BOSTON - Redshirt junior Clay Witt (Brandon, Fla.) turned aside all 27 Harvard shots as the Northeastern men's hockey team advanced to the 2014 Beanpot Final with a decisive 6-0 victory over the Crimson on Monday at TD Garden.
Freshman Mike Szmatula (Commerce Township, Mich.) had a goal and two assists to pace six multi-point scorers for the Huskies, who advanced to the Beanpot Final for the third time in the last four years. Northeastern (16-8-3) will face the winner of the Boston College/Boston University semifinal in next Monday's championship game at 8 p.m.
Sophomore Kevin Roy (Lac-Beauport, Quebec), senior Braden Pimm (Fort St. John, British Columbia), freshman Dalen Hedges (Ottawa, Ontario) and sophomore Colton Saucerman (Colorado Springs, Colo.) each recorded a goal and an assist, while freshman John Stevens (Sea Isle City, N.J.) tacked on a pair of helpers.
The Huskies went 3-for-10 on the power play in a penalty-filled game that featured 31 infractions and 76 total penalty minutes. Northeastern killed off all seven Harvard power plays and outshot the Crimson (6-12-3) by a 38-27 count.
The real story of the game was Witt, who played 60 minutes of flawless hockey to pick up his fourth shutout of the season. The national leader in save percentage looked comfortable throughout the game, making both routine and highlight-reel saves look easy.
Witt was called into action just two minutes into the first period when Harvard's Tyler Moy created a scoring chance with some hard work in the Northeastern zone. After wining a battle along the low boards, Moy emerged with the puck and drove hard to the net on the backhand. Witt stayed with the play as Moy attempted to cut across the crease, and then made the stop in tight before finding the rebound as it fluttered in the air and landed dangerously on top of the net.
Harvard netminder Raphael Girard (21 saves) then matched Witt with a nice save of his own, gobbling up a blast from freshman Matt Benning (St. Albert, Alberta) on the first of five NU power plays in the opening period.
Northeastern continued to press and eventually found a breakthrough on a brilliant solo play by Hedges. After a faceoff in the Harvard zone, Hedges scooped up a loose puck and circled behind the Crimson goal. The Harvard defense sagged off, allowing Hedges to continue his arc into the low slot. Hedges waited patiently, before ripping a hard wrister over the glove of Girard to make it 1-0 Huskies just 5:57 into the contest.
Harvard nearly tied things up minutes later when Sean Malone's shot from the right circle trickled past Witt and skittered toward the goalline. The puck would have likely crossed the plane if not for Benning, who alertly spotted the disc and scooped it off the line to keep Northeastern in front.
The Huskies went back to work at the other end and padded their lead at the 12:08 mark after some pretty passing on a 5-on-3 power play. Hedges and Roy exchanged passes at the top of the right circle, before Roy spotted Stevens joining the play off the bench. Roy then dropped a soft feed back to the charging Stevens, who deftly gave it right back to Roy for a one-time blast from the right faceoff dot that beat Girard to make it 2-0. The goal was Roy's fifth power-play tally of the season and sixth career Beanpot goal.
Northeastern's penalty kill was thrust back into action late in the frame when junior Josh Manson (Prince Albert, Saskatchewan) was whistled for a five-minute major and a game misconduct. Harvard spent quality time in the attacking zone but could not muster any dangerous chances as the Huskies' penalty-kill rose to the occasion.
Northeastern carried its 2-0 lead into the second period and quickly tacked on another insurance tally when Szmatula forced a turnover at center ice and skated in 2-on-1 with redshirt junior Torin Snydeman (Groton, Mass.). Szmatula waited until the last moment before dishing a pass across the goal-mouth for Snydeman to fire home just 31 seconds into the frame.
Pimm increased the lead to 4-0 less than four minutes later, cashing in on a tic-tac-toe passing play on a 4-on-4. Saucerman initiated the goal with an aerial pass across the crease to Szmatula, who skillfully gloved the puck down, before dishing a backhand feed back across the slot to Pimm for the tap-in at 4:22.
The Crimson came close once again midway through the period, but Witt stood tall with a series of tough stops, including three saves off Luke Esposito, Kyle Criscuolo and Alexander Kerfoot on a frantic scramble in front.
Feeding off the play of their netminder, the Huskies again found the back of the net in the first minute of a period, striking 16 seconds into the third on another power-play opportunity. Collecting a feed from Roy in the left corner, Stevens threw the puck back to the point for Saucerman. The sophomore tip-toed the blue line before throwing a soft wrister toward the net that found its way through traffic and inside the left post to push the score to 5-0. The goal chased Girard, who was replaced by Steve Michalek (11 saves) for the final 19:44 of the third period.
Witt continued to frustrate the Crimson at the other end as the game wound to a close. The redshirt junior made a terrific kick save on Desmond Bergin, who was left all alone in front, before denying Malone's one-time attempt on the rush with seven minutes to play.
A late five-minute power play handed the Huskies their sixth and final goal as Szmatula cleaned up a rebound off a shot from Pimm with 3:13 remaining.
Northeastern will make its 16th appearance in the Beanpot Final on Monday, Feb. 10. The Huskies are looking to snap a 25-year drought dating back to the program's last Beanpot title in 1988.
- The Huskies advanced to the Beanpot Final for the third time in the last four years and 16th time overall.
- Six different players scored for NU against Harvard. The last time Northeastern had six or more players score was on Dec. 30, 2013 when seven Huskies (Szmatula, Stevens, Saucerman, Manson, Ferriero, Hedges, Reid) recorded goals in an 8-8 tie at Dartmouth.
- Colton Saucerman's goal 16 seconds into the third period is the quickest goal to open a Beanpot period since Kevin Roy scored 11 seconds into the third period of the 2013 Beanpot championship game against BC.
- Kevin Roy's 15th goal of the season (12:08 into the first period) was also his fifth power-play score of the year and his sixth-career Beanpot goal.
- Northeastern is 4-1-1 this season when Hedges scores, 8-1-1 when Roy scores, and 4-1-0 when Snydeman scores.
- Mike Szmatula's two assists give him 20 for the year and ties him for the national lead among NCAA freshmen.
- Monday's win marks the first time the Huskies have topped Harvard in the Beanpot since Feb. 7, 2011 (4-0; semifinals).
- The Huskies have put up at least four goals in three of their last four Beanpot contests against the Crimson.