Boston College reached the Beanpot final for the fifth time in six years, and this time the Eagles have already done the hard part.
Tommy Cross scored on a power play with 3:17 gone in overtime Monday night and BC beat Green Line rival Boston University 3-2 to advance to the title game. BU, the winner of as many Beanpots as the other three schools combined, will play in the consolation game for just the third time in 28 years.
Northeastern beat Harvard 4-0 in the early game as the Huskies earned a chance for their first Beanpot title since 1988 — the longest current drought of the tournament's four teams. Mike McLaughlin scored twice and Chris Rawlings stopped 41 shots to earn his fifth shutout of the season for Northeastern (9-11-6).
Now, the Huskies face the defending Beanpot champion, defending NCAA champion and the top-ranked team in the nation.
Jimmy Hayes and Philip Samuelsson also scored and John Muse stopped 34 shots for BC (20-6-0). The Eagles swept No. 14 BU (13-8-7) in the Hockey East regular season and have now beaten their crosstown rivals five consecutive times — their longest winning streak against BU in 50 years.
"There's a reason they're the No. 1 team in the nation. They've been that way all year long. We're just starting to hit our stride," BU coach Jack Parker said. "The difference in the game is we had two power plays at the end of the third period and didn't score. They got one in overtime and did."
Kieran Millan made 37 saves for BU. Wade Megan and Corey Trivino scored to give the Terriers a 2-1 lead after two periods, but Hayes tied it when he scored on a pass from Pat Mullane with 15:04 left in regulation.
BU spent most of the last 5 minutes of regulation on the power play after BC picked up a cross-checking penalty with 4:59 left and then another 2 seconds before the first one expired. Despite steady pressure, the Terriers couldn't score, and when Samuelsson came out of the box to end the second penalty he gloved a long pass and headed for a breakaway.
Millan stopped him, and then another shot in the final seconds to send the game into overtime.
That's when BU picked up a costly penalty.
Ryan Ruikka was sent off for cross-checking early in the extra period, and BC set up in the Terriers' zone. When the puck worked its way out to Cross at the blue line, he wristed it into traffic and it found its way into the net off a defenseman's leg, setting loose an unusually exuberant celebration on the Eagles' bench.
But this wasn't just a typical first-round game.
This was BU.
BC has won two of the last three NCAA championships — BU won the other — but the Eagles had won just five of 19 first-round Beanpot matchups with the Terriers. BC was 12-27 against BU in the Beanpot overall; three of the schools' last four Beanpot games have gone into overtime.
"It was probably (up there) with some of the national championship games we've played, Hockey East title games," said BC assistant coach Mike Cavanaugh, who spoke because head coach Jerry York lost his voice. "I think this was a terrific college hockey game. You had everything in the game: lead changes, breakaway saves and overtime."
BU will play in the third-place game next Monday against Harvard (4-18-0), which has not won the Beanpot since 1993.
The Beanpot pits the area's four college hockey powers against each other on the first two Mondays in February, rotating the matchups so BU and BC meet in the first round only once every three years. That's why Harvard and Northeastern played the early game in front of a sparse crowd before fans filled out the TD Garden for the main event.
"The fans come in when you win," Northeastern coach Greg Cronin said. "I think we have a little bit of the mentality of, 'When are they going to win this thing?' And they get sick of it and I don't blame them. But, this is twice in the last three years that we are in the final, and I know we are going to have a tremendous opponent to play against."