Resilient Huskies Prove They Belong

Drew BonifantAnalyst IIFebruary 10, 2009

The Northeastern men's hockey team entered the 2009 Beanpot as the No. 3 team in the country, but also the No. 1 most-doubted team in the tournament.

Sure, the Huskies were the first-place team in Hockey East. But this was the Beanpot, and this was the TD Banknorth Garden. The time and place where the Terriers of Boston University and the Eagles of Boston College traditionally are the ones fighting for the prize, while Northeastern and fellow also-ran Harvard aim for third place.

The time and place where Northeastern, the No. 7 team in the country at one point last year, crashed and burned  in 2008, losing both their first-round (to Harvard,) and consolation (to BU,) matchups.

This was the Beanpot. These were the Huskies. Oil and water. Alex Rodriguez and the playoffs. Northeastern and the first two Mondays in February.

Until now.

No, Northeastern didn't overcome the hex. For the 21st straight year, the Huskies went home without the Pot.

But they also went home having shown they belong.

Even with the gaudy No. 3 ranking attached to its name, everyone away from Huntington Ave. dismissed it while the buildup for the tournament grew in January.

The Huskies were never good, and even when they were, they choked. Either way, it never took them long to be out of the Beanpot mix.

But right from the start, Northeastern showed 2009 was different.

Playing in a primetime, 8 p.m. showdown with defending Beanpot, Hockey East and national champion Boston College, Ryan Ginand scored 3:24 into the game to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead.

The Eagles tied it up almost five minutes later, but as opposed to the previous years, the Huskies didn't buckle.

They scored again before the intermission, and before BC could gather itself in the second, put in three more goals in the second period, sending the seven upper-deck sections of Northeastern fans into a frenzy.

They would add another goal in the third period, nailing down their first opening-round victory over BC or BU in 20 years, and sealing a matchup with the powerhouse Terriers in the final.

Once there, top-ranked BU proved a far stiffer challenge. Their defense stifled offensive opportunities and their tenacious offense kept the puck in the Northeastern zone, generating chance after chance.

As if that wasn't enough, BU got a two-man advantage in the first and converted for the coveted first score. But again, Northeastern didn't back down.

The Huskies answered shortly before the first intermission, and after BU took another lead, responded again, only to see BU take a 3-2 lead just over a minute later.

Entering the third period down a goal to the No. 1 team in the country is a dire situation, but Northeastern didn't quit.

It forced a 5-on-3, and when that expired, got another power-play advantage with 7:06 remaining.

Even with the extra man, that's where the ride ended for Northeastern. BU got two short-handed goals in the same power play, putting the finishing touches on its 29th Beanpot title.

But still, in defeat, the Huskies proved their mettle to a college hockey audience waiting to see them flop.

They shocked and overwhelmed the defending national champions in the glaring spotlight, and for 53 minutes gave the No. 1 team in the country everything it could handle.

The Huskies are still No. 1 in Hockey East, and with a month remaining in the season, deserve to be mentioned as a Frozen Four possibility.

To get there, you have to show you can play the big games. For the first time in years, Northeastern did.