February 7, 2011

Northeastern continues Beanpot spell on Harvard

Northeastern captain Tyler McNeely (No. 94) and Steve Silva celebrates Silva's second-period goal. (photo: Dave Arnold)

BOSTON — Forget that Groundhog Day was actually five days ago. At the Beanpot lately, Northeastern and Harvard seem to have their own repeating ritual.

Mike McLaughlin scored two early goals and the Huskies continued their decade-long success against Harvard in this event, winning 4-0 in Monday’s first semifinal game at TD Garden to advance to the championship against No. 1 Boston College or No. 14 Boston University — and showing more signs that their season has begun to blossom.

Goalie Chris Rawlings turned aside all 41 shots he faced for his fourth shutout in the last six games. Steve Silva (Tyngsboro, Mass.) and freshman Brodie Reid also scored, and Wade MacLeod had two assists.

“I didn’t know a lot about the Beanpot when I came here,” said McLaughlin, a junior from Seaforth, Ontario. “It’s nice to contribute and get one step closer to a title.”

It’s the fifth time in the last six first-round meetings here that the Huskies have dispatched their Crimson rivals, five of only six first-round wins they own in that span. The two programs have never met in a Beanpot final.

And for Harvard, which dropped to 4-18-0 with the loss and will play in the consolation game next Monday for the 12th time in the past 13 years? Probably a few more weeks of what’s already been a cold, dark winter.

“I thought they outplayed us in pretty much every facet of the game,” said Harvard coach Ted Donato (Dedham, Mass.), “from the net on out.”

It was already 1-0 when McLaughlin scored his second of the game early in the second period, the kind of tally that told Harvard it wasn’t going to be its night. His low shot from the top of the right circle was blocked by goalie Ryan Carroll but deflected up and behind him, and ended up across the goal line.

“I just saw a lane to the net, and I’ve been telling myself to shoot the puck more this year,” McLaughlin said. “It just bounced off the goalie and went straight in the air.”

The Huskies made it 3-0 nine minutes later. MacLeod beat a defender to a puck along the left boards, carried it into the corner and found an uncovered Silva in the slot. Silva patiently snapped off a wrister for his sixth goal of the season.

Staked to a power play late in the period after defenseman Ryan Grimshaw was whistled for holding, Reid made it 4-0, setting up on the left dot and one-timing a threaded cross-ice pass from MacLeod for his fifth goal of the season.

Carroll (20 saves) was pulled after two periods. Veteran Kyle Richter held the fort, stopping seven shots without allowing a goal, but the Huskies permitted few good bids on Rawlings at the other end.

“I don’t think we won any of the battles in front of the net,” Donato said. “Their ‘D’ did a good job, and Rawlings got stronger as the game went on.”

Without a lot of flash and dash, Northeastern (9-11-6) has quietly turned around what started out as a down season. Since the calendar turned, the Huskies have gone 6-2-2, with one of those losses to No. 11 Merrimack in overtime Friday, and sit just one point out of fifth place in Hockey East.

“We had a real heartbreaking loss on Friday to Merrimack at home,” said Northeastern coach Greg Cronin (Arlington, Mass.). “The locker room after, they looked like they’d been at a funeral. … I was worried about them getting back up.”

The two goals give McLaughlin a career-best nine goals and 12 points this season.

“Candidly, he’s been a disappointment offensively,” Cronin said. “We thought he was a guy who’d be a double-digit scorer every year here.”

No disappointment for McLaughlin and the Huskies on Monday. They still have one huge obstacle standing between themselves and their first taste of Beanpot glory since 1988, but they can now, officially, dare to dream.

“They’d have to get both the NUPD and the Boston police around our campus if we won it,” Cronin said.

Mike Zhe can be reached at mzhe@hockeyjournal.com