Madigan, players savor victory 30 years in the making

Madigan, players savor victory 30 years in the making
Monday's victory meant more than a yearly tournament title to Northeastern's players and coaches. / Photo by Alex Melagrano

By Charlie Wolfson, deputy city editor

Before doubting the significance of the Beanpot in the Boston area, talk to Adam Gaudette. The third-year led his Northeastern team to its first Beanpot championship since 1988 Monday night.

“The Beanpot is more special to me than being on an Olympic team,” Gaudette said post-game Monday.

The winger was in the running to make USA Hockey’s Pyeongchang squad, not that he’d care to be anywhere but downtown Boston this week.

“I’d rather win the Beanpot, to be honest,” he said. “I’ve dreamed of winning the Beanpot since I was a kid.”

Just after 10 p.m. Monday, Northeastern’s bench drained onto the ice into a mound of black hockey jerseys. Gloves flew into the air and the “Doghouse” student section — the special, seven-section version — filled TD Garden with raw joy. Scratched players in suits ran onto the ice to join. Moments later, a banner lowered from the ceiling and a Northeastern logo was affixed to the bottom. Gaudette is hardly the only Husky to relish in the victory.

From head coach Jim Madigan and his decades of battle with the program to first-year, 18-year-old goalie Cayden Primeau, the entire team celebrated a generational accomplishment.

Nolan Stevens, the fourth-year captain who scored a highlight-reel goal to tie the game in the first, said he felt bonded to this group permanently after succeeding in his career’s final Beanpot try.

“Playing on a stage like this, when you win a championship you walk forever together,” Stevens said.

He said he grew emotional thinking of the classes that passed through the program before him, talented themselves, that didn’t get to skate the Beanpot trophy.

“We’ve watched other teams win it for so many years,” Stevens said. “I’ve seen a lot of classes come through this school and not get the opportunity to do that. Those guys built the foundation for us to have this opportunity here today. Maybe that’s where the emotion is coming from, just thinking of those guys and how they were a big part of today.”

Madigan has been with the program since 1981, first as a player, then as an assistant coach and ultimately as head coach. He won the Beanpot in the ‘80s and saw the program through its drought to today’s glory.

He likened this season to 1980, when the Huskies won their first Beanpot after 28 tries. After that, they sustained success for a number of years.

“The curse is broken,” he said. “Hopefully we can keep this momentum.”

He also compared Primeau to Bruce Racine, the netminder who led the Huskies to Beanpot titles in 1985 and 1988.

“They’re big-time goalies, they answer the bell, they have a quiet confidence,” Madigan said.

Madigan will head back to Huntington Avenue tonight — he closed his remarks by warning all to keep their distance from the stretch between the MFA and Symphony Hall — with a trophy in hand.

“I’ve been fortunate to have this love affair with this institution going back to 1981,” he said. “I’ve had to answer that question at times, ‘When are we gonna win?’ Finally, we’ve silenced the critics. We won.”

Madigan has been in this spot before, but this victory is no less meaningful than his first:

“For me, it means so much to the young men who had that experience. Fortunately I’ve had three Beanpot experiences and this is one that these student-athletes are going to have, and that’s what I wanted.”

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