By Belle Fraser
Boston University News Service
BOSTON — For the first time in Beanpot history, the Northeastern Huskies and Harvard Crimson will meet in the championship game after winning their semifinal matchups at TD Garden on Feb. 6.
The championship meeting will be next Monday, Feb. 13, with a 7:30 p.m. puck drop at TD Garden while Boston College and Boston University will play for third and fourth place at 4:30 p.m.
The long-awaited, 70th rendition of the tournament was welcomed by a rowdy Garden crowd, fueled by passionate student sections from all four schools.
“It’s a very grassroots, student-led atmosphere,” junior BU student Brian Foisy said. “It’s a great atmosphere and you’ve just gotta love it. You go to a college hockey game because you want to see them win.”
The Terriers came into the Feb. 6 opening round as the defending champions but were shut down by a Husky team that was out for revenge after losing to BU in the 2022 final.
“We weren’t ready to play –– I thought we were turning way too many pucks over in the neutral zone,” BU Head Coach Jay Pandolfo said post-game. “It took us a while before we got going. Give them credit, they played very well.”
Northeastern captain Aidan McDonough led his squad to victory and garnered the first goal of the night off a dish from freshman defenseman Vinny Borgesi. The Huskies’ defensive game is what made the difference, though. With 21 total blocked shots and a buzzing forecheck, Northeastern’s structure on the backend suffocated the BU offense.
“To win big games, to win trophies, you have to make a commitment to defending,” Northeastern Head Coach Jerry Keefe said post-game. “I give our guys a lot of credit because we made a commitment to defending tonight.”
Junior goaltenders Devon Levi and Drew Commesso made their Beanpot debuts –– the two were competing in the Olympics for Team Canada and Team USA, respectively, during last year’s tournament. Levi was a brick wall in the third period when BU made its final push. He ended the night with 33 stops en route to a convincing 3-1 win from his group.
“The biggest thing we talked about before the game was doing it for each other,” McDonough said post-game. “We have an opportunity here that not many people have, so let’s do it for each other and I think the guys really bought in.”
Northeastern will now look for their first Beanpot title since 2020 against a Harvard team that put together a thrilling overtime victory to secure their spot in the championship.
Freshman forward Marek Hejduk had a two-goal performance in their game against the Eagles, including the clinching tally in OT with 1.5 seconds left on the clock. While BC clawed their way back from a 3-1 deficit in the last four minutes of regulation with goals from junior forward Nikita Nesterenko and freshman forward Cutter Gauthier, Harvard didn’t let them run away with it in the extra time.
“I think there’s a lot of character on the bench,” Harvard Head Coach Ted Denato said post-game. “I don’t think we were particularly pleased with the way we played in the third, but we got a chance to hit the reset button going into overtime.”
The Eagles outshot the Crimson 22-2 in the third but were unable to get much going in the five-minute OT. Instead, junior forward Alex Laferriere and Hejduk stole the headlines with a highlight reel two-on-one sequence that dealt BC their fifth loss in six games.
“[We were] kind of sweating it out on the bench,” Coronato said of overtime. “It’s amazing that they made that play under so much pressure and for him [Hejduk] to get that shot off was amazing and an awesome moment for our team.”
The late momentum swings provided much entertainment value and showcased that the Beanpot is just about who wants it more –– and who is willing to work for it.