The One That Got Away

Maybe it was a good thing that the Huskies didn’t win the Beanpot Monday night. I would pity the Northeastern University police. Huntington Avenue up in flames, cars turned over, the husky mascot running wild in the streets howling at the moon.

Maybe the world just isn’t ready for the words “Your 2011 Beanpot Champions, the Northeastern Huskies…” to be a statement of fact just yet. Harvard beating BU in the consolation game was enough shock treatment for one year.

In what was the most no holds barred, all the chips in the middle Beanpot final in recent memory, Northeastern fell in overtime to the Boston College Eagles 7-6 Monday night. Northeastern goalie Chris Rawlings lay on his back looking at the banners hung from the ceiling as Chris Kreider and company threw their gloves in the air and did what they do best.

It will impose a scar on their hearts that will never fully heal nor any valentine could ever match. This will be the one that got away.

“I think this one stings a lot. A couple years ago against BU we were down by a few goals and we didn’t really deserve to win. But tonight I thought we battled hard and we came to play,” said Northeastern’s Wade MacLeod reflecting on the loss, his face scrunched up. “We just couldn’t finish it off.”

I would be lying if I said during the intermission before overtime I wasn’t writing a list of Northeastern themed headlines “The Dog Days Are Over”, “Huskies Are Top Dogs”, “Northeastern Lets The Dogs Out”.

I should have known better.

As much as I believe that any team can beat any other on any given day, this was the Beanpot. There has never been a Northeastern or Harvard Beanpot championship celebration filmed in HD, and it’s because unfortunately for the stepchildren of the Boston college hockey scene, BU and BC are the best and more often then not they win when it counts.

“What bothers me the most about this tournament is that everybody says, ‘Well, why can’t Northeastern win it?’ ’’ Northeastern coach Greg Cronin explained. “Can’t they just get lightning in a bottle once? A blind squirrel gets a nut every once in a while, how can it not happen?’ At that time, it was 10 or 12 years since they won it. But now I’m in it. I’m in the fabric of the tournament and BC and BU are good. They are good every year. They restock with great players.’’

“My analogy is, they restock their deck with kings and aces, every year,’’ Cronin continued. “The rest of us have to scrounge around to get a jack or a queen and keep them long enough that they can someday wrestle with the kings and the aces.”

As awful as a coach comparing his players to a bad Texas hold’em hand sounds, it’s the truth, and it takes a lot to admit that. The Eagles and Terries keep on winning and keep on bringing in the best talent that college hockey attracts. There is no draft or salary cap to make sure teams are given their fair shake. The pool is much smaller than college football or basketball. Chances are if you are a legitimate top prospect for college hockey, BC or BU has come across your mind.

I could explain how there is always next year, and Northeastern is always getting better. They have been doing nothing but improving this season and can surely take this game as an example of what they are capable of. But that would defeat the purpose of this argument. Northeastern has been the little brother in Boston for a while now and they don’t want us to pity them, rubbing their backs and saying “its okay…” when they get noogie after noogie from their older brothers.

Being in a position to beat Boston College or Boston University in the Beanpot Championship is like a lunar eclipse. Actually beating them would require that you hit a dime out of mid air with a bow and arrow on the night of that lunar eclipse.

Monday night, the Huskies’ arrow just missed.

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5 Responses to “The One That Got Away”

  1. H. Decker
    February 15, 2011 at 10:26 am #

    I was at the game, it was an absolute heartbreaker. I think Rawlings deserves a lot of credit for the game being as close as it was, considering BC outshot NU nearly 2 to 1 the entire game, and the final shots on goal were 27-46. In overtime, BC got 5 shots and NU had 0. It’s really hard to win a game when you don’t shoot very much.

  2. H. Decker
    February 15, 2011 at 2:11 pm #

    Cronin keeps giving statements to the press about how he only ever gets second rate players, and BU and BC get all the top talent. How does it make his players feel that their coach is always publicly saying that none of them were his first choice? Other teams without superstar talent still manage to come together as a cohesive unit and WIN, with the right system and the right coaching. It’s no wonder that they never beat BC or BU in any really big games, Cronin is always convincing them that they’ll never be good enough.

  3. Josh Povost
    February 15, 2011 at 6:34 pm #

    Decker I agree with you about it probably not being the right stance to take while coaching at NU. Other programs consistently have good years in Hockey East. Excuses like that should never really be made.

    That being said,looking at it from a realist point of view, BU and BC are playing with loaded decks. That is a constant every season whether Cronin wants to remind his players and the media of that or not. Going off his cards example, at the card table of Hockey East, everyone gets to scrape a few pots in here and there and have their moment in the sun but when you leave the table the House (BU and BC) are likely going to be up.

  4. H. Decker
    February 15, 2011 at 9:58 pm #

    I agree with you, it’s true. It’s just that everyone already knows that is the way it is, those circumstances are unlikely to change – I just wish at this point Cronin would find a different strategy to compete with it instead of using it as an excuse. We’ve all seen those teams that don’t have any elite players but who become greater than the sum of their parts because of how they fit together and how their skills complement each other. NU could be one of those teams if Cronin would just shift his focus to building that instead of bemoaning his lack of recruiting choices.

    Inherent skills aside, a good coach can and should improve/bring out the best in his players and believe in the team he has in front of him. I don’t think he necessarily does that consistently. It seems that every year, NU plays like they are intimidated by BU and BC, and I think that is directly related to the fact that Cronin always seems intimidated by BU and BC. It’s a shame, because there is no reason why NU can’t be the scrappy underdog team that could dominate on any given night – all the pieces are there – Cronin just doesn’t seem to put them together.

    Look at Merrimack, they are a great example. Everyone counts them out but they don’t care, they just band together and keep winning… and look at them now, they are serious contenders for the Frozen Four this year. If Merrimack can do it, I don’t see why NU can’t.

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