Mike already wrote a very good recap of the Beanpot which you should read if you haven’t yet. But I have things to say and hey, when you win a Beanpot you’re allowed to have multiple articles, right?
The Beanpot is a big deal to Northeastern. Some would argue it shouldn’t be. Many would argue that the Hockey East climb, a mountain they summited in 2016, is the more important one. Those people wouldn’t be wrong. Hopefully in the future we all agree that a trophy that results from a 28-32 game season is a bigger deal than one that represents two games. But the Beanpot isn’t important because of who Northeastern is. It’s important because of who Northeastern was.
The truth of the matter is, as much as the success of Jim Madigan, the only head coach in the history of NU hockey to win more games than he’s lost, has drowned out the sorrow, the history of Northeastern is a history of failure. A history of single-digit win seasons. A history of not even qualifying for the conference tournament and going out in the first round if they did. The Beanpot wasn’t Northeastern’s Super Bowl because we didn’t care about the other tournaments, it was Northeastern’s Super Bowl because most years, by the time February came around, it was the only thing left on the table. It was two games that, no matter how bad the 25 before them went, could change the history books. Two games where they had a chance to be on top.
It had often been said in the circles of younger alumni over the past few years that Northeastern was never going to win a Beanpot by striving to win a Beanpot. Northeastern was only going to win a Beanpot with a program that’s competitive on the Hockey East and national landscape and just happened to win a Beanpot by being the best team there that year. And that’s what they did. They won the Beanpot because they were favored in the Beanpot. They won the Beanpot because they had best players, the best coaches, the best leadership, and the best team. They won the Beanpot because the goal this year, from the first day of October, has never been just to win the Beanpot. They won the Beanpot in dominating fashion, there was never more than a fleeting doubt on either night.
A long, grueling chapter of Northeastern history is over. And it ended perfectly. Monday, February 12th, 2018, was a love letter from Northeastern Hockey to 30 years of fans and a love letter from the fans back to the team. This was a Beanpot created by so many people, but a few deserve their place in Northeastern lore. Three elite forwards, all of whom returned just for this moment, are the ones whose love for this school made it happen.
Dylan Sikura is an Ontario native who committed to Northeastern after attending a Beanpot and seeing the pride and passion Husky fans showed up with every year to rock the Garden. Dylan Sikura didn’t have to choose us, but he did anyway. He wanted to play for those fans. He wanted to take them where they’ve never been before and where they desperately wanted to go. He could have left and gone to Chicago last summer. Could have played in the AHL with his brother at worst or the NHL at best. Nobody would have blamed him if he left. But he came back for one last season, one last chance to finish the job he originally came here to do. I had the chance to talk to Dylan in early January when it was becoming clear that no Huskies were going to make Olympic rosters. His response didn’t have anger or sadness or the slightest hint of regret that Team Canada didn’t come calling. It was simple. The team was all going to be together, and they were going to win the Beanpot.
Adam Gaudette‘s story doesn’t need me to write it. It’s been written everywhere since the moment he was named Beanpot MVP, and it was building long before that. He’s the local kid, the lifelong fan who dreamed of this championship moment in his backyard. I’m not sure if even in his wildest dreams he would become a Beanpot MVP, a Beanpot legend, one of the greatest scorers in the entire history of the tournament. From our side, I don’t think any of us ever dreamed that he would step onto the ice and put on a performance that put “Monday Night” Kevin Roy, and dare I say it, Wayne Turner, to shame. But he did all of that and more. As hats rained down around him, Adam Gaudette collapsed into the waiting arms of his teammates after striking the final blow to the Terriers, and he got back up a legend. He too could have left last year, gone to Vancouver and everybody would have understood. Instead, he lived his dream. He came back, he delivered, and he said that it was better than going to the Olympics. I believe him.
Last but most certainly not least, the senior captain. The man. Nolan Stevens.
Flashback to 2015. You know the story. The final. The Terriers. The overtime. The power play. Matt Grzelcyk. Clay Witt. Heartbreak. But the freshman who was on that overtime penalty kill, who was in a scrum high along the boards on the opposite side of the ice and failed to seal off the play across the point was Nolan Stevens. 20 games into his Northeastern career, Nolan Stevens was trusted with the fate of thousands of Husky faithful and he watched the puck sail into his net. In 2017, he was injured in the fall and had the option to sit out for the season, to recover, take a redshirt, and come back healthy in the fall. He said no. He made his return, perhaps a little sooner than he otherwise would have, in the Beanpot. He led the comeback against Harvard. Came within inches of tying the game. Saw it slip away again. Two near misses was two too many. This Beanpot was the redemption of Nolan Stevens. He led his men, his Huskies, into the 2018 Beanpot and wasn’t going to be denied again. He succeeded.
This was a love letter from three of the greatest players to ever don a Husky uniform to the thousands of Huskies that lived through them. None of them had to be here. They all could have set their sights to bigger things at many points along the way. But they were here to write the ending to their chapter of Northeastern history, to become history themselves. They delivered.
And as their stories unfolded, the Husky faithful delivered back. I’m just 24 years old. I can’t say I’ve been here for 30 Beanpots as some have. I can’t say I’ve seen anything close to every heartbreak along the way. But I’ve seen six of them. And in all of my time at Northeastern, I have never seen a fanbase like the Husky faithful at this Beanpot. Alumni who flew across the country on Monday afternoon to get to back to the Garden from wherever they now call home. Ten sections of students dwarfed the Terrier contingent and filled the balcony from end to end. This wasn’t any Beanpot. This wasn’t any championship. This was the year. And everybody knew it. These were the men to break the wall down. And everybody knew it. They were the favorites. They were here for this victory. They weren’t going to be stopped. This was the Beanpot nobody could afford to miss, the one nobody would ever forget, and the one that was going to change everything. Everybody had to be there to support them. To end the journey. To start a new era. And as the Garden rocked, the banner was raised.
Northeastern winning the Beanpot is the end of an era. It’s the end of the Beanpot being the only day that truly matters on the Northeastern sports calendar. We climbed the mountain. We slayed the beast. Our boys aren’t little Northeastern trying desperately to play with the big boys anymore. They are the big boys. And that means that it’s time to start acting like them. The Beanpot isn’t the end goal anymore. The Beanpot is the stepping stone to the Hockey East crown. The NCAA tournament. The Frozen Four. The National Title. From this point forth, the Beanpot is to us what it is to everyone else, the start of trophy season.
The new Northeastern was born in March of 2016. When Northeastern won Hockey East, the stakes were raised. Northeastern could be bigger than Boston. Northeastern could be bigger than the Beanpot. But there was unfinished business first. There was no way to truly embrace their status as a national competitor until they finally got the Beanpot monkey off their backs and put 30 years of misery in the mirror. Two years later, it’s full speed ahead.
So, thank you. Thank you to the team. Everybody from the first line nobody will ever forget and those who gave four years to get here, to Cayden Primeau, the freshman goaltender who is being overshadowed despite one of the best tournaments in Beanpot history, to Collin Murphy, who achieved this dream in a month and a half of trying. Thank you to the staff. To everybody who worked to make this possible and didn’t quite see the summit, from John Stevens and Zach Aston-Reese, to the brothers Roy and Matt Benning, to Josh Manson and Mike McMurtry, to Mike Jamieson and Tanner Pond. They all had a part in building this team, to bringing us to this point. This is their Beanpot as much as anybody else’s.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you for this chapter and for allowing me to be a small part of the ride.
Now it’s time to write the next one. And the setting this time isn’t just TD Garden. Everything is different now.