Men’s Hockey: Huskies beat Harvard in Beanpot consolation

Men’s Hockey: Huskies beat Harvard in Beanpot consolation

By Matt Nielsen

The men’s hockey team beat Harvard University, 3-1, Monday night at TD Banknorth Garden for its second Beanpot consolation win in four years.

The Huskies’ win was their sixth in consolation games since they last won the Beanpot title in 1988. The victory also got Northeastern back on track after two consecutive losses last week to Boston University and UMass-Lowell.

Northeastern came out firing in the first period, out-shooting the Crimson 12-5, but neither team could get on the board.

Senior forward Ray Ortiz started the scoring at 3:46 in the second period. After passes from senior forwards Joe Santilli and Yale Lewis, Ortiz carried the puck to Harvard goaltender Justin Tobe’s left and beat him high for his second goal of the season. The goal also snapped a 143:46 goal-scoring drought for the Huskies, whose last goal was Feb. 2 against Merrimack.

“The first goal was unbelievable,” Ortiz said. “We played well in the first period, played our system, came out and scored early in the second.”

The Crimson evened the score five minutes later when Alex Meintel beat freshman goaltender Brad Thiessen with a rocket from the right side, assisted by Paul Dufault.

The Huskies took a 2-1 lead at 15:54 in the period when senior defenseman Steve Birnstill’s shot was blocked and then accidentally knocked into the net by Tobe, under pressure from Santilli. It was Birnstill’s second goal of the season.

Northeastern iced the game halfway through the third period when Santilli and sophomore forward Rob Rassey rushed the Crimson net. Santilli faked a shot and found Rassey on the opposite side to give the Huskies a 3-1 lead and the win.

“There was a lot of buzz a week ago about Northeastern hockey,” said head coach Greg Cronin. “A lot of people thought we were a favorite to win the Beanpot. After the stinker we had in the game Monday, and after we followed it with a real stinker Thursday at Lowell, this game was big for us.”

Harvard head coach Ted Donato was disappointed with his team’s all-around effort.

“We didn’t do a lot of the little things that lead to success,” he said. “We didn’t block shots. [NU] is playing great defense right now, and you know you aren’t going to get a lot of chances.”

With the players NU had on the bench, the win was all the more sweet. Senior forward Mike Morris, junior forward Jimmy Russo, sophomore forward Joe Vitale and freshman forward Chad Costello all missed Monday’s game because of illness or injury.

“When you’re missing your top players, everybody else has to step up,” Santilli said.

Thiessen stopped 25 of 26 shots for his first-ever Beanpot win and finished the tournament with 58 saves on 63 shots faced, for a .921 percentage.

“He’s a 19-year-old freshman, and he’s getting better,” Cronin said. “If a puck hits the pipe, a lot of kids get rattled, but it doesn’t bother him. We’re lucky to have a guy like that to build a team around.”

It was also coach Cronin’s first Beanpot win in four attempts.

BU claimed its 28th Beanpot championship later Monday night, defeating Boston College 2-1 in overtime on Brian McGuirk’s first goal of the season. Goaltender John Curry was named tournament MVP after stopping 64 of 65 shots for a record .985 save percentage.

After losing in the first round to BU, the Huskies traveled to Tsongas Arena to play the UMass-Lowell River Hawks Thursday night.

After dominating statistically for two periods, including a 17-8 shot advantage, the River Hawks finally beat Thiessen a minute into the third for the game-winning goal. UML forward Cleve Kinley’s initial shot was blocked by Vitale, but he got the puck back and beat Thiessen for his second goal of the year. The River Hawks outshot the Huskies 10-2 in the third and won 1-0.

After finishing with only 10 shots on goal and being shut out for the second consecutive game, Cronin called it “the worst game that I ever coached.”

Santilli echoed his sentiments.

“It was a very choppy game – a very boring game,” he said “As a team, we just didn’t show up.”

Thiessen played well, stopping 26 of 27 shots, but got no offensive help.

The Huskies are back in action Friday at 7 p.m. at Matthews Arena against Providence College, before visiting the Friars Saturday night.

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