BOSTON -- Over the years there have been plenty of players who've been skating in the shadows of their more well known teammates who have come through with a big goal in the Beanpot.
There might not have ever been a more under the radar player than Dustin Darou. The Northeastern junior defenseman scored just his second career goal and third point of the season with 1:34 to play in the game to lift the Huskies past Boston College in the second semifinal on Tuesday night at the TD Garden.
"I haven't played the last two years [in the Beanpot]. This is my first year playing back healthy. I was just hoping to contribute defensively. It's one thing to win against BC, but to score the game-winning goal was really surreal for me. I am not a goal scorer. It's just an unbelievable feeling to beat them," said a humble Darou.
The Huskies, who received two power play tallies earlier in the game, advanced to next Monday's Beanpot final with the win over the favored Eagles.
"It was a close game. It was a real good game. We found a way to make a play. Dustin Darou got the puck to the middle of the ice and got the puck to the net," said Northeastern coach Jim Madigan. "Anytime you can beat Boston College in this tournament, it says something to the character of our kids and the young men in our program. I'm pleased for them and for our seniors who have a chance to compete for a Beanpot championship next Monday night."
The second game of the Beanpot semifinals, already starting a day late due to weather, didn't get underway until 9:30 p.m. due to the first game between BU and Harvard going to double overtime. With the clock nearing midnight Kevin Roy and Dalen Hedges crashed down on the forecheck. After Roy got the puck in the left corner he skipped the puck back to Darou, who took a step or two towards the middle. He was looking to pass it back to Roy, but found an opening and flung a shot on net that beat BC goaltender Thatcher Demko high.
"Kevin got it up to me. I started dragging it across. I was looking for him to come off the wall because I'm not much of a shooter. He never came and I saw an opening. I just threw it on net and it really worked out," said Darou.
Northeastern drew first blood, tallying a power play goal 21 seconds into the second period. With BC's Alex Tuch still in the box from a first period penalty, Roy threw a centering feed through the slot. Mike McMurtry had a chance to sweep it home, but the puck got to Colton Saucerman who banged it home. Saucerman, a defenseman by trade, has playing the left wing on the power play unit.
Just over four minutes later Ryan Fitzgerald raced in alone on Clay Witt. The senior goaltender made a beautiful toe save, but Destry Straight crashed the net to push the puck home to tie the score.
The Huskies regained their lead at the 11:21 mark of the middle frame with another goal on the man advantage. This time it was John Stevens whose blast from the point zipped past Demko. After receiving a nice feed back to the point from Mike Szmatula, Stevens took a few steps in letting a wrister go that beat Demko high blocker side. Zach Aston-Reese should be credited for making a nice screen on the play.
Northeastern fans had to be thinking "not again" when the Eagles scored a late second period goal to send the game to the third period tied, 2-2. The goal could have been particularly painful for Northeastern as it was a shorthanded goal right after the Huskies had dodged a bullet. Chris Calnan's shorthanded breakaway bid was denied, but just seconds later, Fitzgerald had an opportunity of his own.
Zach Sanford poked the puck past some NU defenders after picking off a pass right inside the defensive blue line. It led Fitzgerald, a Bruins prospect, on a breakaway. With Northeastern defenseman Matt Benning chasing him down he was able to gain some leverage by going to his backhand. He flipped the backhander up just enough to get past Witt.
The Eagles could never really build off the momentum from the late second period goal, which allowed Darou to play the role of hero late in the third period after a relatively even final frame.
Demko kicked aside 20 of the 23 shots he faced while Witt picked up the win, making 21 saves.
With the win Northeastern climbed back to 500 on the season, a remarkable feat considering the team started out the year 0-8-1.
"Tonight gets us back to 500 after going 0-8-1," said Madigan who said he can't ever remember being a player or coach on a team that struggled so much out of the gate. "It's a true testament to the character of the young men we have in our locker room. Our leadership did a good job back then. To a man in the locker room, our guys thought we were a good team."
"They stuck to it. They were a real coachable group. They never wavered. Their work ethic was the same. There was no in-house bickering when we were losing. I am proud of them. We're growing and maturing as a team with still a long horizon in front of us," added Madigan.
Up next on the horizon is a Hockey East league tilt with UMass on Friday night before next Monday's championship game against BU on NESN, where the Huskies will look to capture their first Beanpot title since 1988.