February 4, 2013

Roy plays trick on Terriers, lifts Huskies into Beanpot final

By Andy Merritt

Kevin Roy led NU to its first Beanpot win over BU in 25 years Monday night. (Dave Arnold Photography)

BOSTON – The Beanpot is a tournament loaded with history, played in a city about which that’s even more true.

Right now, however, Northeastern doesn’t much care for history.

The Huskies beat Boston University 3-2 in Monday night’s Beanpot opener, punching their ticket to the final for the third time in five years. They’ll play the winner of the nightcap between Boston College and Harvard.

It’s also the first time Northeastern has beaten BU in the Beanpot since 1988 – the last time the Huskies won the title.

But that’s history, and to rehash the sports cliché, there aren’t any historians in the Northeastern locker room.

“It doesn’t matter what you did before, it’s what you do now,” said Husky goaltender Chris Rawlings, who made 32 saves on 34 shots in the victory.

Rawlings was responding to a question about the fact that the Huskies had already beaten the other three Beanpot participants this season before the tournament, but it aptly applied to the Northeastern mindset regarding the program’s woeful history on February nights at the Garden.

The Huskies have only won the historic Boston tournament four times, and not at all in 25 years, so it was entirely appropriate that a freshman from Canada, 19-year-old Kevin Roy of Lac-Beauport, Quebec, was the one in the spotlight. Roy scored all three of Northeastern’s goals, notching the first Beanpot hat trick since another Husky, Mike Ryan, did it in 2002.

The precocious rookie, who has lit up the scoreboard all year and leads the nation’s freshmen with 30 points, struck just 2:09 into the game off a feed from linemate Vinny Saponari.

BU’s Danny O’Regan (Needham, Mass.) tied it a few minutes later, but it was the last time the Terriers were a threat until the final minute of the game. Roy added goal No. 2 in the second period when a misplay between BU goaltender Matt O’Connor (23 saves) and senior Ben Rosen gift-wrapped an open-net look for Roy.

Roy picked up the eventual game-winner early in the third, after BU had an extended possession but couldn’t cash in. Josh Manson fired a shot from near the blue line that was tipped by Garrett Noonan, and while O’Connor made the initial save, Roy pounced on the rebound for one of the biggest goals of his young career.

“You’ve got to think of this game as just another one,” Roy said. “I think when the pressure is higher, I have better performances.”

Roy also got a little magical wisdom from coach Jim Madigan, who said he told the freshman before the start of the third period, “you’ve got three [goals] in you.”

The pressure was certainly on the Northeastern penalty kill, which deftly turned aside all six BU power plays. The Terriers had almost two full minutes of 5-on-3 late in the 2nd after Colton Saucerman and Dax Lauwers took boarding and slashing calls just four seconds apart, and after NU killed that off, the Huskies were down again with a boarding call to Manson 1:02 before the end of the frame.

Yet Northeastern survived the almost four continuous minutes of BU power play, in what both sides called the turning point of the game.

“That was a real confidence booster for us,” said NU captain Vinny Saponari, who improved to 3-2 against his former team since being dismissed from BU after the 2010-11 season.
“That was a huge letdown,” said BU senior captain Wade Megan. “We’re not going to win games like that, we’ve got to make teams pay, and we didn’t.”

Megan is one of six BU seniors who will graduate without winning a Beanpot title. As freshmen didn’t start playing with the varsity until the 1970s, this year’s BU seniors are the first class to play four years without winning what has sometimes been called the “BU Invitational,” so thorough has the program’s dominance been.

“It’s pretty devastating,” Megan said, fighting back tears in the postgame press conference. “I just wanted it so bad for my school, and for my classmates.”

The Terriers had a late chance to avoid that particularly unwelcome bit of history after Bruins prospect Matt Grzelcyk cleverly found Sahir Gill on a backdoor pass, and Gill buried it with 1:11 to go. But the score stayed at 3-2, and Northeastern snapped its 15-game losing streak against BU in the Beanpot.

Rawlings, Roy and coach Jim Madigan were all peppered with questions about the gravity of Northeastern’s trip to the final, given its history. But all they’d talk about was what’s next.
“I’ve got to be honest, we’re just focusing on straight ahead,” Madigan said, “because the stuff before this isn’t good.”

After another reporter tried to bait Madigan, who won the Beanpot as a Northeastern player and assistant coach in the 80s, into talking about what a Beanpot title would mean to Northeastern after two and a half decades of futility, he still wouldn’t budge.

“I will speak to it – if we have the opportunity next Monday,” Madigan said with a wry smile.

Twitter: @A_Merritt
Email: MerrittNEHJ@gmail.com