Northeastern Huskies vs. Harvard Crimson

The first Monday in February means that the semi-final games of the Beanpot took place at TD Garden, and as has happened a few times before it was snowing (though hopefully it was not turning into an unexpected blizzard).

The first game pitted the Northeastern University Huskies, of HockeyEast, against the Harvard University Crimson, of the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference. The Huskies have been on a tear most of this season, currently ranked second in HockeyEast and tenth in the nation. Their competitor, the Crimson, stand in sixth place in their conference.

The take away from this game was that both Harvard and Northeastern may want to brush up on what constitutes a penalty, or perhaps the on-ice officials do. By the end of the second period the combined penalties for the two teams was 49 minutes and the tallying of penalties would continue as the teams got underway in third.

Unfortunately for Northeastern this meant the ejection of captain Josh Manson at 14:12 of the first period for a contact to the head penalty, forcing his team to play with just five defensemen, something that could have spelled trouble. However, the team seemed up to the challenge, and in addition, they did have redshirted junior Clay Witt in between the pipes, making some incredible saves once Harvard got their skating legs going.

It was hard to tell if Harvard just felt beat down after Northeastern scored twice in the first period. Despite having fewer shots on goal during the second than Harvard, Northeastern managed to sting the Crimson just 31 seconds into the second period with their third goal scored on Raphael Girard, followed by their fourth just about four minutes later.

Perhaps it was the never-ending disruption of play as penalty after penalty was called, or the simple fact that Northeastern’s team is strong this season. Regardless, the Huskies managed to again catch the Crimson unaware just 14 seconds into third period to score their fifth goal (prompting another taunting by the Northeastern student body in attendance, as seen below), which resulted in Harvard’s head coach Ted Donato making a goalie change – replacing Girard with Steve Michalek for the remainder of the third period.

Donato later said that Northeastern’s “guys are dangerous.” He referred to them as a confident team, mentioning Kevin Roy, Michael Szmatula and Braden Pimm by name.

“They played a strong simple game,” Donato said. “Szmatula’s dangerous. [Matt] Benning is an excellent quarterback on the power play at the blue line.”

With all the penalties it was difficult for Harvard to get going. And when they did manage to have a power play, they would end up negating it by taking a penalty of their own. By the end of the game the two teams had combined for a total of 75 minutes in penalties. However Huskies’ goalie Witt no doubt will remember it as his fourth career shutout as the Huskies beat the Crimson 6-0.

Northeastern’s head coach, Jim Madigan, said the loss of Manson in the first was a big concern. With Jarrett Fennell, who has not played much this season, having been put in to replace the injured Dustin Darou, the bulk of the defensive play was on the shoulders of the remaining four defensemen: Mike Gunn, Dax Lauwers, Matt Benning and Colton Saucerman. And during one of the Huskies’ penalty kills, when three of their defensemen were in the box, Benning was taking double shifts.

As Madigan put it, “It was like youth hockey – stay on until we tell you to come off.”

And forward John Stevens was prepared to play defense. And yet as all of this was taking place, the Huskies continued to exude confidence.

This will be the third time that Northeastern has made it to the Championship game in the past four years, and the second time in as many years. When asked what the team would need to win, Madigan ticked off the three most important aspects: goaltending, specialty teams and disciplined hockey—the latter of which he said they hadn’t had during the semi-final game.

Boston College Eagles vs. Boston University Terriers

The second game of the semi-finals was by far the loudest, which is not surprising, when you consider it is the Battle of Comm Ave. To say that there is animosity between Boston College and Boston University is an understatement.

And if the play between Northeastern and Harvard looked outmatched, the placement of Boston College (first in HockeyEast) and Boston University (tenth in HockeyEast) shows a definite mismatch this season. Usually the two teams are right around the same rankings, but the BU Terriers have definitely struggled this season and they are now having to finish the season without one of there best players, Matt Grzelcyk who was injured in January.

One of the problems that was showing during the game was trouble the Terriers had finding each other when passing, causing them to lose possession of the puck. With players such as Johnny “Johnny Hockey” Gaudreau (23-28-51 in 26 games) and Bill Arnold (8-28-36 in 26 games) and Kevin Hayes (19-26-45 in 26 games) playing together on a line, the Terriers needed to keep control of the puck whenever that line was out on the ice.

The Terriers have a young team this season and a new coach, who is still getting to know his team and what makes them tick. However, watching them continue to battle, striving to keep the Eagles to the perimeters as the game continued, showed the grit that with maturity could make them a truly difficult team as their freshmen get a little older.

And though there were much fewer penalties during this second game (different on-ice officials), there was yet another major penalty and game misconduct. This one was called on BU’s Doyle Somerby for boarding Kevin Hayes, who stayed down on the ice for awhile before slowly getting up and making his way across to the bench. What was nice to see was that despite the constant badgering of each other among the student bodies of the two schools, the BU students clapped just as loudly as the BC students when Hayes got up.

The caliber of perseverance displayed by the Terriers as they killed off the five-minute major penalty to Somerby speaks volumes of the resolve and strength that the teams has. Now all head coach David Quinn has to do is to harness it and focus it.

The most winning coach in NCAA, Jerry York, leads Boston College and they have been a powerhouse for some time now, winning many a championship, including the last four Beanpots. However, after killing off the major penalty, an energetic BU team came out and began to make things happen, and they managed to score on Thatcher Demko, to ensure there would not be another shutout on the night. After that, the momentum seemed to be largely in BU’s favor, despite the score.

Boston College could be seen making some uncharacteristic mistakes and plays that were also allowing the Terriers to continue to dominate on the ice. However, in the end the Eagles would be victorious, beating the Terriers 3-1.

Terriers coach Quinn was pleased with the strong efforts of his team commenting on how they need to take the solid 60-minute effort they displayed and carry it on to the next game, when they meet UMass-Lowell on Friday night. Eagles coach York had high praise for the Terriers as well, commenting on how they continued to battle back.

Perhaps coach Quinn summed it up best when he mentioned that the rivalry between BU and BC just makes both teams better. And though many suspected that the Eagles would obliterate the Terriers, such was not the case.

Monday, February 10, will see the Boston University Terriers going against the Harvard Crimson during the consolation game beginning at 4:30 in the afternoon. The Championship game between the Boston College Eagles and the Northeastern University Huskies will begin at 7:30pm. And may the best Boston team win.

 

A family historian by profession, Rhonda R. McClure has loved hockey since she was a child in New Hampshire. Any opportunity to combine her love of writing, hockey and research is something she looks forward to with much enthusiasm. She's been accused of seeking out shinny games when there are no other hockey events taking place. She is a member of the Society for International Hockey Research. Follow her on Twitter at @HockeyMaven1917.

NO COMMENTS

Leave a Reply