Northeastern Wins the 2024 Beanpot

For the second straight season and the fifth time in the last six, Northeastern has won the Beanpot Tournament, cementing the Huskies’ place as a modern Beanpot dynasty.

Every Beanpot victory has its own qualities that make it special, and this one was no different. Down by one goal three different times, with a couple of those goals caused by mistakes made by themselves, Northeastern showed an incredible amount of resilience to overcome arguably the top team in the nation, defeating Boston University 4-3 in overtime. This is the third time out of those five championships the Huskies defeated BU, and the second time it occurred in overtime.

As he was in Round One, Gunnarwolfe Fontaine was the overtime hero, burying the game-winning goal off an incredible feed from Justin Hryckowian, sending the Northeastern into a frenzy that is quickly becoming as much a tradition at TD Garden as hearing Stacy’s Mom play after victories. Fontaine now has played six Beanpot games and has scored eight points, five of them goals, including the game-winners this year and the two goals in regulation in the championship last year. Wayne Turner rightfully owns the nickname “Beanpot” for delivering the Huskies their first-ever title, but Fontaine will forever be known as the slightly-altered “Mr. Beanpot” for his heroics and his ability to match the shine of the bright lights on the biggest hockey stage in Boston.

In a statistical testament to how this team operates and how it follows the example set by its leaders, every goal scorer in the Beanpot championship had a letter on their chest. This included Matt Demelis scoring his first goal since October 14th against Bentley. Anyone who has followed us this year knows how much I have clamored for more scoring from the Huskies’ bottom six, and when the stakes were at their highest, it was the fifth-year senior who answered the call, slamming home a rebound off a Fontaine shot in transition.

When asked about the letter-bearers all scoring, Jerry Keefe said in his press conference “You need your leaders to show up in these big games and lead the way, and that’s exactly what they did tonight. We have tremendous leadership…it hasn’t been an easy year, we started out this season 2-7 and…you gotta give that leadership group a ton of credit because they did not sway once ounce all year. They believed in each other and kept focusing on getting better every single day.” It’s so evident in his voice and his words how much Keefe trusts the leaders on his team, and when the players talk about them you can tell every single one of them respects and believes in their teammates the same way.

The 2023-24 season has been well-documented to date for Northeastern. Injuries hurt them in the first half significantly as they struggled for nearly two months, including the worst conference start in program history. But since the calendar turned to 2024, coinciding when they got healthy, the Huskies have played some of the best hockey we’ve ever seen from this group, skating to a 7-3-1 record since January 1st, including six games in a row, two victories over BU, a win over Maine, and a tie against defending national champion Quinnipiac. They have climbed from the depths of the Pairwise rankings to being in discussion on the NCAA Tournament bubble- and while an at-large bid is still an unlikely reality, the fact that the team has rebounded and got themselves to this point is a testament to the players’ and the coaches’ ability to adapt, rebound, and overcome adversity from all angles.

The figure at the center of that attitude and the representative of what it means to be a Northeastern Husky skates with the C on his chest- Justin Hryckowian. Justin had a hand in all three goals against Harvard, scored the second goal against BU, and showed why he’s arguably the best two-way center in the country in overtime when he carried the puck from his goalie’s crease through the neutral zone, and fought off BU defenseman and first-round pick Tom Willander for the loose puck in the offensive zone before feeding Fontaine through traffic for the game-winning goal. In 13 seasons of watching Northeastern, I’d be hard-pressed to name someone who works as hard as Hryckowian does, who takes their game and their role as seriously as he does, and who embodies what it means to be a Northeastern hockey player like he does. I said to friends after the game, he has the mannerisms and mindset of another elite two-way center who was dubbed Captain Serious- Jonathan Toews.

The goal-scorers and points-getters get the headlines, but Northeastern does not come away from that game as winners without the outstanding play of Cameron Whitehead. The freshman goaltender has truly emerged as one of the premiere young goaltending stars in the country in the last month, and ended up saving 33 of 36 shots en route to winning the 2024 Eberly Award winner, including all 6 BU shots in overtime, many of those saves coming on high-danger changes from the slot area. “Every single week I feel like he’s more confident,” Keefe said. And the statistics back that up; in the last eight games since being pulled against Vermont, Whitehead has played to a 7-1 record and has a .930 save percentage.

In this stretch of hockey, Cameron Whitehead has been playing an elite level of hockey, and the eye test backs it up too- early in the season he was getting beat a lot high and from deep shots, and he’s doing a better job using his size to see those shots up high from distance, while also using his technique to take away the bottom of the net, which was essential against a BU team that tried multiple times in the final minutes of the third period to wrap the puck around the net and beat him low off rebounds and loose pucks. The week-to-week development by Whitehead has been evident, and Whitehead continues the tradition of Northeastern being the modern Goaltender University in the city, with this being the sixth straight Beanpot that Northeastern’s goalie comes away with the Eberly Award, and 19th overall, more than any other Boston school.

On a personal note, my favorite moment of the entire Beanpot championship happened when the puck was not even live. In a time-out segment where the arena host was interviewing the Team IMPACT kids for each school, Northeastern’s own Simon Valencia-Devin sent the Garden balcony into a frenzy as he screamed “GO HUSKIES” into the microphone at the end of his speech. I have seen many explosions of fanfare and celebration from Northeastern fans, and I don’t believe I’ve ever seen or heard a guttural, purely jovial explosion of noise and support that came out of fans like what happened after Simon got the crowd going. It truly felt like something out of a Disney movie or a Friday Night Lights episode. Miracle had the Herb Brooks speech delivered by Kurt Russell that spurred the team onto victory; Northeastern hockey had Simon’s never-ending belief in the Huskies powering them to victory that fateful Monday night.

The 2024 Beanpot will always have a special place in the lore and hearts of Northeastern fans. Reaching a mountaintop after the struggles in the first half. Taking down Boston University (again). Re-establishing Northeastern as the team to beat in this tournament. Seeing player after player step up when the lights were brightest. Seeing the school continue to turn out in droves to support the Huskies in the championship game, regardless of how the season was going to date. Cementing the legacy of players like Fontaine and Hryckowian, while adding a chapter to the budding legacy of Cameron Whitehead. Jerry Keefe continuing the legacy and modern dynasty of Northeastern Beanpot success. Wherever you turn, there are storylines and sub-plots that give this Beanpot championship its own unique identity. And I can safely safe that Northeastern University and its students, alumni, and fans will not tire of this celebration any time soon.

The Beanpot is back home at Matthews Arena for the foreseeable future. Wherever these players go onto after the season ends, they will always walk the paths of Northeastern University as champions whenever they return. In a season characterized by adversity, Northeastern stayed the course and persevered, and now they’re rewarded with the pinnacle of Boston college hockey.

All hail, Northeastern.