In the previous four Beanpot Tournament championship games at TD Garden, Boston College averaged five goals on the way to victories in all of them.
But Monday night’s contest against Northeastern was very different because it wasn’t so much about offense as a 58-minute duel between hot goaltenders — Northeastern junior Clay Witt and Eagles freshman Thatcher Demko.
Both were outstanding and it took a goal with just 5:30 remaining in regulation, only the third tally of the game, to decide the 62d annual Battle of Boston.
Senior center and captain Patrick Brown, who is having the best season of his college career, scored the most memorable goal of his life in notching the game-winner, and BC eventually claimed a 4-1 victory in front of a sold-out crowd of 17,565.
Senior defenseman Isaac MacLeod floated a puck down from the left point and Brown, who was hauled down by freshman center John Stevens in front, still managed to get the blade of his stick on the puck and redirect it past Witt (37 saves). Brown said all the credit goes to MacLeod.
“[MacLeod] has a great shot-pass,’’ said Brown, who has 18 of his 31 career points this season. “I was just trying to find a spot in the slot where he could hit my stick. I was getting mauled a little bit and I fell down and I just was able to get my stick on it because he made a great tape-to-tape pass.’’
When asked how he practices it with his own teammates, in terms of how often he has to try to tip the puck while lying on the ice, Brown smiled.
“You’ve just got to focus,’’ said Brown. “You’ve got to keep your eye on the puck but we’ve got some big, mean D so they did a pretty good job training you for that in practice.’’
BC, ranked No. 1 in the nation, earned its fifth straight Beanpot crown, a school record. For two consecutive years, the Eagles’ senior class can boast that it never lost a Beanpot game.
Overall, the Eagles are unbeaten in 15 games (14-0-1).
BC coach Jerry York admitted to being very impressed by Brown’s tenacity on his first of two goals.
“That’s a skill he works at and it’s something he’s very, very good at,’’ said York. “But, still, in the heat of the moment, late in the game, to reach out and redirect a puck past a goaltender, it’s a pretty special play. I’ll remember that for a long time.’’
NU, which played a very disciplined game and didn’t take a single penalty (the first time for the Huskies in a Beanpot game in 12 years), had a chance to get on the board when sophomore defenseman Michael Matheson was called for interference at 6:21 of the first period but the Huskies could do nothing on the power play. They had trouble setting up and couldn’t create pressure in front of Demko.
That came back to haunt them. Just 19 seconds after the man advantage expired, BC scored. At 8:40, the Eagles’ top line came through. Junior left wing Johnny Gaudreau, the nation’s top scorer, centered a backhander that wound up on senior right wing Kevin Hayes’s stick in the slot. Hayes beat Witt for his 21st goal of the year.
Gaudreau extended his point streak to 24 games. Since Jan. 6, when the line was formed, the trio has 84 points after a four-point effort against NU.
With 1:24 remaining in the second period, the Huskies generated the equalizer. It started with a turnover by BC defensman Scott Savage in his zone and when sophomore left wing Kevin Roy is the recipient of that type of mistake, you find out you’re playing with fire.
Roy took a hard shot from in front that Demko saved but Stevens came flying down from the right side and backhanded the rebound inside the right post.
After Brown’s heroics, Witt was pulled after a timeout with 1:31 remaining in the game.
But it didn’t matter. After winning the first faceoff to get a scoring chance, the Huskies couldn’t finish.
Gaudreau scored on an empty-netter with 1:16 remaining and Brown sealed it when he beat Witt on a shot high over the glove with 49.5 ticks left.
NU coach Jim Madigan, who was disappointed in not being able to bring a Beanpot title back to Huntington Avenue for the first time since 1988, said he was proud of his team.
“In the third period, we just couldn’t match their speed,’’ said Madigan. “They came at us and we didn’t have a correct enough response. I thought we did a good job on the winning goal in tying up Brown down at the net. He was falling and we had his stick and somehow he got his stick on it and he scored the winning goal. I like the way our team played, we battled hard. We just couldn’t generate the offense.’’