BOSTON — When they chose to attend Boston University, Chelmsford’s Jack Eichel and Dracut’s John MacLeod envisioned skating around the TD Garden ice accompanied by the Beanpot Trophy.
Monday night they did just that.
Yes, that alluring prize with bragging rights often hard to explain to the unprivileged hockey world beyond BU, BC, Harvard and Northeastern, and that for so long seemed always in the clutches of Terriers.
In a final held up two weeks by snow, Boston University defeated Northeastern, 4-3, on junior captain Matt Grzelcyk’s second goal of the night — 51 seconds into overtime — to win its first Beanpot title since 2009 and its 30th overall.
A fantastic college hockey game saw the Beanpot cosmos fall back into BU alignment in this new age of Eichel.
“When I committed to BU, I definitely had the Beanpot in mind,” said Eichel. “This is exactly how I dreamed it. Winning in overtime. Being able to celebrate with a great group of guys.”
In his first and probably only Beanpot before probably being chosen first or second overall in June’s NHL draft, Eichel’s rush from the opening faceoff of overtime set up a hooking penalty against NU’s Matt Benning on Danny O’Regan nine seconds in. Eichel then picked up an assist on defenseman Grzelcyk’s power-play strike, Eichel’s 50th point of the season, which leads the nation (16 goals, nation-leading 34 assists). Eichel is the first BU freshman to reach 50 points since Tony Amonte tallied 58 in 1989-90.
“He draws the penalty (in overtime) … His speed is so intimidating,” said BU coach David Quinn. “The other team is always aware of him. He gives us a swagger that’s infectious.”
Northeastern (15-13-4) came into this 63rd Beanpot final as sentimental favorite; the Huskies’ four Beanpot titles all were won in the 1980s. Despite wiping out a 3-1 deficit on goals 95 seconds apart midway through the third period, the Huskies lost in the final for the fourth time in five years.
There was talk the tournament needed the re-invigoration a Northeastern victory would bring. But the only history and sentimentality that mattered to current Terriers was none of them had won a tournament once called the Boston University Invitational.
“We told ourselves we weren’t going to lose,” said senior forward Evan Rodrigues about BU’s mindset heading into overtime. “BU hasn’t won a Beanpot in way too long. I think we told each other we were going to make it happen no matter what it took.”
Contributing to the transformation of BU into a 20-6-5 team that leads Hockey East after going 10-21-4 last season are two local 18-year-old freshmen, center Eichel and defenseman MacLeod, who last June was a second-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning. These two were also teammates on the USA team that won the Under-18 World Championship in Finland last April.
“I always grew up watching the Beanpot, coming to the games, seeing how much excitement there was,” said MacLeod. “This is something I dreamed about since I committed here. When (MacLeod and Eichel) were in Ann Arbor together (in the USA national team development program), we used to always talk about the Beanpot.”
The BU publicity machine is now churning out “I Like Eich” campaign buttons to promote Eichel for the Hobey Baker Award, college hockey’s Heisman. Eichel didn’t score a goal on Monday, but did have six shots on net. NESN’s cameras were drawn to practically his every move.
NU coach Jim Madigan thought Benning’s hooking penalty on O’Regan nine seconds into OT, set up by an Eichel move, was a phantom call.
“The referee made a call. We didn’t agree with it. BU won the game on the power play,” said Madigan.
Weather-related postponements pushed this final to where BU and NU will now be playing three straight times. The teams will close out their regular seasons against each other Friday and Saturday nights.
“This is a tough loss. But we have a game Friday night that we have to get ready for. So we’re just on to Friday,” said Northeastern senior assistant captain Torin Snydeman of Groton.
Follow David Pevear on Twitter and Tout @merganser10.