Defending champion Northeastern opens 2020 Beanpot hockey tournament with 3-1 win over Harvard; BU advances in confusing fashion

BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 3: NCAA hockey in the semifinals of the annual Beanpot Hockey Tournament at TD Garden on February 3, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Rich Gagnon/USCHO) (Rich Gagnon)
Northeastern’s Brendan van Riemsdyk celebrates his second-period goal that proved to be the game winner over Harvard in the semifinals of the annual Beanpot tournament at Boston’s TD Garden on Feb. 3, 2020 (photo: Rich Gagnon).

When it comes to the Beanpot tournament, there may be no more provincial event in college hockey.

Between the Brahmins and the businessmen, and the multitudes that count themselves as both, the tournament typically doesn’t mean much to those who live outside of Interstate 495 (take a look at a map of Massachusetts if you need clarification).

On Monday, as two-time defending champion Northeastern took the ice, the lineup was littered with local players who understood the importance of the tournament and, simultaneously, had success on the ice over the last two years.

But when the chips were down, the players who played the biggest role in helping the Huskies advance to their third straight championship game were college hockey veterans who never had to care much about the event in years past.

Brendan van Riemsdyk scored the game-winning goal late in the second period and Craig Pantano made 27 saves to earn the 3-1 victory over Harvard. Both players are graduate transfers to Northeastern, van Riemsdyk having played for three years at New Hampshire and Pantano doing the same at Merrimack.

In the modern day where graduate transfers are become more commonplace, it makes sense that they can have an immediate impact on this historic event.

“There were a lot of [Massachusetts] guys at UNH, so you’d hear about it and watch it on NESN,” said van Riesmdyk. “You don’t really think too much of it. But shortly after being on [the Northeastern] campus, the closer you get, you hear the buzz around it, you pretty quickly realize when you’re in the game how special it is.”

Van Riemsdyk’s goal came with 30 seconds remaining in the second period and broke a 1-1 tie. While it changed the game’s momentum, it also set of a short stretch separated by an intermission that was very key to the outcome.

As the second period ended, Northeastern’s Jayden Struble was whistled for tripping, allowing Harvard to begin the third period on the power play. Add in a cross-checking penalty just 16 seconds into the third period, and the Crimson, sporting the nation’s top power play, seemed to be in the driver’s seat with an extended 5-on-3 man advantage.

The Huskies’ penalty kill, though, was up to the challenge. Coach Jim Madigan credited his team’s pre-scout having watched Harvard’s win on Friday when the Crimson had multiple two-man advantages.

“[Harvard] does have a very good power play, and we just saw them, they scored a couple of goals 5-on-3 against Union, so we watched that yesterday,” said Madigan. “They’re trying to hit seams, they’re trying to set up [Reilly Walsh] for a shot, so we were just trying to compact it and take away any seams.

“I thought we kept them to the outside and I thought we got some sticks on some of those 5-on-3 seam passes.

“It really gave us momentum. If there was a turning point in the game, I thought it was that.”

Certainly, it wasn’t just a cakewalk for the final 17-plus minutes. In fact, Harvard put 14 shots on Pantano, who stopped all of them. Ryan Shea, one of the 14 Massachusetts-born players on the Northeastern roster, buried a 185-foot clearing attempt into an empty net to seal the victory and deliver the 3-1 final.

The game reached the final 21 minutes tied a one after two of the top offensive producers for each team, Jack Drury for Harvard and Zach Solow for Northeastern traded power-play goals in the first period.

But as the game progressed, ice became hard to come by and the middle period was sloppy and lack typical excitement until the closing seconds.

Though Harvard had their push in the third, Crimson coach Ted Donato acknowledged that execution was far from where it had to be to come out victorious.

“I thought our execution wasn’t great,” said Donato. “We were pressing and I thought we did a lot of good things, but give Northeastern credit, give Pantano credit, he made the big saves when they needed him to.”

Boston University 4, Boston College 4 (BU advances in 2OT)

BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 3: Wilmer Skoog #32 of the Boston University Terriers scores in overtime against the Boston College Eagles during NCAA hockey in the semifinals of the annual Beanpot Hockey Tournament at TD Garden on February 3, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Rich Gagnon/USCHO) (Rich Gagnon)
Wilmer Skoog’s goal for Boston University will never be recorded in the annuls of hockey, but will be remembered by BU fans as on of the best ever In a Beanpot (Photo: Rich Gagnon)

The game will go down as the first tie in the 68-year history of the Beanpot, but when all is said and done, Wilmer Skoog’s rebound goal in the second overtime period advanced Boston University to next Monday’s championship game where it will face Northeastern.

Last summer, a rule clarification required the Beanpot and all other college hockey in-season tournaments to play a five-minute, sudden-death overtime in all games tied at the end of regulation.

The Beanpot did that and, as it has done for 48 years, then opted to play as many 20-minute overtimes as needed to decide a winner.

Thanks to a wild final minutes where Boston University’s Robert Mastrosimone gave the Terriers  a 4-3 lead with 1:42 remaining before BC’s David Cotton scored his second goal of the game with 58 second left to force overtime, a five-minute overtime did not decide a winner.

Thus both teams left the ice for resurfacing knowing the had officially earned a tie, and when they returned, Skoog was able to record a goal that will loom large in BU hockey lore, but will not count towards his officials statistics.

In reality, that fact doesn’t matter much to BU, which rallied from two goals down twice, trailing 2-0 and 3-1. But third period goals from David Farrance and Patrick Harper in a span of 1:10 canceled the two-goal BC lead and sent the game to the closing minutes with plenty of anticipation.

After Mastrosimone looked to give the Terriers the game-winner late, a hooking penalty to Patrick Curry with 1:26 left gave the Eagles their last gasp effort where Cotton forced the overtime.

While the advancement of BU is a positive, so too is the ability of the Eagles to not lose the game in the 65 minutes of regulation plus the first overtime. The Eagles won’t shift in the PairWise Rankings, but they will keep a larger buffer over the current sixth-place team in the PairWise, Minnesota Duluth.

Boston College will face Harvard in next Monday’s consolation game.