The Takeaway: Northeastern Edges BU, 3-2, in Beanpot Semifinal

Posted by: Michael King

BOSTON — Advancing to the Beanpot finals, Northeastern defeated Boston University, 3-2, at the TD Garden Monday night. Freshman sensation Kevin Roy scored a hat trick, taking advantage of three crucial BU defensive breakdowns. This is the second time in three years that the Huskies have played in the tournament final. It also marks the first BU senior class since the 1960s to not win a Beanpot trophy. NU will face the winner of Boston College-Harvard next Monday, February 11th.

What I Saw

Playing in his first Beanpot, Roy scored a hat trick, notching goals in each of the three periods. The freshman is a special player and constantly puts himself in position to be successful. The performance was reminiscent of Boston College forward Johnny Gaudreau’s emergence into the national spotlight last year as a freshman, who had four points in BC’s pair of victories. Overall, Roy has a rare hockey vision and consistently creates scoring chances for himself and teammates. His second goal of the game was representative of Roy’s awareness. He got himself to the net on the rush and was rewarded with a simple goal, after BU carelessly turnover the puck. The third goal, however, was probably his most impressive. Roy, again, got himself to the net and was in perfect position to craftily convert the large rebound from BU goalie Matt O’Connor out of the air and into the net.

The second period best marked BU’s defense struggles. After the Huskies dumped the puck into the BU zone mid-way through the frame, O’Connor corralled it briefly and gently sent a pass toward back-checking forward Ben Rosen. The senior, under pressure from surging Northeastern players, hurriedly sent a pass to defenseman Sean Escobedo. But the mistimed pass sailed past Escobedo and arrived in perfect position in the unguarded crease for Roy to score the easiest goal of his young college hockey career.

The first period was marked by careless turnovers by each team in its own zone. Though it only cost the teams two combined goals, the goaltenders for each squad bailed out their defenses on multiple occasions. Three minutes into the start, BU turned the puck over at its own blue-line. Problem being for the Terriers, the puck fell to the stick of NU’s two most-gifted goal scorers. Roy and senior Vinny Saponari quickly created a two-on-one opportunity down the ice before Roy shot past O’Connor. The Northeastern defense returned the favor for the Terriers less than four minutes later. Danny O’Regan converted a three-on-two opportunity after several quick passes in succession between Wade Megan and Evan Rodrigues to level the score.

The Terriers made the game interesting with less than two minutes left, as Sahir Gill converted a 6-on-5 opportunity. But BU could not repeat the action and the Terriers advanced only to the consolation game.

What I Thought

The story for the Terriers was two full periods of listless play to start this game. The team generated 21 shots combined over the first 40 minutes, but few of the efforts threatened NU goalie Chris Rawlings. In the third period, BU played at the level of hockey that matched its ability, but the team was ultimately undone by the lack of power play success (0-for-6). Though BU played markedly better in the final frame, it was not enough for the Terriers to get back into the game. Their play through two periods surprised nearly everyone in the building, given how successful the program has been over the years. Many assumed that BU would simply will itself to victory through pure effort, as it would have been unthinkable to predict in 2009 that the Terriers would not win the competition during the next four years.

Northeastern’s reliance on Roy for the successful operation of its power play is both excessive and understandable. The freshman phenom is undoubtedly is the most offensively gifted Northeastern player. But teams have now learned to focus on Roy during extra-man opportunities. His preferred position is along the right halfboards, but the freshman does not hesitate to move quickly throughout the zone. Though the puts the onus on his teammates to simultaneously shift around the ice, Roy typically spends the entire two minutes leading the power play, so both sets of power play shifts have experience playing with the forward.

The battling student sections is always one of the unique and more charming aspects of the Beanpot experience, simply because the competing schools for each game can bring their band and a full complement of student fans. At one point Monday night, the Terrier faithful attempted to get the attention of its Northeastern counterparts, goading the students with a repetitive chant of ‘Nine-teen-eighty-eight,’ given that date’s significance as the last Beanpot victory for NU. The Husky fans’ response was either incredible self-awareness or an acknowledgment of self-loathing; the students cheered the exact same thing.

What They Said

Coach Jack Parker’s assessment of his team’s performance: “I thought we played pretty well at times, but we demoralized ourselves going 0-for-6 on the power play. And that was the difference in the game, I thought. We were doing well in the third period, and I thought we could have gotten the tying goal. We’re in a bad frame of mind right now, and we’ve had a tough stretch through January. We’ve been unfortunate in the past in this tournament, but tonight Northeastern was the better team.”

Parker on the last two minutes: “I saw our team — in bigger games than this — score two goals in the final two minutes, so I thought we might be able to do it again,” he said, alluding to BU’s dramatic win over Miami in the 2009 NCAA tournament final.

Captain Wade Megan reflecting on being the among the first Terrier senior class not to win a Beanpot in decades: “It’s pretty devastating. You just want to feel bad for your teammates, your classmates, but we have a long season left and we just want to move forward.”

Madigan on having former Huskie Wayne Turner, who scored an overtime goal to beat Boston College in the Beanpot in 1980, address the team during the week leading up to the game: “He said you’re not going to get faster or smarter in the next two days — it’s all about mindset. It was some of the things we’ve been saying, but it resonated coming from Wayne. He has a lot of credibility with the players; they’ve seen his photo around the locker room.”

Roy on his perception of the Beanpot before entering school, given his French Canadian roots: “I knew that BU has more wins. But the teams change every year, so you can’t just look at the history to predict what will happen. And I think we proved people wrong today.”

What Else You Should Know

Northeastern’s rare success in the Beanpot was also characterized by several unusual achievements in the competition by the Huntington Ave. School. This was NU’s first win over the Terriers in the Beanpot since the Huskies last won the tournament in 1988. The last hat trick notched in the Beanpot was Mike Ryan, also of Northeastern, during the 2002 semifinals. It was also the first game without a power play goal since 2008.

Both of the teams have games on Friday before the finals and consolation game of the tournament next Monday. Northeastern travels to Amherst to face UMass, while the Terriers entertain Merrimack at home. Historically, the Boston schools have struggled in games between the tournaments, as it’s nearly impossible for coaches to prevent players from looking ahead especially when playing in the coming Monday’s final.

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