When Boston College men’s hockey fell behind three goals in the opening minutes of the final period of the Beanpot title game to Northeastern, it wouldn’t have been shocking to see the Eagles ship it in for the final 17 minutes. After all, BC was struggling to crack Huskies goaltender Cayden Primeau—a sophomore who turned away the first 20 shots he faced—and Northeastern forward Lincoln Griffin’s goal seemed like it was the final nail in the coffin.
Over the next eight-plus minutes, though, the Eagles put on an unexpected offensive performance, peppering Primeau and beating him for two goals. Primeau, however, the eventual MVP of the Beanpot—he turned away 59 of 62 shots he faced during the two-game tournament, a remarkable .952 save percentage—would step up in the final minutes, and a Zach Solow empty-netter sealed a repeat championship for the Huskies, beating BC by a 4-2 margin.
Still, the win was far from comfortable for Northeastern (17-9-1, 9-7-1 Hockey East) and head coach Jim Madigan, with much of the third period featuring a plethora of chances for the Eagles (10-14-3, 9-5-3). BC, which was aiming to win its first title since 2016 after back-to-back poor showings, had 15 shots to the Huskies’ nine in the final period.
“I thought our team really, from my perspective, battled back down 3-0 in the third,” head coach Jerry York said, several hours after it was announced that the longtime head coach had signed a contract extension. “I thought we played pretty well the first and second, but that last 17, 18 minutes we played extremely well. Cayden [Primeau] made some excellent saves late in the game.”
The late push from York’s side was kickstarted three minutes after Griffin put his team up, 3-0, with Oliver Wahlstrom digging a puck out from behind the net and deftly finding David Cotton, who poked it past Primeau. Momentum in hand, BC increased its offensive zone play, eventually breaking through again with Cotton setting up J.D. Dudek for a nearly identical goal.
“He’s gotten better each year with us. He was a dominant force in the third period,” York said of Cotton. “Amid many good games this year, that was his best game.”
It just seemed to snowball from there, with the Eagles lunging at every opportunity and firmly putting the Huskies back on their heels. Even mistakes from BC were corrected, as in one instance it was Casey Fitzgerald who laid out to block a centering pass on an odd-man rush for the Huskies—denying a likely goal. Meanwhile, Primeau had to come up big time and time again, even denying a putback chance from Aapeli Räsänen with an impressive diving save. It seemed at points that BC—even with goaltender Joseph Woll still on the ice—had an extra attacker in the offensive zone, with Northeastern content to just clear it out.
Eventually, Woll came out with 1:23 on the clock, and the Eagles made things interesting in the final minutes. After several forced passes, the puck eventually skipped out into BC’s defensive zone. In the mad frenzy that ensued, Fitzgerald initially seemed to recover possession, but Solow ended up with it in the slot and buried it with 5.3 seconds left on the clock. The sophomore sprinted to the corner, leapt up against the boards, and was joined by his linemates in emphatic fashion.
It capped off another successful run from the Huskies, who’d gone 30 years without a title in the four-team field before winning last season. They replicated the feat in 2019, first knocking off Boston University in overtime this past Monday via a Tyler Madden game-winner before downing the Eagles.
Neither team managed to score in the first 19 minutes, albeit the scoreless stretch wasn’t without controversy. It appeared that BC had found the game’s first goal at the seven-minute mark, with the puck slipping in amid a scrum of falling players as the net came off its mooring. The goal was ruled “no goal” after a lengthy six-minute replay review, but it was hard to find a decisive angle that argued prominently in either direction.
With less than a minute left in the period, Northeastern finally broke through. A wraparound effort from Griffin was initially denied by Woll, but he failed to completely smother the puck and fourth-line forward Austin Plevy put his team up for good by tucking it home.
The second period featured a marked shift in BC’s offensive approach, as, in an effort to crack Primeau, the Eagles opted to shield the sophomore and whipped up more shots from distance. Connor Moore had three such attempts, but all were denied or missed wide. The best chance of the period for BC came when Marc McLaughlin had a slight breakaway and skated in on net, but his shot was stopped with a pad.
Again, the Huskies were able to sneak one in near the buzzer, taking a two-goal lead with 2:06 on the clock. Madden made Eagles defenseman Luke McInnis look silly with a deke to the right of the goal, then dumped it off for teammate Matt Thomson. Patrick Schule was left alone in the right circle, Thomson found him, and Schule buried a wrister that he had plenty of time to set up for.
While the Eagles didn’t play poorly through the first two periods, the fact that they needed a third-period surge to make it close is likely disappointing for York’s bunch. When Solow scored the decisive fourth goal, BC’s players on the ice all meandered about, bent over with sticks on their knees. It was a sobering sight, especially for a bunch that includes longtime contributors in Fitzgerald, Michael Kim, and Christopher Brown.
Now, it’ll be up for that same group of seniors—who likely long for the glory days of the 2015-16 season where they won the Beanpot title game against rival BU—to try and string together an improbable run to avoid a third straight season without a NCAA Tournament appearance.
This story was updated at 12:30 a.m.
Featured Image by Jess Rivilis / Heights Staff