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Northeastern stays focused in quest for Beanpot

Northeastern goalie Clay Witt is mobbed by teammates at the conclusion of Tuesday’s win over BC in the Beanpot.
Northeastern goalie Clay Witt is mobbed by teammates at the conclusion of Tuesday’s win over BC in the Beanpot.Barry Chin/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Turned out, it was worth the wait.

Before Tuesday night, the Northeastern men’s hockey team hadn’t played a game since Jan. 24 when it was completing a sweep of Notre Dame.

The Huskies were geared up for the Beanpot, but then came the postponement from Monday to Tuesday.

That was followed by a little bit of a late start to the early game — Harvard against Boston University — and a very late, double-overtime finish that forced NU and Boston College to stand by even longer before they could take the ice for the nightcap.

But after Dustin Darou’s goal with 1 minute 34 seconds remaining in regulation lifted the Huskies to a 3-2 victory over the Eagles at TD Garden just after midnight, the celebration began on Huntington Avenue.

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The school hasn’t lifted a Beanpot championship trophy since 1988, but coach Jim Madigan is confident his players have the right attitude going into the title game against BU.

“It’s an even-keeled group,” said Madigan, who won the Beanpot with NU as a player in 1984 and ’85 and was an assistant coach on the 1988 champions. “They are really balanced.

“After we got out of that awful [0-8-1] start, they’ve bought in more than we’ve had to preach it, ‘Hey, just one game at a time.’ Literally, that’s what we’ve done to get back to .500 and hopefully we can continue going north of that.

“They’ve got a good mentality and they understand from hearing from everyone how long it’s been since we won.

“I like the way we approached it. Yeah, there’s significance to it, but we’ve got to kind of approach it like it’s a regular-season game, play our best, and execute our systems like we would do no matter who the opponent is.”

Since there was no game for the Huskies last weekend, Madigan said the approach was to focus just on beating BC.

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“I didn’t talk too much about the Beanpot because we were off all week,” said Madigan. “We just prepared for Boston College and we left out the whole aura of the Beanpot and the magnitude of the Beanpot and just focused in on Boston College.”

And now, instead of focusing on facing BU in the title game, Madigan won’t think about Monday until after the game at UMass Friday night.

“I like the fact that we’re on the road and we can get out of here a little bit and bond as a team, and our sole focus is 2 points,” said Madigan. “You’re away from the background noise and you’re away from campus where everyone is talking about it. By getting away, you’re eliminating the distractions.

“They’ve heard from the people on campus, just from reading it on the websites, how long it’s been. They also know that they didn’t have anything to do with it. They’ve only known the last three years, at least our seniors.

“I think they are sick and tired of seeing my ugly face holding the Beanpot the last year we won it. They want to create their own history and their own memories and accomplishments.”

In the big picture, though, NU is also trying to move up in the Hockey East standings, which is all the more reason not to look past UMass.

“When you look at the standings, you can see how close we all are,” he said. “One point at the end of the year makes a big difference as far as where you are slotted.

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“They understand these are 2 big points and we have to play well and we haven’t lost sight of that.”

He also hasn’t lost sight of how much it would mean on campus to have another Beanpot trophy. Former BU coach Jack Parker always said the Beanpot is a much better tournament when all the teams are having good seasons. Madigan couldn’t agree more. In the 1980s, NU won the Beanpot four times, BU won it three times, Harvard twice, and BC once.

“When I started playing in it, the best era was in the 1980s when all four teams were winning the Beanpot and everyone was really good,” said Madigan. “NU in 1982 and ’88 went to the [NCAA] tournament and Harvard won [the NCAA title] in 1989.

“We had teams of national prominence and regionally within our own leagues. It might have been the most competitive decade of the tournament. And it was great because you went to the Garden and you didn’t know who was going to win. Every team had a chance.

“After that, there were always good teams in it but there was always a team that was a little bit off, and a lot of those years it has been Northeastern, unfortunately. Four of the last five years, we’ve been in the finals and now we’ve got to find a way to try to win this thing.”

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Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at nancy.marrapese-burrell@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @Elle1027.