College hockey fans in New England are in for a treat next Monday at TD Garden as two of the top teams in the country will meet up in the Beanpot title game: it is BC vs. Northeastern for the third time in the last four seasons and also a rematch of last season (a 6-3 win by BC).
The Eagles (20-4-3) are looking for their fifth straight title -which would set a new program record – while the Huskies (16-8-3) just want their first Beanpot trophy since 1988.
“It’s no surprise that (Northeastern) have won so many games this season,” BC head coach Jerry York said. “I think it’s the best team they’ve had since Jim (Madigan) has been there.”
In the latest USCHO.com Top-20 rankings released Monday, BC was No. 2 and Northeastern was No. 11. The Eagles are 2-0 vs. the Huskies this season but the game on the second Monday in February carries a little more weight than one in November. There is plenty of star power with BC forward Johnny Gaudreau (24 goals, 29 assists), the top scorer in the country, and Northeastern goaltender Clay Witt, who leads the NCAA in save percentage (.945), on the marquee.
Boston College 3, Boston University 1
For the third time this season, BC beat BU and this one was on the biggest stage as the Eagles (20-4-3) held off the Terriers (8-15-3), 3-1, at TD Garden in the 62nd annual Beanpot semifinals. It is only the third time in program history that BU is in the Beanpot consolation game in back-to-back years. They’ll meet Harvard (4:30, NESN) before the main event of BC vs. Northeastern.
“Each game against BU this season has been more difficult,” noted York. “They have improved remarkably; this was basically a one-goal game.”
Bruins prospect Ryan Fitzgerald (North Reading, Mass. native) scored a power-play goal early in the first period and Dorchester’s Kevin Hayes (2nd leading scorer in the country) made it 2-0 in the second period. BU showed some life though with Robbie Baillargeon’s goal in the third period. Eagles freshman goaltender Thatcher Demko (27 saves) stood tall and Gaudreau added an empty-net goal to put it out of reach. Gaudreau extended his point streak to 22 games: 21 goals and 24 assists. The line of Gaudreau, Hayes and Bill Arnold (of Needham) has combined for 137 points this season.
Northeastern 6, Harvard 0
There was no doubt regarding who the better team was in the early game Monday. Northeastern rolled, 6-0, as goaltender Clay Witt made 27 saves for his fourth shutout of the year and six different Huskies (16-8-3) found the back of the net.
“I’m happy with the win,” said Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan. “We were focused and ready to go from the opening faceoff.”
Last year’s Beanpot MVP Kevin Roy had a goal and assist, giving him six goals in only three career Beanpot games.
Not much went right for the Crimson (6-12-3), who gave up two goals in each period and were called for 16 penalties. As a result, Northeastern’s power play scored three times. Freshman Mike Szmatula led the Huskies with three points (1 goal, 2 assists) while senior Braden Pimm (1 goal, 1 assist), freshman Dalen Hedges (1 goal, 1 assist), sophomore Colton Saucerman (1 goal, 1 assist) and freshman John Stevens (2 assists) all had multiple points.
Follow Metro Boston hockey writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate