Northeastern summitted major mountains in 2016 and 2018. In 2016, the Huskies rallied from a 3-12-3 record for one of college hockey’s legendary turnarounds, ending the season at 22-14-5 and winning the program’s first Hockey East championship since 1988. Two years later, they added more accomplishments to their trophy case with the first Beanpot win in thirty tries. Northeastern is no longer a lesser program. Quietly the Huskies have been adding the type of talent that usually commits to BU or BC. They’re worthy of competing with college hockey’s best behind Jim Madigan’s bravado.
At the sport’s other end, Boston College has a long and decorated tradition. From 1998 to 2016, the Eagles appeared in twelve Frozen Fours, eight National Championship games, and claimed four of their five National Championships. BC has long produced NHL talent from Brian Gionta and Brian Leetch to recent stars like Noah Hannifan and Johnny Gadreau.
The last three years have been disappointing, though. BC went almost three seasons without a non-conference win and missed the last two NCAA Tournaments. They still have the last embers of their dynasty in the senior class that won the 2016 Beanpot and want one more kick at the can for their legendary coach, Jerry York. Against that backdrop, the normal underdog but recently mighty Huskies and perennial power yet rebuilding Eagles will meet at TD Garden on Monday night for the 67th annual Beanpot Final.
The most curious part of this year’s Beanpot Final is that Northeastern and Boston College have yet to play each other this year. There is no head to head game from earlier this year to look at. Both squads are coming into the final fresh. They have a home and home the first weekend of March. Each team is coming off ugly conference loses on the road. Northeastern stumbled against UConn while BC fell to the surging Lowell Riverhawks
The Huskies can roll two solid offensive lines and get decent pop from their third. Their defensive corp is steady and in goal they have a solid number one, plus the luxury of a steady back-up. The offense will center around the production of Liam Pecararo, Zach Solow and Grant Jozefek. If that line is firing then NU will be in good shape. Tyler Madden, the hero of last Monday’s semi-final vs Boston University, centers Lincoln Griffin and Patrick Schule. This trio seems to perform well is big moments. The Austin Goldstein, Liam Pecararo, and Brandon Hawkins line will need to chip in. Hawkins has been getting a ton of quality shots on goal lately and is due for a big night. The line-up has juggled a bit the last few games, but these lines got it done last week.
The NU defense boasts Jeremy Davies, the quietest superstar defenseman in this year of superstar defenseman. Watching his play in all three zones you can see how he’s the integral part of the team’s success. Eric Williams is a solid defender, along with AJ Villella, Jordan Harris, and Julian Kislin.
Cayden Primeau is a huge reason that the Huskies have been as good as they have been. He’s one of the best goalies in college hockey, ranked 20th nationally in save percentage and has a reputation for big game play. He won the Eberley Award in last year’s Beanpot and stole wins from St. Cloud State, UMass Amherst, and UMass Lowell. Ryan Ruck, who hasn’t played as often since Primeau’s arrival is a solid back-up should the need arise.
Boston College might not have the flashy stats padded to their players this year but they have enough talent back to front to be in the National Championship hunt. Obviously, this team is struggling this year but a win here could send them off to the races. Statistically BC is a one line team at this point of the season. That line, centered by Christopher Brown with David Cotton and Logan Hutsko on the wings has been the Eagles go to. Cotton is tied for the Hockey East lead in goal scoring, yet the Eagles are second last in goal scoring for the conference. They’ll need the likes of Julius Mattila, Jack McBain and Oliver Wahlstrom plus JD Dudek,Graham McPhee and Patrick Giles to contribute to pull this win out. Last Monday the two goals by freshmen Giles and McBain were what put the Eagles over on Harvard. They’ll need all guns firing to beat NU.
The defense is a steady unit, anchored by Casey Fitzgerald, Michael Kim, Luke McInnis, Jesper Mattila, and new addition Ben Finklestein. This corps isn’t going to power the Eagles offensively point wise, but Fitzgerald, Mattila, and Kim are all good puck movers.
Like his counterpart in goal, BC’s Joseph Woll is one of the best when he’s on. The junior from St. Louis is 21st nationally in save percentage at .921. He’s lifted the Eagles to wins against Boston University, Providence, and Harvard rard in the Beanpot’s opening round.
As for predictions, Northeastern is likely the more complete and better team. But the Beanpot has a funny way of leveling differences and producing memorable games. Flip a coin to determine a winner, especially with both schools being highly motivated for more hardware. BC to revive a dynasty and Northeastern to defend their hard earned crown.