BOSTON — Years of Beanpot futility extended on Monday night for Northeastern. But you can’t say these Huskies didn’t give it all they’ve got.
Northeastern threw everything and the kitchen sink at the nation’s No. 1 team, Boston College, but in the end fell just short as Boston native Jimmy Hayes realized his childhood dream, stuffing home a game winner 6 minutes into overtime as the Eagles defeated the Huskies, 7-6, in a wild, run-and-gun, no-holds-barred title tilt.
Hayes’ goal ended back-and-forth scoring for both teams that left every one of the 17,565 fans at the TD Garden knowing they got their money’s worth.
The game-ending play began when Hayes’ linemates Pat Mullane and Chris Kreider moved the puck into the Northeastern zone. Both Mullane and Kreider got a step on the Huskies defense and Mullane found Kreider, who fired a low shot that goaltender Chris Rawlings (39 saves) turned aside. The rebound bounced right to Hayes, who had so much time with the empty net that he was able to fan once and shoot again, the second time making no mistake.
“All five guys on the ice were moving the puck,” said Hayes. “I just went to the net with my head down.”
To even get to overtime required a spectacular play by the Huskies while trailing late in regulation. Skating two-on-two, Steve Silva carried the puck over the line and was patient to draw both defenders. At the last second, he slid a pass to Wade MacLeod that the senior one-timed from one knee to knot the score at 6 with 1:46 remaining in regulation.
“I’ve been in a lot of games [in my career] — national championship games, semifinals, gold-medal games with the World Juniors and Stanley Cup playoff games,” said Northeastern coach Greg Cronin. “That game had more drama, back and forth, character from both teams [than any I've been in].”
The high-scoring affair was aided partially by numerous penalties and power plays by both teams. Each team scored twice with the man advantage, with Northeastern adding a short-handed tally and BC scoring while skating four-on-four.
It also, despite the score, featured some spectacular goaltending, particularly by Rawlings, who earned the Eberly Award as the goaltender with the top save percentage in the tournament. Rawlings stopped 80 of 87 shots he faced over the two games for a .920 save percentage.
As many goals as were scored, both teams played tentative early. Once the scoring started, though, you wondered if anything would stop it.
The Eagles jumped out front at 9:12 of the first on what turned out to be a fluke play. Kevin Hayes, brother of the overtime hero, dropped a pass to last week’s hero Tommy Cross on the rush. Cross tried to feed a pass across the seam but the puck instead hit the skate of Huskies defender Drew Daniels and trickled past Rawlings for the 1-0 BC lead.
BC then took over the game territorially, but late penalty trouble in the period for the Eagles turned the game around. NU blueliner Luke Eibler scored his second goal of the season through a screen at 17:04. Then, after additional BC and Northeastern penalties set up a four-on-three power play for the Huskies, Brodie Reid one-timed Wade MacLeod’s pass over BC netminder John Muse’s (21 saves) blocker at 18:12 to send the pro-Huskies crowd into pandemonium.
That pandemonium was nothing, though, compared to the second period.
The middle frame saw both teams explode offensively, with BC scoring three times and Northeastern twice to send the game to the third tied, 4-4.
Mullane started the fireworks just 53 seconds in, burying the rebound of a Cross shot that hit the backboards and bounced back in front of the net.
At 2:47, with Northeastern shorthanded, Rob Dongara used his speed to turn a BC defender and, as he was falling down, roofed a shot over Muse’s glove to give the Huskies back the lead at 3-2.
Another Northeastern penalty at 4:23 led to Kreider, who with two goals and an assist earned tournament MVP honors, burying his eighth goal of the season at 5:25 to even the game. Steven Whitney then gave BC the lead, poking home the rebound of a Cross shot at 12:07.
That could have been a backbreaker in terms of momentum for Northeastern, but the Huskies showed this dog has fight when Tyler McNeely stuffed home a rebound just 77 seconds later to knot the game at 4.
In the third, after Northeastern took the lead on a Reid goal at 8:44, the Eagles responded with a Bill Arnold goal on a partial breakaway at 10:12 and Kreider’s second of the night at 11:44.
That explosion looked as if it might be the final of the night, until MacLeod scored in the final two minutes to force the overtime.
The victory gave BC (22-6-0) its 16th Beanpot title and third in the last four years. Northeastern (10-12-6), on the other hand, once again fell just short of ending its Beanpot winless skid. The Huskies last won the title in 1988, but have now lost an overtime heartbreaker in the title game for the second time in seven years.
“Going into the game, I’m aware that we haven’t won it [in 23 years],” said Cronin. “I was doing the Hail Mary and the rosary to win the thing so we could get the cloud off our backs.”