It was the question asked whenever Northeastern and Harvard were not facing each other in the first round of the Beanpot.
Could this be the year there is finally a championship game between the Huskies and the Crimson?
The answer for the first 69 editions was no, as either Boston College or Boston University reached the championship game every year.
Until this year.
Northeastern goalie Devon Levi recorded 33 saves, and the Huskies got goals from seniors Aidan McDonough and Jakov Novak, and a game-clinching empty-net goal from Hunter McDonald to defeat Boston University, 3-1, Monday night at TD Garden.
That result, coupled with Harvard’s 4-3 overtime thriller over Boston College in the first game of the night, resulted in the first final between Northeastern and Harvard in the 70th Beanpot next Monday.
“It is unique. I’d like to think our program over the last seven or eight years has taken a big step, and Harvard has too,” said Northeastern coach Jerry Keefe. “They’ve got a heck of a team, they’re a top 10 team in the country. I think the Beanpot, it’s whoever plays the best can win. All four teams are dangerous teams.”
It was the first Beanpot appearance for Levi, who missed last year’s tournament when he was named to Team Canada for the 2022 Olympics.
“I say it all the time, he’s the best goalie in the country,” said Keefe. “You can see our guys want to play in front of him too, and that’s why I think we sell out to block shots, because he’s always there, and he has our back.”
McDonough gave the Huskies a 1-0 lead 14 minutes into the first period. BU had attempted to skate the puck out of their zone, but freshman Vinny Borgesi kept the puck in, kicking it over to classmate Jack Williams, who sent it back to a cutting Borgesi. McDonough, positioned to the left of the BU net, took the feed from Borgesi and buried a wrister past Drew Commesso (27 saves).
It was McDonough’s 18th of the season, good for third in the nation. The senior from Milton is the active leader nationally with 64 career goals.
The lead grew to 2-0 when Novak buried a rebound off a Jeremie Bucheler shot from the point, beating Commesso to his left 1:48 into the second period.
The lead almost grew to three when Northeastern finished killing a penalty and took off on a three-on-two, but Commesso came up with a sprawling save on Riley Hughes to keep the Terriers within striking distance.
That was how the period would end, with BU unable to capitalize on three power plays.
“I thought (Commesso) was great,” said BU coach Jay Pandolfo. “He keeps us in the game and makes that save to give us a chance to come back in the third. So I thought Drew was excellent.”
Down two goals, the Terriers pressed the attack in the third period, outshooting Northeastern, 16-7.
After BU could not score on another power play, the Terriers had their best opportunity of the night when Wilmer Skoog was alone in front of the net with the puck, but Levi snared the one-timer to keep the Terriers off the board.
With Commesso pulled for an extra skater, BU finally got on the board at 18:09 when Matt Brown’s shot from the point eluded Levi, who was screened by Skoog on the play. The Terriers continued the attack, but McDonald’s empty-netter with 30 seconds remaining sealed the win.
“We needed to simplify our game. that was the biggest thing, and be willing to work and get inside,” said Pandolfo. “They did a better job than we did tonight.”
With the win, Northeastern improved to 14-10-3 and has won six of its last seven. The Terriers saw their seven-game winning streak snapped to fall to 20-7-0 on the season.
Follow Andrew Mahoney on Twitter @GlobeMahoney.