BOSTON — Going into this year’s Beanpot tournament, there was much talk of this being one of the most competitive ever.
What with three top-10 teams playing and Northeastern riding an eight-game winning streak, it appeared to be fairly wide-open again.
Semifinals: Feb. 1
• Third place: Northeastern 5, Harvard 1
• Championship: Boston College 1, Boston University 0 (OT)
In fact, Northeastern and Harvard have never met in a Beanpot championship in the 64-year history of the tournament.
Tonight, the Terriers got goals from Robbie Baillargeon, Charlie McAvoy and Doyle Somerby, as well as 24 saves from senior netminder Sean Maguire to beat Northeastern 3-1 in front of 14,832 at the TD Garden.
BU has now reached the title game in 45 of the last 53 years and will be looking for its 31st title next Monday night.
Just as importantly, BU continued its recent stretch of playing 60 solid minutes after a first semester that featured a great deal of inconsistency from one period to the next.
“Just a really good team effort — from start to finish, we were ready to play,” BU coach David Quinn said. “I thought our forwards had a good night, our ‘D’ corps had a good night, our goalie had a good night.
“These guys are getting older [and] they’re starting to understand what it takes to have success. We’ve played in some big games. The games at Quinnipiac and Yale were real tough, the game at Madison Square Garden against Cornell in front of 19,000 people, it kind of forces you to grow up in a hurry. These kids work hard and do a great job. We thought it was going to be a matter of time, and they certainly have grown up in the last few months.”
Meanwhile, Northeastern coach Jim Madigan was left to reflect on yet another disappointing loss for the Huskies.
“From our perspective, we had good effort, but we didn’t have that second gear to our game that allowed us to jump on the loose pucks and get in front of their goalie,” said Madigan. “We didn’t have that extra energy.”
BU gradually took the upper hand in the game’s first period. Northeastern had one good chance when Mike McMurtry broke in alone at 9:45, only to be stopped by Maguire.
After that, though, the Terriers enjoyed all the good chances and were rewarded with a pair of goals.
At 13:14, Ryan Cloonan did a nice job of keeping the puck in the Husky zone before passing to Bobo Carpenter for a shot from between the circles. Northeastern netminder Ryan Ruck made the initial save, but Carpenter backhanded the rebound high into the air and over the goalie’s shoulder before Baillargeon knocked it in from the side of the net. The play was reviewed to see if it had been a high stick, but it stood.
Three minutes later, BU struck again. Freshman Oskar Andren — playing in just his eighth collegiate game after joining the squad for the second semester — passed to Danny O’Regan in the neutral zone, and the senior teed it up for McAvoy. The young defenseman made a few moves at the top of the right-wing circle before sniping a shot that beat Ruck high to the stick side.
At 18:12, the Terriers almost made it 3-0 when McAvoy launched O’Regan for a breakaway, only to have Ruck foil the backhand bid. It was a crucial save at that point in the game.
Ruck came up big again early in the second period, thwarting Jordan Greenway on a breakaway coming right out of the penalty box.
But chances weren’t plentiful after that.
Northeastern fanned on one good shorthanded setup, and BU captain Matt Grzelcyk had a good rebound bid on the same power play. At 14:30, Maguire blocked Eric Williams’ initial shot, but lost sight of the rebound, finally kicking it aside just before Dylan Sikura could knock it home.
And so the game stayed 2-0 going into the third period.
At 10:58 of the third period, it looked like BU might have sealed the game. Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson took a shot from the right point, and O’Regan went after the rebound, whacking at it, clawing at it with his glove. Finally a Northeastern defender’s skate kicked it toward the goal line, and the referee ruled a goal. But the video review revealed that the puck had not completely crossed the goal line, and it was waved off.
Cloonan hit the corner of the post and crossbar at 15:20, and Northeastern still hung by a thread. Then Madigan rolled the dice and pulled his goalie relatively early as there was still 3:39 to play.
Just 27 seconds later, the strategy paid off. Matt Benning took a shot from the point, and John Stevens knocked home the rebound.
For a moment, it looked like the Northeastern seniors might be able to make it to their fourth consecutive Beanpot championship game. Instead, BU came back hard and dominated play in the Northeastern end for much of the last three minutes. Finally, the Huskies got it into the BU zone, only to have Somerby fire a shot from just outside his own goalie’s crease and straight into the net to seal it in the final minute.
After scoring just two goals in his first three collegiate seasons, Somerby now has five this season. More importantly, he and his teammates have a shot to repeat as Beanpot champions next week, while Northeastern will have to wait for another year at least.
“I’m disappointed for our seniors who have never had an opportunity to win this tournament,” Madigan said. “It’s a great tournament. To not be able to walk away with a championship is a disappointment after getting to three Beanpot finals. It would’ve been nice to get to a fourth this year. But as I said to our kids, we’re going to have to use this as a platform moving forward.”