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BOSTON — Harvard men’s hockey (4-13-3, 4-8-3 ECAC) lost the 2024 Beanpot semifinal to the Northeastern Huskies (11-12-2, 6-11-0 HE) 3-2 in an overtime heartbreaker, after the Huskies netted the game-winning goal just 33 seconds into the additional frame.
The first semifinal game of the 71st Dunkin’ Men’s Beanpot, held at TD Garden, was a back and forth thriller that required all of regulation and some more to crown a winner. The Crimson, widely viewed as underdogs ahead of the matchup, matched the Huskies throughout all of regulation before falling short in overtime play.
The tight matchup, which seemed to mimic last year’s performance in which the Crimson squad fell to Northeastern 3-2 in a nail-biter game that saw The Huskies eek out a win with a shootout, key player on the Northeastern roster, senior assistant captain and forward Gunnarwolfe Fontaine, was once again a determining force on the ice.
“I obviously like playing against Harvard a little bit. It seems like I keep scoring against them,” Fontaine said in the post-game presser.
In last year’s Beanpot Championship, Fontaine excelled in regulation and overtime play, tallying both of Northeastern’s regulation goals and posting a standout performance during the shootout. Tonight, Fontaine sealed the Huskies’ victory, scoring the deciding overtime goal.
Senior goaltender Derek Mullahy was able to ward off Fontaine for 60 minutes of play, and started off strong in the first period with a decisive save from a shot banging off the post on a Northeastern rebound attempt. The shot was the first of 35 that the netminder would see throughout the night, and it was Mullahy’s strong performance that kept Harvard striking against the Huskies in what was a particularly even matchup.
“He played with a confidence and a calm that gave our bench the feeling that we were going to have a chance,” Head Coach Ted Donato said. “I thought he was spectacular.”
Mullahy would continue being tested with different looks throughout the first, and the offensive onslaught from the Huskies resulted in Northeastern drawing first blood with a goal at 7:08 from senior left wing Alex Campbell. Campbell’s goal came off a clean zone entry by the Huskies forward with a middle lane driving back the two Havard defenders, which allowed Campell to cut to the middle at the top of circles. Letting a wrister fly, Cambell beat Mullahy’s low blocker, scoring the only goal of the period.
The teams would trade penalties, first with Harvard drawing a flag on a tripping minor, and then in the final two minutes of play, Northeastern went down a man for interference. The Huskies created a strong end-of-period surge resulting in a three-on-two shorthanded opportunity with shots from sophomore defenseman Pito Walton and fellow sophomore center Jack Williams. The Huskies’ willingness to put bodies in front of Crimson shots helped fend off Harvard's powerplay. The Crimson went into the first intermission trailing by one and being outshot 15 to seven.
The second period was defined by a dynamic offensive onslaught for the Crimson. First-year forward Ben MacDonald set the attacking pace early with a strong take on the sixth shot of the period at 17:07, tying the game at 1-1, shifting momentum in the Crimson’s favor after a level twenty four minutes of play. The Northeastern goalie lost control of his stick just as the shot was taken, which slid past Harvard forward first-years Salvatore Guzzo and Ryan Fine who were screening.
Harvard’s offensive output also led to a drawn penalty in the period. At 13:27, Northeastern was called for a minor penalty for indirect contact to the head. Later, sophomore defenseman Ryan Healey took a shot from the top of the left circle, which knocked off the left post, ringing around and out along the boards. Shortly after, a shove by a Northeastern skater on another Healey attempt knocked Healey into the goalie resulting in a penalty shot at 12:28. However, the puck failed to get up and over the goalie’s pads and the attempt was unsuccessful.
Harvard started the third period a man down after defenseman Jack Bar served two minutes for a hit-from-behind. But, the Crimson’s penalty kill unit remained calm under pressure, and kept the dynamic Huskies offense at bay, winding down the penalty unscathed. Just a few minutes later, after passes from Cam Johnson and Jack Bar, freshman defenseman Matthew Morden ripped his first collegiate goal from the point past Northeastern’s goalie to extend the lead to 2-1. About halfway through the period, a wrap around gave Harvard another goal-scoring opportunity, but the Huskies managed to keep it out of the net in a chaotic sequence.
Northeastern responded just a few minutes later when Huskies captain Justin Hryckowian backhanded the puck into the open net off of a rebounded shot by Vinny Borgesi to even the score at two a piece. With the goal, Hryckowian tallied his second point of the night, his first coming from an assist on the earlier Campbell goal. Hryckowian’s strike shifted offensive momentum in Northeastern’s favor.
“I thought our captain just willed us tonight. He was in that third period, outstanding every time he stepped on the ice, and gave us a lot of chances,” Northeastern head coach Jerry Keefe said.“I think the rest of the group fed off of that. We started to roll out a lot of chances and evened the game to 2-2. It's a resilient group.”
With about seven minutes left in the game, Mullahy faced a barrage of shots from the Huskies offense, but continued his solid performance, allowing no further goals to sneak past him. With just under two minutes to go, Ryan Healey carried the puck through the neutral zone and fired it on net, sliding the puck past Northeastern’s goalie. With just 40 seconds, both teams were able to get fresh lines, and the Huskies took charge of the puck, dominating offensively with a quick succession of shots on net. However, neither team was able to put a third goal in, and the game extended to overtime.
Northeastern won possession of the puck on the drop, and just 33 seconds into overtime, Fontaine received a cross-ice pass and scored, giving the Huskies the 3-2 win. As Northeastern carried the puck into the offensive zone, a pass out to the right circle pulled in defenders Healey and junior captain and forward Zakary Karpa, setting up a pass across the slot for the Husky game-sealing one-timer.
The loss is reflective of a season-long saga in which the Crimson squad has fallen just short of victory, its performance on the ice not reflecting the number on the scoreboard. Donato, in the post-game press conference, reflected on the young team’s growth throughout a season marked by injury, illness, and changes in the lineup.
“We've had a lot of growth, we've had a lot of injuries. Hopefully we’ll be getting some guys back little by little but I think overall the attitude and the perseverance are impressive to me,” Donato said. “I think it's a group that sticks together and hopefully, they'll get rewarded with a strong end of the season.”
Harvard will play the loser of the second semifinal, No. 1 Boston College, on Monday at 4:30pm at TD Garden. Before the consolation round, it will host Dartmouth College this Friday at 7pm at the Bright-Landry Hockey Center. The game will be streamed on ESPN+.
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