‘It’s Do or Die Now’

An Oral History of the Men’s Beanpot Final

By Michael Ruberto

On February 10th, 2020, the Northeastern men’s hockey team, on the heels of a decisive 3-1 win against the Harvard Crimson a week before, defeated the rival Boston University Terriers in a harrowing double overtime showdown to become the Beanpot champions. Though it was the program’s 7th time hoisting the trophy since their first win in 1980, this victory represented something more – it was the third time the Huskies won the title in as many years.

Looking back on the game which made them three-peat champions, freshman forward Aidan McDonough, sophomore defenseman Jordan Harris, junior forward Zach Solow, senior defenseman and captain Ryan Shea, and senior goaltender Craig Pantano share some of their memories and perspectives from their battle at TD Garden.

Going into the game, the message in the locker room was clear. Every Husky, veteran or rookie, was ready to play hard against one of their biggest rivals and complete the three-peat.

Ryan Shea: “We had that confidence and a kind of swagger. We know how to play in the Garden and we definitely know how to play in the championship. Everyone was confident even though we had a lot of younger guys and two transfers.”

Jordan Harris: “Playing at the Garden is really special for us. It definitely gave us energy. I don’t want to say there was more pressure, but there was definitely an expectation for us.”

Aidan McDonough: “A lot of our upperclassmen had been in the Beanpot situation which was good for us. We played BU earlier in the season and we didn’t have our best performance, but we knew that if we just played to our identity, we could beat them.”

Northeastern was quickly faced with adversity. In the first eight minutes of the opening period, Boston University managed to score two quick goals.

Craig Pantano: “We just tried to flush it and get back to what we do best. When you go down by two in the first period it can be a little bit tough, but we had 40 minutes left in the game.”

Zach Solow: “It was a little deflating at first, but BU took it to us the first ten minutes of the game, and we knew they couldn’t sustain it. After the goals we just regrouped and we played a lot tighter defense for the rest of the period.”

Harris: “It was definitely not what we were expecting to happen, but there was definitely a sense of, ‘That’s the worst that can happen. There’s no looking back now.’”

Back in the locker room, it fell to the coaches, and especially the captains, to rally the troops before stepping onto the ice for the second period.

Solow: “We were looking around and we were mostly silent. Then [Shea] came in and, in simple terms, said, ‘Fuck that, that’s not us.’ The message was experience. You can’t teach experience, and we had a lot more than the guys in the other locker room. We got everyone on the same page going into the second period.”

Shea: “We really just needed to get a fresh start after the first period, and once we did, you saw what happened in the second. That’s where we just took control of the game.”

The Huskies began to dominate the Terriers as soon as the puck dropped in the second period. In the first three minutes, Sophomore forward Tyler Madden scored on an assist from McDonough, before McDonough scored his own goal from Shea to tie the game at two after six minutes.

McDonough: “[Madden’s goal] was a set play that didn’t work the way we wanted it to. I just ended up being open and [sophomore defenseman] Julian Kislin hit me with a pass below the goal line. I found Madden in the slot, and when he gets the puck in that area, there’s not many times when he’s gonna miss.”

Harris: “Once it was 2-1 you could feel everyone’s loads lift. We knew we could come back, but just getting that first one put everyone at ease.”

Shea: “Donzo [McDonough] gave me the pass mid-point. The forward on their team went down so I had an easy lane to walk around him. Donzo just kept moving and got himself available. He put himself in a spot, and a kid with a shot like that, not many goalies are going to save it.”

McDonough: “I fired and missed the net, and it wrapped around to Julian Kislin. I just followed my shot into the corner. I got it at the midpoint, hit Ryan Shea, and skated around the zone a few times. He dished it to me in the slot and I just tried to get it off my stick as soon as possible.”

Northeastern didn’t let off the gas after tying the game. A 5-on-3 power play goal from Solow (assisted by McDonough and Shea), as well as another tally by senior forward Grant Jozefek, put the Huskies up 4-2 with eight minutes left in the period, forcing BU to change their goalie.

Shea: “I was looking for Donzo for the one-timer, but I actually gave him a pass a little too behind him, but Coach Keefe always has those extra plays, so if one play doesn’t work out there’s always the second or third play that works.”

Solow: “McDonough wasn’t supposed to give it to me. I guess he felt pressured. In practice it was a similar situation and so I was already comfortable with that. Even though it happened in a split second, I was like ‘I’ve been here a thousand times before and I know exactly what to do.’”

After a strong second period, Boston University managed to score two minutes into the third period to bring the game within one goal.

Pantano: “We were still feeling confident. It was a tough bounce, it hit off a few things on the way in. I think everyone just took it as it was and played on.”

Harris: “Obviously going from a two goal lead to a one goal lead makes you more nervous and a little more tense but we were still confident in the way we were playing and we didn’t want to let it turn the momentum from the second.”

Northeastern played strongly for the rest of the third period, but with 1.2 seconds left in regulation, tragedy struck. With their own net empty, the Terriers managed to sneak in a final tying goal, sending the game to overtime.

Pantano: “Once the puck came down I knew they were going to try and get it on net. It went off to my left side. There was a little bit of traffic in the crease so I couldn’t fully push over there.”

Harris: “With the emotion from them scoring two and going down quickly to this, this was the most roller coaster game I’ve ever played in. The whole building was silent. I looked over at the coaches and they just didn’t know what to do.”

McDonough: “To be honest with you it was devastating. We were so close to just ending it right there. It was definitely just shock for a little bit. But we still had to win this game. We made it too far to not win it.”

Solow: “I don’t think anyone moved. You don’t know how to react, you just went numb. You just kind of stared, tried to figure out what’s going on. We just knew from a team perspective we needed to survive the five minutes of push from BU and get in the locker room and regroup.”

Shea: “That was tough. It stunk, to be honest. We kind of thought that all our hard work that game went out the window right there. But every Beanpot I’ve been in, I’m pretty sure there’s been an overtime game, so I guess it was meant to be.”

Pantano: “There’s nothing really to think about at that point. You just get ready to play the overtime. You know it’s do or die now.”

Northeastern survived the overtime period, heading back to the locker room. After regrouping for the second overtime period, with 5:27 left Solow and McDonough managed to set up Jordan Harris for a power play goal. The Northeastern Huskies were Beanpot champions for the third year running.

McDonough: “It was a simple play, [Harris] was wide open. He made a really good shot and it happened to find its way in. It was one of the best moments of my life after that.”

Harris: “I just walked and tried to find a lane and shoot. Honestly afterwards I just felt relieved the game was over. Then there was a lot of excitement. There was a lot of relief and a lot of joy.”

Pantano: “I couldn’t even see it from my end, so I just thought, ‘Did he just score?’ But then he started racing down to me and I was so excited. I was happy for him to get it though. He’s such a good player and he works so hard. That’s a memory I’ll never forget.”

Solow: “It was basically like, ‘We just did this. We’re the greatest team in Northeastern history. Look at all these DogHouse fans, we have the best fans in college hockey.’ With all the years of BU and BC saying, ‘F- you,’ we got another chance to say it back.”

Shea: “Just getting that win and knowing we could call each other three-peat Beanpot champions, it was really special. No matter how many times you win it it never gets old. It’s like the Tom Brady mentality. The best ring is the next one. I’m sure they’ll want to get it even more for the fourth time and celebrate it even harder.”