BOSTON -- It has been nine years since Harvard played for a Beanpot title.
That will change next Monday night. Senior co-captain Alexander Kerfoot could not be more excited.
“I think it’ll be cool to come out for warm-ups and have more than seven people in the stands because we haven’t played in a night game yet,” said Kerfoot, a New Jersey Devils prospect. “I think for the last three years, it’s been pretty demoralizing coming on the second Monday and playing in that consolation game. No one wants to be a part of that.”
Northeastern challenged until the bitter end in Monday’s first semifinal at TD Garden, but goals in three different fashions ― including a shorthanded winner from Luke Esposito 12:18 into the third period ― propelled the Crimson to a 4-3 win.
The Crimson, who face a stiff ECAC test against Union before facing Boston University in next week’s 65th title game, will be looking to end a near quarter-century drought in Boston’s signature college hockey tournament.
Head coach Ted Donato echoed Kerfoot’s sentiments.
“I don’t think you really experience the Beanpot until you have a chance to play in the second game,” said Donato, whose team last won the Beanpot in 1993 against BU. “I think it’s an important step for our group, and I know our senior leadership was on display.”
After an even first period, the Crimson held territorial control in the second and took a 1-0 lead 13:50 into the second as Kerfoot was the beneficiary of the most fortunate of bounces. Defenseman Viktor Dombrovskiy picked up a puck turned over at the blue line, where he laid a shot towards goal of which Kerfoot got a perfect piece.
“It was more of a reaction thing,” Kerfoot said of the tip that wound up as his tenth goal of the season. “I wasn’t really tracking the play, looked up and saw the puck coming quickly. I was lucky to get my stick on it.”
Sophomore Adam Gaudette leveled the score at 18:08 as he slammed home a rebound that senior Zach Aston-Reese’s shot left at the top of Harvard goaltender Merrick Madsen’s crease.
The teams combined for just 11 shots on goal in the opening period before things picked up. Then, the Crimson scored three straight goals in the third to snag their 26th all-time win in the Beanpot semifinal round.
“I thought both teams played careful,” Donato said. “We wanted to make sure that we weren’t jump starting their offense by being careless with the puck.”
Senior Clay Anderson’s point shot tipped the score again at 7:39 before classmate Tyler Moy banged in a loose puck in Ruck’s crease to give Harvard insurance just over two minutes later. Another senior won the game for the Crimson as Esposito scored his team’s eighth shorthanded goal of the season at 12:18, following up a shot from Kerfoot.
The nation’s third-leading power play struck again at 13:31 of the third as junior Nolan Stevens tipped home Aston-Reese’s centering pass to the slot in his first game since Oct. 22, while Gaudette added an extra-attacker score through traffic with 1:33 left in regulation.
It was not enough as Madsen made 15 of his 27 stops in the final frame to clinch his 16th win of the season.
“I didn’t think we had the energy and tenacity that you need from the get-go that you need to play well in this tournament,” Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan said. “And, we don’t have enough guys going. It’s that simple. … We couldn’t create any sustained offense and just need more guys going.”
Boston University 3, Boston College 1
Before Monday, it had been a decade since BU bested its archrival in the Beanpot.
The Terriers scored in the first period and twice in the second to emerge victorious against BC for the third time this season, a feat that had not been achieved since 1994-95.
“We’ve had three great games with them all year and we’ve been fortunate enough to come out on the winning end of it,” BU head coach David Quinn said. “I thought all three games could have gone either way.”
Sophomore Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and freshman Chad Krys scored the only two goals the Terriers would need before the nightcap was half over, while Clayton Keller added a shorthanded goal in the second period ― his fourth this season in a man-down situation ― for good measure.
After freshman Patrick Harper drove around the net, the Boston Bruins prospect stuck home a rebound on a loose puck in front of BC goaltender Joseph Woll to give BU the lead at 4:29 and break a personal six-game scoring drought.
“We were really ready to play from the drop of the puck,” Quinn said. “And, any time you can beat Boston College, you know you played well.”
On the opposite end, BC head coach Jerry York was not happy with his team’s start as it ultimately saw a six-game winning streak that dated back to a Jan. 16 loss to BU snapped.
“We started so slow. I thought the first period, we played very tentative,” York said. “Not the way we’ve been playing for the last month of the season, but we were only down 1-0 and I thought that was a real plus for us.”
In the second, BU was opportunistic as it registered just five shots on goal, but scored with a man advantage and man disadvantage. Sophomore Bobo Carpenter set defenseman Chad Krys up for his fourth goal of the season at the 3:23 mark, sliding a drop pass back to the left point for a wrister that beat Woll upstairs to the glove side.
The Eagles answered at 6:59 as senior Austin Cangelosi corralled Ryan Fitzgerald’s rebound after their classmate Matthew Gaudreau set a screen in front of BU freshman Oettinger, but Keller’s shorthanded breakaway at the 11:06 mark again established a two-goal lead for the Terriers.
“I don’t know if I have ever coached a guy who has the hand-eye coordination that he has,” Quinn said of Keller, whose 14 goals and 30 points lead BU. “When you’re on a power play and you’ve got him coming at you, you get a little nervous because you know what could happen.”
Oettinger was beaten just once and finished the night with 22 saves, 16 of which he made in the second period. BC held a 17-5 shot advantage in the middle frame, but only mustered Cangelosi’s 12th goal of the season.