BOSTON — For the first time in its history, Boston College will graduate a class of seniors that never knew Beanpot heartache.
The Eagles fought off hard-charging Northeastern in a thrilling 6-3 final Monday that was far more exciting than the score suggests, giving BC its fourth consecutive Beanpot and extending the Huskies’ annual February famine to 25 years.
Five different players scored for the Eagles (17-7-2), led by sophomore Johnny Gaudreau’s two goals and an assist. Seniors Bill Arnold, Patrick Mullane and Steven Whitney and junior Patrick Brown also lit the lamp in support of senior Parker Milner, who made 20 saves for his 17th win of the year.
“We played well,” BC coach Jerry York said. “The team played well and we had to because Northeastern — well, you have to throw out the records” in the Beanpot.
Northeastern freshman Kevin Roy scored goals four and five of his young Beanpot career, becoming the fifth player from a losing team to earn the tournament’s MVP honors. Junior Braden Pimm registered the third and final goal, and senior Chris Rawlings stopped 24 shots for the Huskies (8-14-3), who have not won a Beanpot since 1988.
Northeastern is suffering through the second-longest dry spell in the tournament’s 61-year history, behind its own 28-year drought between the tournament’s inception in 1952 and its first title in 1980.
“For me, the story is how we battled,” said Huskies coach Jim Madigan, once a Beanpot champion at Northeastern.
The first period featured more from the fans and officials than from the players, as a raucous crowd shouted and chanted its way through six combined penalties and 20 scoreless minutes.
Apart from a few goal-mouth scrums, Eagles pivot-man Arnold generated the best chance of the period on one of BC’s three power plays. Finding a seam in the defense, Arnold exploded through Rawlings’ slot and released a wrist shot that Rawlings had to deflect over the glass behind the goal.
Northeastern senior Garrett Vermeersch was left shaking his head early in the second period as Milner robbed him with the far shoulder on a one-timer from behind the net. BC blueliner Isaac MacLeod and first-line center Pat Mullane each dented Rawlings’ iron in the minutes following, but the game remained scoreless at its midway point.
That didn’t last long, as Kevin Hayes and Arnold made rookie defender Mike Gunn pay for his own indecision just moments later. With the Eagles chasing a puck that was just beyond Gunn’s reach, the freshman elected to lay back rather than risk the lunge. Hayes collected the puck, turned the defenseman around and found Arnold on the back door for the cross-ice one-timer.
Only 75 seconds later, Gaudreau beat Dax Lauwers out of the corner and blew by Dan Cornell, who was coming to help. The mistakes wound up behind Rawlings again, as Gaudreau walked right around the goalie to deposit the well-earned goal.
Sensational sniper Roy beat Milner clean to the glove side from 10 yards out a few minutes later to cut the deficit in half, but Milner got even two minutes later, snaring Roy’s breakaway backhanded bid to preserve the lead.
It was the closest the Huskies came to pulling even, as BC’s Brown tipped a MacLeod blast through Rawlings minutes later, and Whitney thought he buried the Dogs with BC’s fourth goal just before the buzzer. After failing to register a shot in the first eight minutes of the period, the Eagles tallied four goals on 10 shots in the final 12 minutes of the frame.
“The save that Parker made [on Roy's breakaway] was unbelievable,” recalled an awed York, who credited the stop for his team’s two proceeding goals.
The Huskies weren’t quite done yet, as Roy scored his fifth goal of the 2013 Beanpot — the most since BC’s Mike Powers’ six in 1973 — on a 40-foot wrister that caught Milner napping early in the third period.
A Vinny Saponari blast banged off Pimm’s skate in front just seconds later, bringing Northeastern’s Dog House to full lather.
“I liked, obviously, the way we battled in the third period,” Madigan said. There are risks involved, he added, “when you take chances against a team like Boston College.”
Much like the second period, however, Milner came up with a big breakaway stop — this time on Vermeersch — to deny the equalizer. A few minutes of full-throttle hockey followed, replete with posts, odd-man rushes and near misses, but Gaudreau finally put the Huskies away with 5:23 on the board by finishing off a magnificent rush by rookie Michael Matheson. Mullane’s empty-netter sealed the deal with his 13th goal of the season.
“Credit to the coaches … there was no negativity on our bench,” Mullane said regarding NU’s early-period outburst. “We stayed composed, we knew what our job was and I think we played pretty well after that.”
Boston College continues its Hockey East title defense on Friday at Merrimack, while Northeastern resumes league play at home against Vermont.