BOSTON — Boston University returned to its throne as king of the Beanpot on Monday night, but doing so spoiled a heart-pounding comeback and extended futility in the annual event for Northeastern.
Matt Grzelcyk scored a power-play goal just 51 seconds into overtime, firing a shot through a screen past Northeastern goaltender Clay Witt to earn the Terriers their first Beanpot title since 2009 and the 30th all-time for the program.
Semifinals: Feb. 3
• Third place: Boston College 3, Harvard 2 (OT)
“The first line, it was kind of their time to shine,” said Grzelcyk. “They had been playing well all game and not getting the fortunate bounces. But Jack [Eichel] made the great playing off the opening draw and Danny [O’Regan] drew the penalty.”
After that it was Grzelcyk, who grew up just a few miles from the Garden and dreamed of winning a Beanpot as a kid, who finally made the dream come true.
The winning goal came after the Terriers’ Ahti Oksanen and Eichel won a puck battle on the right half boards. Rodrigues quickly moved the puck to Grzelcyk, who fired the winning shot.
“I took a peek over and saw ‘Griz’ waiting there,” said Rodrigues. “I knew if I got the puck I was just shooting it over. ‘Griz’ let it rip and before I knew it we were all skating down to the other end celebrating.”
The goal spoiled a dramatic — and almost improbable — comeback by the Huskies, whose Beanpot futility reached 27 years. They haven’t skated around the Garden ice with the Pot since 1988.
Down two goals in the third and not generating much offense, Northeastern caught fire thanks to its top player, Kevin Roy. A nonfactor much of the game, Roy caught Boston University and Grzelcyk sagging.
Roy pulled the puck forward and shot as goaltender Matt O’Connor (30 saves) was moving to close the gap to 3-2 with 10:42 remaining.
The momentum from that goal led to Northeastern’s best sustained pressure of the period and, after a flurry in front of O’Connor, the Huskies’ hero from the semifinals, Dustin Darou, fired a shot through traffic to tie the game with 9:07 left.
“I felt like we showed a lot of character in the third period coming back to tie that game,” said Northeastern captain Dax Lauwers.
A winded Boston University got a rest after the goal when coach David Quinn called a timeout. That settled the Terriers down enough to survive through regulation.
“You could see [concern] in the player’s faces,” said Quinn. “You worked so hard to get a two-goal lead and then boom, it was gone. It evaporates.
“For us, it feels like we’ve been in that situation all year long where it’s tied with 10 minutes to go. There was a lot of familiarity with the situation and I thought we settled down after that.”
Monday’s Beanpot final was delayed by two weeks due to a snowstorm on the originally schedule date. So if the TD Garden crowd needed any infusion of energy, it got it in the game’s opening minutes.
After Northeastern began the game with a couple of strong shifts, BU’s Mike Moran sprung past Northeastern’s Trevor Owens and skated in alone on Witt (30 saves), burying a shot far post at 2:19.
But before the Terriers faithful could finish cheering, Northeastern evened the score with John Stevens picking up the rebound of his own shot and firing it high glove side past O’Connor to knot the game and allow the Huskies fans to explode.
From there, Northeastern enjoyed the better of the play, ending the frame with a 15-11 shot advantage.
The game turned heavily BU’s way in the second with the Terriers holding a 12-7 shot advantage and a 23-12 edge in shot attempts. That translated to the score sheet as BU opened a 3-1 lead.
Robbie Baillargeon, who was benched on Saturday against Notre Dame by Quinn, made good in his return to the lineup, firing home a rebound of Nikolas Olsson’s shot on the rush at 5:31.
Then, after the Terriers killed a Northeastern power play, Grzelcyk, who was named the tournament’s MVP, blasted a shot through a screen at 14:18, beating Witt glove side for a 3-1 lead.
That could have been lights-out for Northeastern given BU’s propensity to score in the third period. The Terriers are plus-30 in scoring margin in the final period of games, scoring a national-best 56 times.
That was what made Northeastern’s ability to rally the most impressive. For a team that hasn’t tasted the ultimate prize in this event since 1988 and has lost in the finals in three consecutive years, that’s little consolation.
“For our older guys, they’ve been here before,” said Northeastern coach Jim Madigan. “I don’t know if they’re dwelling much on experience. You have to get over the hump.”