Northeastern shuts out BC in Beanpot semi, will try to end title drought

Northeastern shuts out BC in Beanpot semi, will try to end title drought
Northeastern shut out Boston College on Monday to clinch a berth in the Beanpot final. / Photo by Riley Robinson

By Calli Remillard and Charlie Wolfson, news staff

Less than 24 hours after a flock of Eagles stripped one New England team of their shot at a championship, the Northeastern University Huskies were looking to avoid the same fate. The 66th Beanpot tournament got underway at TD Garden Monday; Northeastern faced the Boston College Eagles and a 30-year Beanpot drought.

That drought’s days may be numbered, and it could end in as little as one week: Northeastern’s top line of captain Nolan Stevens and Hobey Baker hopefuls Dylan Sikura and Adam Gaudette scored a goal apiece in a 3-0 victory, sending the Huskies to the Beanpot final next Monday.

“They had good chemistry together,” NU head coach Jim Madigan said. “And they’re hard on pucks, they’re skilled, they’re smart. So we are going to ride them.”

Madigan recognized his top line, who he said played “immensely.” BC head coach Jerry York said the Sikura-Gaudette-Stevens line is the best in Hockey East, and “maybe the best in the country.”

“They were our leaders tonight, they’ve been our leaders all year long,” Madigan said. “This was a big game for our upperclassmen who wanted to get back to that championship game. My hat’s off to them.”

Adam Gaudette scored his sixth career Beanpot goal, most among active Huskies. / Photo by Riley Robinson

Northeastern’s second power play of the game came when Biagio Lerario was tripped on a semi-breakaway midway through the first period. The Huskies worked it around the zone until Sikura found the puck on the right side just beneath the faceoff circle and nipped a shot, bouncing past second-year goaltender Joseph Woll and a screen by Stevens for the first goal of the game.

“We know we’re the best line on the ice,” Gaudette said of his prolific unit.

An electric Northeastern crowd, elated by their team’s early lead, sent vibrations through the Garden’s upper deck with their school-spirited chants of “experiential learning” and a rendition of “Stacy’s Mom.”

After an even first period, Northeastern held a slight advantage on the scoreboard and the shot column, outshooting the Eagles 10-8; the two BC penalties made the difference in the first.

Northeastern’s penalty kill was tested less than two minutes into the second with first-year forward Zach Solow in the box for a hooking minor. The Eagles pressured the offensive zone, completing several cross-ice passes and firing three consecutive wristers at first-year goaltender Cayden Primeau in less than a minute, but to no avail as Primeau deflected each one.

Back at even strength, an offensive rush led by Gaudette, Sikura and Stevens gave the Huskies a scoring opportunity, but they couldn’t get a shot on goal and were perhaps guilty of overpassing.

 The trio made up for it just three minutes later when Gaudette passed to Sikura, who wristed the puck off Woll’s pad, producing a wide-open rebound chance for Stevens right in front. The fourth-year knocked it in for his 18th goal of the year and a 2-0 lead.

Primeau stood tall against spurts of BC pressure; the Eagles controlled play for small parts of the first and the opening eight minutes of the second, but the rookie was up to the task. He was the Huskies’ best penalty killer, too: The Eagles’ pair of unsuccessful power plays were not without some grade-A chances.

As the third period began, BC was outshooting the Huskies 22-20 but trailed by two goals. The Eagles looked out of sync in comparison to their cross-city foes, whose special teams may have made the difference. In a tight, 2-0 game, a 4-4 penalty kill and a 1-3 power play were key. The penalty kill threatened to score goals of its own on a couple occasions, to no avail.

“We limited the number of power-play chances they had,” York said. “That’s their bread-and-butter, they’re outstanding on the power-play. So, our objective was to stay out of the penalty box.”

BC pressed in the third, putting 15 shots on the net in the frame, but ultimately couldn’t break through Primeau, who was a rock for his team all night. One save in particular, as he followed a pass across the rink on a BC powerplay and denied the ensuing one-timer, underscored the night’s theme of Primeau holding his team steady.

“BC attacked us all night,” Madigan said, “Cayden Primeau, I thought, was immense all game long.”

Sikura said this is nothing surprising from Primeau and the goalie has “been like that all year.” Primeau, though new to Northeastern, was excited for the stage of the Beanpot.

“All year, people definitely have been talking about it,” Primeau said. “‘Are you going to win this year?’ ‘What are the odds this year?’ It’s big in Boston.”

York complimented Primeau’s play, but said he would’ve liked his team to get more second-chance opportunities to further pressure the goalie.

“We needed to get more traffic,” York said.

Northeastern will attempt to win its first Beanpot title since 1988 next Monday. / Photo by Riley Robinson

With 4:39 left in the game, Gaudette completed the Big Three’s offensive effort, scoring the Huskies’ third goal of the game on another rebound chance for his sixth Beanpot goal in three years, the most among active NU players.

Gaudette spoke to the chemistry his line has enjoyed all year, culminating in an eye-catching stat line in the Beanpot semi-final.

“Sikky and I have been playing with each other for three years,” Gaudette said. “We’re real comfortable with each other. We were just talking in the locker room about how when one of us gets a turnover, the other just swings, because we know they’re going to make a play.”

Madigan praised his top offensive line, but noted his admiration for the rest of his lineup Monday.

“We have the horses, and those three played really well,” Madigan said. “I thought the other three lines, though, gave us a lot of quality shifts. They might not have scored but we built momentum through their shifts that allowed the big three to have some success.”

Gaudette’s goal all but sealed the result, and Northeastern’s “Doghouse” student section went into a state of euphoria, counting down each remaining minute until the score went final.

With the win, the Huskies earned a chance at their first Beanpot title since their last victory in 1988. Believers in fate will be sure to note the last time Boston College was shut out in the Beanpot: in 1988, at the hands of these Northeastern University Huskies.

Northeastern students filled a corner of TD Garden’s upper deck and exulted as the seconds wound down on the semi-final game. / Photo by Riley Robinson