Northeastern’s McLaughlin emerging at the right time

Two years ago, he played a part in the Beanpot that Northeastern fans talk about in what-if phrases. This year, he’s looking to play a part in the Beanpot that makes those same fans forget about the what-ifs.

As a freshman, Mike McLaughlin scored the first goal in the 2009 Beanpot championship game against Boston University and missed an open net with the Huskies trailing, 3-2. BU went on to win its 29th title that year in a flurry of short-handed goals, triggering the what-ifs along Huntington Avenue.

In this year’s Beanpot semifinal game against Harvard, McLaughlin opened the scoring at 10:48 of the first period and extended the lead to 2-0 at 1:47 of the second. The Huskies put away the Crimson, 4-0, setting up either a rematch of the 2009 title game against BU or a contest against the defending national champions, Boston College.

If Northeastern is going to put an end to its Beanpot drought that extends back to 1988, McLaughlin may well again play a major role.

That might have surprised people last year who saw him slump from six goals as a rookie to only one as a sophomore.

“Candidly, he’s been a disappointment offensively,” Northeastern coach Greg Cronin says. “He’s a guy we thought would be a double-digit scorer throughout his career.

“As a hockey player — playing every spot on the ice, blocking shots, killing penalties, winning faceoffs, displaying a high level of intelligence on the ice — he’s been outstanding. He’s been a great kid in the classroom and responsible socially.

“[But] offensively, we’ve been waiting for him to have to start contributing with that double-digit season. He’s gone through fits and starts in his scoring.”

McLaughlin got the monkey off his back early in this season with a two-goal game against New Hampshire and entered the Beanpot semifinal game with seven goals, one each in recent games against Vermont and Harvard.

The secret? The soft-spoken junior has adopted the oldest adage in hockey: Shoot the puck.

“I’ve been telling myself to shoot the puck more, particularly this year because last year I didn’t have a lot of luck,” he says. “I hit a lot of posts and missed a lot of open nets. So this year I’ve just been telling myself to shoot the puck.

“It was a relief to score early this season and get the weight off my shoulders and give me a little confidence. Scoring two goals tonight is hopefully going to help me down the stretch.

“It’s nice to contribute. I just want to get us one step closer to winning a title.”

Last year’s one-goal season is a distant memory.

“This year, he’s breaking through,” Cronin says.

And maybe, just maybe, he can become a double-digit scorer next Monday and remove the word “drought” from discussions of the Huskies and the Beanpot.

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