BOSTON — The 2014 Beanpot championship game will go into the record books as a 4-1 win for Boston College — another conquest for an Eagles team that may very well go on to lift another trophy in Philadelphia on April 12, and another sad chapter in Northeastern’s tortured Beanpot history.
That’s a real shame.
The Boston College squad that celebrated its fifth straight Beanpot victory Monday night is absolutely loaded; there’s no doubting that. The line of Bill Arnold, Johnny Gaudreau and tournament MVP Kevin Hayes is the class of college hockey, and freshman goalie Thatcher Demko plays with a level of poise and confidence in the crease seldom found in netminders his age.
But for 54 minutes and 30 seconds, the underdog Huskies matched them punch-for-punch. Demko’s counterpart, junior Clay Witt, was outstanding, stopping 24 BC shots through the first two periods and 37 overall. The Eagles knew goals would be hard to come by against Witt — the NCAA’s leader in save percentage entering the game — and they challenged him early and often.
Hayes opened the scoring at the 8:40 mark of the first period (just two minutes after a Northeastern goal was waved off due to goaltender interference), but Witt locked down the crease after that, stoning Hayes and Gaudreau on breakaways and lunging to rob Boston Bruins draftee Ryan Fitzgerald on the doorstep. One of his most spectacular saves came midway through the second period, when Witt swung his stick like a tennis racket to slap away a Michael Matheson rebound.
“I thought he played fabulous,” Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan said. “I thought both goalies played really well. Clay gave us a chance to win. It was 1-1 after two periods. … He’s given us a chance to win all year long.”
The Eagles needed the combination of great positioning by senior captain Patrick Brown and a little bit of puck luck to finally push the go-ahead goal past Witt. That came with just 5:30 to play in the third period, when Brown, who had been tied up and wrestled to the ground by Northeastern’s John Stevens, was able to get his stick on an Isaac MacLeod shot from the blue line. Brown got just enough of the puck to redirect it into the back of the net, and his tally would prove to be the game-winner.
“I thought we did a good job, actually, on their winning goal in tying up Brown down by the net,” Madigan said. “He was falling, and we had his stick, and somehow he got his stick on [the puck] and scored the winning goal.”
“Just a shot from the point,” Witt added. “[Stevens] actually got him to the ground, the guy made a good tip and tipped it back the other way on me. It is what it is.”
So, for the 26th consecutive season, Northeastern leaves the Beanpot empty-handed, having fallen short in the championship game for the third time in four years. But this Huskies team, with Witt in school for another year and its potent offense composed almost entirely of freshmen and sophomores, is no flash in the pan.
Stevens, who beat Demko for Northeastern’s only goal, is in just his first collegiate season. The man who assisted on it, 2013 Beanpot MVP Kevin Roy, is in his second. Mike Szmatula, who had his scoring bid in the opening minutes of the second denied by the goal post, is a freshman — albeit a 21-year-old one. The Huskies will be back next year, and — barring a mass exodus to the NHL — they should be a force to be reckoned within Hockey East for the foreseeable future.
Their coach isn’t looking that far ahead, though.
“We’ve got another rabbit to chase,” Madigan said. “We were chasing a Beanpot rabbit to chase, and we’ve got a rabbit to chase in Hockey East playoff opportunities. So we’ll take a day off and then get ready for UMass on Saturday.”
Photo via Twitter/@GoNUmhockey