BOSTON — The story was already written. Perhaps on most nights it would have come true.
Northeastern plays Boston College in the Beanpot semifinals. Then, Northeastern gets eliminated by Boston College in the Beanpot semifinals.
Semifinals: Feb. 3
• Third place: Boston College 3, Harvard 2 (OT)
At exactly 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, the Huskies vanquished the No. 11-ranked Eagles 3-2 to take a spot in next week’s championship game against Boston University, which turned away Harvard in overtime earlier on Tuesday night.
Dustin Darou scored the biggest goal of his collegiate career for Northeastern in the win, pocketing a wrist shot from the blue line to lift the Huskies to the victory, placing them in the final for the third consecutive time.
“I’m not too sure if I can explain [the feeling],” Darou said. “I haven’t played the last two years — this is my first year playing back healthy. I was just hoping to contribute defensively.
“It’s one thing to win against BC,” Darou continued. “But to score the game-winning goal? It’s just really surreal for me because, one, I’m not a goal scorer. Two, everyone knows the history between BC and us. It’s just an unbelievable feeling to beat them.”
“We had believability, we had confidence against Boston College,” Northeastern coach Jim Madigan said. “When you lose games to Boston College, it does something to your confidence. A lot of the preparation going this week was the mental part — the believability, and the confidence we can beat this club. I like the way our kids showed resolve in coming up with the win.”
The night played out under odd circumstances, with lingering effects from a snowstorm and a near record-length opener preventing what would usually be a near-capacity crowd from soaking in the late semifinal.
“If anything, I thought we were a bit rusty at the beginning, a bit slow out of the blocks,” said Madigan. “We were ready to go yesterday. We were ready to go Sunday. I thought we got better in the second half of the first period. I thought we got our feet moving well, and it forced BC to pull us down. We kept our feet moving in terms of back pressure and not taking penalties, not hooking and slashing.”
The first period indeed took a while to develop; nary a whisper of high-percentage scoring chances for either side, especially disheartening for the Huskies, who had two opportunities on the power play to step into the driver’s seat.
But it didn’t take long for the Huskies to strike in the second. Just 21 seconds into the period, and with a power play carrying over, Kevin Roy squared the puck at the front of the net for Mike McMurtry, but it jumped over McMurtry’s stick to the back door where Colton Saucerman was there to whack it into a vacant net, after Thatcher Demko (20 saves) jumped out of position to prevent a McMurtry shot that never came.
The lead didn’t last long — just over four minutes later, Destry Straight swept in a rebound created by a Ryan Fitzgerald breakaway shot on Clay Witt (21 saves), guiding the puck in with his stick blade to level the game at 1-1.
Northeastern had a response for that — once again on the power play, ironically not the Huskies’ strong suit in this tournament. At 11:21, John Stevens picked the top right corner of the net on a wrister after a feed came across from Mike Szmatula.
“They [Northeastern] played well, but obviously we took a lot of penalties,” Eagles coach Jerry York said. “It’s hard to overcome that because you’re playing the same players [on the ice] over and over again.”
The Eagles found a way to neutralize one power play, tallying a short-handed goal in the waning stages of the second period. Fitzgerald, who had already sprung free on two breakaway chances, buried the third one to deliver a body blow to the Huskies and tie the game at 2-2.
A tense third period ensued with neither side seemingly wanting to snatch control.
Even the game-winning shot from Darou seemed innocent off his stick, just a fluttering wrist shot. But at 18:26 into the third period, it found its way through, with the Huskies setting a screen in front of Demko to aid in the effort.
“Kevin just gave it up to me,” Darou said. “I was just dragging it across, and I was hoping he would come up the wall because I’m not much of a shooter.”
It was only Darou’s second career goal, the other coming a victory for the Huskies over Minnesota in November.
“We told our team, we’re built for these type of games, 3-2, 2-1,” York said. “But we just had to make a play to win the hockey game. It was a good shot from the point, good screen in front of the net.”
And with that, the Eagles’ drive for six consecutive titles came to a halt. It’ll be the Huskies and Terriers next Monday night at the Garden.