalizer on the power play on the third.
But when the game was on the line, it was BU that was able to make the big play. And it was the Terriers that yet again advanced.
This time, the big play was made by a freshman. After Northeastern attacked BU with numbers, Terrier blueliner David Warsofsky made a nifty play just inside the zone to poke check the puck and force a turnover. Warsofsky sent a feed to Chiasson, who skated two-on-one. After Northeastern’s defender committed to take away the pass, Chiasson walked in and fired a shot on Northeastern goaltender Chris Rawlings (33 saves) that squeaked through and barely trickled over the goal line.
“I saw Zach Cohen going to the net so I just shot it and it went in short side,” said Chiasson of the goal.
The winning goal came on a play that typified the actual story line of the game. Numerous times, Northeastern broke out of its defensive zone with numbers but almost every time, BU was able to either get a man back immediately to break up the odd-man rush or the Huskies would make a mistake to spoil the effort. On the case of the game-winning goal, it was the latter which made it more ironic that the result became an odd-man rush back the other way, one of the few BU got in the game.
“My biggest problem with the odd-man rushes is we wouldn’t shoot the puck,” said Northeastern coach Greg Cronin. “Part of that was they’d put their body in front of the shooting lane and part of it was our team trying to pick a bigger apple. Conservatively, we had six chances right in front of BU’s net and we refused to shoot the puck.”
The game began with a spirited, entertaining opening 20 minutes — quite a contrast to the 17,565 in attendance that had watched Boston College dismantle Harvard, 6-0, in a lackluster opening game. Neither team could get on the board thanks to good defense and excellent goaltending.
Northeastern controlled the early flow of the game but couldn’t translate the territorial advantage into Grade A chances. Numerous odd-man rushes that should’ve resulted in quality bids morphed to either misconnected passes or shots off net.
Near the midway point of the period, BU began to take control of the flow and nearly took the early lead. The Terriers had four bids in close, started by a flurry that included three straight saves for Rawlings in a 10-second span at the 13-minute mark and then a final stop on Zach Cohen at 14:50.
BU held a 13-10 advantage in shots but the two teams headed to the locker rooms scoreless.
In the second, after Northeastern controlled the flow again in the early going, it was BU that finally got on the scoreboard. Colby Cohen fired a one-time shot from just above the goal line to Rawling’s right that caught the rookie netminder moving laterally and sneaked past him on the power play at 8:23.
The Terriers hardly nursed that lead but couldn’t expand before the end of the period. They put 15 shots on Rawlings in the period but were unable to solve him and took the 1-0 lead to the third.
BU seemingly had a golden opportunity to tie things when Northeastern’s Alex Tuckerman was whistled for a five-minute major penalty and game misconduct for checking from behind at 2:46. But Northeastern’s tenacious penalty kill — and a tiny bit of help from the post on a Kevin Shattenkirk bid at 3:46 — kept the BU lead to one.
As the major expired, BU took back-to-back penalties of its own — Warsofsky for contact-to-the-head cross-checking at 7:20 and Colby Cohen for hitting from behind at 7:41 — that gave the Huskies the chance they needed.
With just six seconds remaining in Cohen’s penalty, Kraemer floated a shot through a screen that seemed to deflect and beat BU netminder Kieran Millan (26 saves) over the left shoulder with 10:26 remaining to tie things.
After BU regained the lead, Northeastern still had a chance to tie when Ross Gaudet was sent off for hooking at 18:32. But even with the goalie pulled, Northeastern struggled to muster any quality shots and Millan stood tall to the one great try, robbing Kraemer with a glove save with half a minute remaining to help the Terriers eke out the victory.
BU advanced to the title game in search of its 28th Beanpot title. And while many would think Parker is more than pleased to be in that position, he was empathetic toward Northeastern and Harvard (which hasn’t won the title since 1993) on Monday night.
“People say they want to see BC and BU in the final,” said Parker. “You know who wants that? BC and BU.
“The Beanpot is losing its luster a little bit if it’s constantly going to be BC and BU winning this tournament. We dodged a bullet tonight but these teams, Harvard and NU, are real good hockey programs.”