BOSTON -- Bounces. In hockey, they can go your way, and they can absolutely crush you.
For struggling Harvard, the benevolent bounces proved as elusive as ever Monday night, as Northeastern took full advantage of two breaks to propel the Huskies to a 4-0 victory over the Crimson in the opening round of the 59th annual Beanpot at TD Garden.
If a sequence has defined the season for Harvard (4-18-0), it occurred during a 42-second stretch in the first period. At 10:06, Harvard senior netminder Ryan Carroll stoned Northeastern’s Braden Pimm with a great glove save, shutting down a Husky shorthanded bit. Seconds later, a Harvard shot caromed off NU goaltender Chris Rawlings, dropping to an open Alex Fallstrom, with a wide open net in front of him. But the puck skipped on the Harvard sophomore, and Fallstrom could only knuckleball a shot into Rawlings’s glove.
A half-minute later, NU’s Mike McLaughlin picked up a pass from Steve Quailer, floated into the high slot and snapped a shot that creased the shaft of the stick of Harvard's Danny Fick. The slight deflection fooled Carroll, and the puck broke through him for a 1-0 Northeastern lead.
“It looked like [Fallstrom] had a lot of net, but the puck just wouldn’t sit for him,” said Harvard coach Ted Donato. “Ultimately, though, I don’t think one play decided the game.”
Perhaps not one. But two bad breaks proved doubly difficult for the Crimson to overcome. Less than two minutes into the second period, McLaughlin got another fluky goal. Eyeing an open lane to Carroll from the right faceoff dot, the junior from Ontario threw a wrister on the net. Carroll stopped the initial shot, but the puck popped straight over the prone netminder, falling behind him and into the open net for a 2-0 NU lead at 1:43.
“I just got lucky on a bounce,” McLaughlin said. “I’m glad it went in the net.”
McLaughlin’s ninth goal of the season was a back-breaker. “We couldn’t mount much of an attack after that,” said Donato, noting he was disappointed, given his team’s improved play of late. “Tonight was frustrating.”
The Huskies (9-11-6) then turned on the afterburners in the middle stanza, scoring two more goals to stretch their lead to 4-0 after 40 minutes. At 10:53, Steve Silva put the game out of reach, taking a slick feed off the back boards from Wade MacLeod and rifling a shot under Carroll’s blocker just before he was laid out by Harvard’s Matt McCollem.
With Northeastern on a power play, MacLeod picked up another picture-perfect assist at 16:19 when he found Brodie Reid at the left faceoff dot and hit him with a tape-to-tape crossice pass. Reid’s one-timer beat a sprawling Carroll, and gave the Huskies a commanding 4-0 margin.
In the third period, the Crimson threw caution, and luck, to the wind, and stormed the Northeastern net. Donato even resorted to pulling goaltender Kyle Richter (who had replaced Carroll to start the third period) during a Harvard power play with more than five minutes remaining, but to no avail.
Rawlings, Northeastern’s superb sophomore goaltender, rung up his fifth shutout of the season, finishing with 42 saves.
“Rawlings just got stronger as the game went on,” Donato said. “Anything he saw, he was going to stop.”
NU coach Greg Cronin, who knows a thing or two about bad bounces in the Beanpot, including a number of them in 2009 when his Huskies lost in the final to Boston University, said he was glad to be on the other side of Lady Luck.
“Unfortunately, those are the memories for a lot of Northeastern folks over the last 20 years,” he said. “Near misses.”
Next Monday, Cronin’s Huskies will have the chance to erase more than a quarter century of Beanpot frustration with a chance at their first title since 1988.