Northeastern has experienced little success in The Beanpot, which is among the oldest of collegiate hockey competitions. But the Huskies have advanced to the finals of the 2018 tournament, thanks largely to the play of 18-year-old Cayden Primeau, the second-youngest participant in the 66th edition of the event.
Primeau made 37 saves as the No. 14 Huskies (16-7-5) blanked Boston College, 3-0, in the Beanpot opener Monday night at TD Garden. NU advanced to the finals for the fourth time in Jim Madigan’s six years as coach.
Next Monday night, the Huskies will be looking for their fifth Beanpot title, and their first in 30 years.
The Huskies’ first line – Dylan Sikura, Nolan Stevens, and Adam Gaudette – which had produced 102 points going into the tournament, provided the offense, converting a goal in each period while accounting for 7 points.
Sikura scored his 50th career goal in the opening period, Stevens his 51st career goal in the second, and Gaudette his 58th career goal in the final period.
Northeastern, which has not won the tournament since 1988, improved its Beanpot record against BC to 12-34.
“Early on, BC really came at us,” Madigan said. “[Primeau] was immense. Early on, he gave us believability – right away, credibility that he was going to be on. He’s been on all year.”
BC (13-12-3) controlled the action at even strength early in the first period, but fell behind shorthanded. The Eagles killed an early penalty, then Chris Brown redirected just wide of the right post, before Jacob Tortora and JD Dudek had point-blank shots stopped off a faceoff at 7:34.
The Huskies recovered, opening the scoring on a power play. Sikura converted his 14th goal of the season, firing from the right circle, the shot deflecting off defenseman Casey Fitzgerald’s stick and trickling under Joseph Woll’s glove with Stevens screening at 9:47.
Adam Gaudette lights the lamp to give Northeastern a 3-0 lead over Boston College in the 2018 Beanpot semifinals. Catch the conclusion? on NESN! pic.twitter.com/fNrogi5eap— NESN (@NESN) February 6, 2018
Stevens then finished a Sikura rebound at 15:34 of the second period for his 18th goal of the season.
BC threatened on a power play early in the third period, but David Cotton was stopped by Primeau. Then, Logan Hutsko had a 2-on-1 breakout saved.
Gaudette blasted in the rebound of a Stevens shot from the point at 15:21 of the third, his 20th goal of the season and third point of the night.
“They’ve been our leaders all year and they led tonight,” Madigan said of the Huskies’ first-liners. “This was a big game for us, our seniors and upperclassmen, to get back into the championship game.”
BC took a season-high 37 shots (NU took 32 shots) and won 32 of 55 faceoffs. The last time the teams met, NU scored on four power plays in a 5-2 win at BC on Dec. 9.
“I thought their goaltender played well,” BC coach Jerry York said. “[David] Cotton hit the crossbar and [Hutsko] had a real good chance hit off Primeau’s head.
“They’re outstanding on the power play, they just scored one power-play goal. The other two goals, we just didn’t box out. Joe makes the save and there’s no box out in front.”
Goal! Nolan Stevens finds the back of the net to give Northeastern a 2-0 lead over Boston College in the 2018 Beanpot semifinals. See if the Eagles can mount a comeback on NESN! pic.twitter.com/AjjGcxiVzj— NESN (@NESN) February 5, 2018
Primeau grew up in Voorhees, N.J., and the closest to a New England connection he might have had was when his father, Keith Primeau, played for the Hartford Whalers.
“As soon as I got to campus people started talking about it, ‘Are you going to win it this year? How are your chances looking?’ ” said Primeau, a Montreal Canadiens draft choice. “It’s big in Boston. I committed a couple years ago – so I kind of knew the significance of it coming into the year.”
Primeau started the season as a backup to Ryan Ruck, who sustained a concussion in a game against BU in November.
“He’s balanced,” Madigan said of Primeau, who is a month older than BU’s Brady Tkachuk. “His dad worked with him on the mental part of the game. He has that mental toughness, never goes high or low, and just stays the course. He didn’t start out as No. 1 goalie, [but] we recruited him to play an awful lot. He saw the opportunity and grabbed it and ran with the ball, and he’s given us a lot of credibility, confidence.
“When you see [Sikura and Stevens] go and hang out with him and spend time with him – and the way those two talk about [Primeau], he’s the cat’s meow, they use a different word — but it shows he’s got the confidence and trust of the leadership of our core.”