Beanpot 2014: Northeastern strikes early and often to skate past Harvard

Northeastern freshman Dalen Hedges scored the game-winning goal Monday night against Harvard. - Matt Dewkett (mrd-photos.com)

Northeastern advanced to its third Beanpot Final in four seasons with the win over Harvard.

BOSTON - For the second consecutive year Northeastern will play in the late game on the second Monday of February. The Huskies left no doubt they belonged in that game with a 6-0 win over Harvard on Monday night at the TD Garden in the first semifinal of the 62nd annual Beanpot.

"Our guys were prepared coming in. It was a good focus and there was a good week of preparation. The players really focused all week long. I thought our guys were ready to go from the opening face-off," said Northeastern coach Jim Madigan.

The Huskies scored two goals in each period, including three tallies on the man advantage.

Freshmen accounted for two goals and six assists, including Mike Szmatula who notched a tally and two helpers.

"Growing up I always watched this on TV. Last year I remember watching it. It's something special to be a part of. Tonight we just wanted to give ourselves an opportunity to play in the finals. Come next Monday we'll be ready to go," said Szmatula.

Freshman Dalen Hedges staked the Huskies out to an early 1-0 lead when he wheeled around and snapped a beautiful shot above the blocker of Harvard goaltender Raphael Girard 5:57 into the game.

Northeastern struck on the power play with 7:52 to play in the opening period on some terrific puck movement. Hedges hit John Stevens with a pass at the blue line as he was skating onto the ice from a chance. He flipped it down to the right circle where Kevin Roy buried a shot right into the corner of the net for a two-goal cushion.

Just over two minutes after Northeastern went up 2-0, the Huskies lost their captain and star defenseman Josh Manson when he was ejected for a contact to the head penalty. NU was able to successfully kill off the five-minute major, and gain even more momentum from doing so.

"It was a big concern. He's our captain. He's our leader on and off the ice. He's our emotional leader. We know the type of player he is. He's a physical player who keeps the opposition on edge. That's how he impacts the game. Losing him that early hurt us because we came in down a defenseman," explained Madigan.

Szmatula set up both Northeastern goals in the middle period, including one 31 seconds into the frame. Rushing up the left side he slid a centering pass to Torin Snydeman who just had to keep his stick on the ice to tip it in the net.

"This was Torin's first goal in a little bit, but most of his goals are when he goes to the net. What I like about him is he's an older guy who understands how to play the game we want as coaches. That's playing hard, chipping pucks in and getting deep in the forecheck. He goes hard to the net and you saw the result of that tonight," said Madigan.

Szmatula, the former USHL scoring leader, showed his offensive creativity a little less than four minutes later when he gloved a puck out of midair and dropped it down to himself before shoveling to a wide open Braden Pimm who found the back of the net.

The Huskies scored their second power play tally of the game 16 seconds into the final period when Colton Saucerman stepped aside to avoid a Harvard player in the shooting lane and wristed the puck into the far corner cleanly beating Girard. Stevens and Roy assisted.

The Huskies added on to the rout with a late five-minute power play due to a dirty hit by Harvard defenseman Kevin Guiltinan. Szmatula slipped in unhindered to dish a loose puck into the back of the net with 3:13 to play in the game. Pimm and Matt Benning picked up the helpers.

Redshirt junior goaltender Clay Witt made 27 saves for his fourth shutout of the season. He wasn't tested as much as he has been at times this season, but he made several key saves to keep the Crimson off the board.

"I thought [Northeastern's] goalie made some big saves," said Harvard coach Ted Donato.

It was another disappointing ending to the first Monday of February for Donato whose personal record behind the bench in the Beanpot semifinals dropped to 1-9.

"Obviously it's disappointing. We didn't play well in any facet of the game. We were never really able to get anything going," said the 10th year head coach. "They out played us all over the ice and out coached us," added Donato.

Northeastern, also hot in the Hockey East race, will face UMass Friday night before taking on Boston College with the Beanpot trophy on the line.

"I'm happy with the win. It gives us a chance to be in the championship game against [Boston College]. We'll obviously celebrate tonight then get back to focus."

Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.

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