Northeastern’s hockey team didn’t need to know how long it had been since they’d won the Beanpot or beaten Boston University in February in this building. The Terrier fans in the TD Garden balcony were all too happy to enlighten them. “Nineteen-eighty-eight,” they chanted. “Nineteen-eighty-eight.”
None of the Huskies was alive a quarter of a century ago, so the date may as well have been 1066 as far as they’re concerned. “Facts and figures don’t win hockey games,” NU coach Jim Madigan said Monday night after his varsity had conjured a bit of new math on Causeway Street by upending its canine counterpart from Commonwealth Avenue by a 3-2 count to advance to next week’s championship game against defending champion Boston College.
But history does matter in the Hub and the result of the opening game indeed was historic. For the first time since 1965, when coach Jack Parker was a freshman, a BU senior class will graduate without getting its paws on the silver pot that once was as permanent a part of the campus landscape as the old Braves Field stucco facade. “Pretty devastating,” concluded captain Wade Megan.
The facts and figures over the decades were staggering. Not only have the Terriers won 29 titles, they’d reached the final 26 times in the previous 29 years, 43 times in 49 years, and 49 in 60. Going four years without being the city’s top dog was an unwelcome novelty. “I haven’t had this experience either,” mused Parker.
His squad had beaten Northeastern 15 straight times in Beanpot meetings since 1988, five times for the championship. “I know BU has more wins, but every year the team changes,” observed Kevin Roy, the freshman from Lac-Beauport, Quebec, who beat the Terriers all by himself with a natural hat trick.
And while this may not be a vintage pack of Hounds — they’re 8-13-3 and at the bottom of the Hockey East pile — they’d already proven that they could more than hold their own on any street corner in Boston. They’d beaten BC by a couple of goals. They’d won by four at Harvard and had taken down the Terriers, 6-5, at Agganis Arena last month. Only the 1965 and 1998 NU squads ever had beaten the other three rivals coming into the tournament.
So the Huskies knew that they had what it took to win in the Garden. Doing it was all in the approach, in the attitude. So Madigan, who’d won two Beanpots as a player and was an assistant on NU’s last championship team, brought in Wayne Turner, the man whose overtime goal against BC in 1980 won the program’s first crown.
“He talked about mind-set,” the coach said. “About mentality.” The desired mentality was what Madigan took away from seeing “Silver Linings Playbook”, which he said was the first movie he’d been to in 25 years. “Excalibur,” he said. “Take all the negative stuff out.”
There were four minutes of negative stuff all jammed together late in the second period when the Huskies were hanging on to a 2-1 lead. Colton Saucerman went off for boarding and Dax Lauwers joined him in the box four seconds later. The Terriers were up 5 on 3 long enough for them to score two goals and take the lead. In decades past, they would have done it. Not this time. The Huskies killed off the double, as well as another penalty that Josh Manson took shortly after they’d finished.
That was the turning point, said Parker, whose men were 0 for 6 on the power play. In essence, the night had been going Northeastern’s way from the start when Roy, who’s the most prolific freshman in the country, slid the puck beneath BU goaltender Matt O’Connor, after just a couple of minutes. Then he swatted in the killer after Terrier forward Ben Rosen made a jaw-dropping mistake, sending a pass in front of an empty cage after O’Connor had gone behind to clear.
It was an instant YouTube clip and it had Parker, arms crossed, staring at the floor and a horrified Rosen putting both hands on his helmet in an I-don’t-believe-I-just-did that! gesture. Later Roy stuck in the shiv, swiping at Garrett Noonan’s unwise clear to the side and knocking the puck into the far corner. So it was 3-1 with less than five minutes to play but nobody who knew BU-NU history had this one marked up.
“I’ve seen in bigger games this team getting two goals in the last minute of a game,” remarked Parker, “so I thought there was a possibility of doing it.”
Sahir Gill got his mates one with 1:11 to play but the Terriers couldn’t get close enough for the equalizer and the Huskies stormed the ice as though they’d won it all. Maybe this finally will be the Year of the Hound. What may well help is that none of them remembers the last year.
“It doesn’t matter what you did before,” goalie Chris Rawlings declared. “Any team can win on any given night. It’s whoever wants it Monday night — and then, the second Monday night.”
John Powers can be reached at email@example.com.