Northeastern has chance to escape mediocrity in Beanpot championship

Monday, Feb. 4, marked many firsts for the storied tradition that is the Beanpot tournament. Highly-touted Boston College freshman Michael Matheson registered the first of what will likely be many points in his young Beanpot career.

The 2013 graduating class of Boston University will be the first set of BU seniors to not win a single Beanpot game since 1965. While this in itself is quite the statistic, what is even more astounding is that Northeastern University, against whom BU has won twenty-five (that's not a typo) consecutive Beanpot games, was responsible for banishing Wade Megan and his fellow BU seniors to this fate.

The Northeastern Huskies have won a grand total of four Beanpot titles, the last of which came in 1988, far behind BU’s twenty-nine, BC’s seventeen or even Harvard’s ten. For Northeastern freshman Derek Roy, whose hat trick helped send BU to the consolation game against Harvard, the teams’ past records did not factor into his game plan.

“I knew BU had more wins,” Roy said. “Every year, teams change and you can’t look back at the history of what happened.”

That seems to be a theme for this year’s Northeastern squad, who has a chance to do something very special for a fan base starved and deprived of a title. Standing at 8-13-3, the Huskies have put their backs against the wall, forcing themselves to string together some wins if they still have hopes of climbing out of the cellar of Hockey East. With seven seniors leaving this spring, including captain Vinny Saponari, Northeastern will be looking to shed their label of perpetual mediocrity.

But what has brought on this historic ineptitude, leaving Northeastern fans shaking their heads and BC and BU fans hoping for first round berths against the Huntington Avenue Huskies?

Historically, the problem has been Northeastern’s proximity to the aforementioned institutions of Boston College and Boston University. The cream of each freshman crop aspires to play for a university with a strong developmental program, a good core of mentoring returnees and a proven coach and staff with a track record of success for both themselves and their players.

BC has Jerry York’s victory record; experienced upperclassmen, the likes of Steven Whitney, Pat Mullane, Patrick Wey, Bill Arnold and Isaac MacLeod; and NHLers Brooks Orpik, Chris Kreider, Brian Boyle, Nathan Gerbe and Cory Schneider to point to.

BU has the very accomplished Jack Parker at the helm; mentors in Wade Megan, Matt Nieto, and Sean Escobedo; and Rick DiPietro, Chris Bourque, Jay Pandolfo, and Ryan Whitney skating in the NHL.

Even the ivied institution of Harvard has captured more Beanpot titles than Northeastern. However, that was before BC and BU had attained their expected levels of success – as seen by the fact that a large percentage of Harvard’s championships came before the ‘80s.

With Teddy Donato behind the bench and a world-renowned reputation for academic achievement, Harvard should not have any trouble attracting at least some talent every year.

This leaves us with Northeastern, a victim of circumstance and the afterthought of college hockey in Boston. With the recruiting prowess of BC, BU, and even Harvard to contend with, Northeastern barely scrapes by in Hockey East and it shows when the four clubs convene every year for the Beanpot.

Sophomore sniper Johnny Gaudreau had originally committed to Northeastern, but when former Head Coach Greg Cronin left to take a position with the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs, Gaudreau declared his intent to play at BC. He has registered over forty points in his freshman season, and scored the game-winning goal in the National Championship against Ferris State in wondrous fashion.

This year, however, Northeastern has put itself in a spot to succeed. Half of the team is made up of upperclassmen, and the Huskies are playing inspired, gritty hockey. Having already beaten BC once this year, Northeastern will be digging out those same blueprints for Monday’s Championship game at TD Garden.

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