By Joshua Kummins
BOSTON — Chris Rawlings pitched his fourth shutout in six games, while Mike McLaughlin scored two goals as the Northeastern Huskies ousted the Harvard Crimson, 4-0, at the TD Garden in the opening semifinal of the 2011 Beanpot Tournament.
The Huskies have now advanced to the championship game on 14 occasions with the last coming in 2009. Their win also marked the fourth shutout in Huskies Beanpot history.
“Special teams were a key factor in the game,” said Northeastern head coach Greg Cronin. “We were sloppy on offense, but had some good moments.”
The first period featured a lot of back-and-forth action, but the Huskies drew first blood at 10:48. Mike McLaughlin skated through the neutral zone and potted his eighth goal of the season just five seconds after Tyler McNeely’s hitting-from-behind penalty expired. Drew Ellement and Steve Qualier were credited with assists.
NU got the lone goal of the second period, but it was out-chanced, 32-21, in the period, while trailing 17-10 in the shots department.
McLaughlin and the Huskies received a stroke of luck just 1:47 into the second period when his initial shot tipped off Harvard senior goaltender Ryan Carroll’s right shoulder and bounced into the back of the Crimson net. Rob Dongara fired a nice pass to McLaughlin for his second goal of the game and ninth of the season.
The Huskies made it three straight in the game as Steve Silva got in on the act with his sixth tally of the season at 10:53. Wade MacLeod set up Tyler McNeely on the left corner boards, before setting up Silva to the right of the cage for the goal inside the right post.
Brodie Reid cashed in for his fifth goal of the season on a perfect tic-tac-toe passing sequence on the power play at 16:19. Anthony Bitetto set up the play from the center point, before finding MacLeod on the right side. He sent a crisp cross-ice pass to Reid, who buried the puck from the right circle.
Northeastern held a 14-11 shots edge in the second period, while out-chancing the opposition by a slim 25-23 count.
After allowing four goals through the first 40 minutes, Carroll was replaced in the Harvard net, making way for senior and alternate captain Kyle Richter. Carroll made 11 of his 20 total saves in the second period. The Hackensack, N.J., native posted 20 saves in 39:58.
In the third period, Harvard held a 13-7 shots advantage and finally mustered some chances on net.
“I was happy defensively,” Cronin said. “They threw a lot at the net, but we were strong clearing pucks.”
“[NU] outplayed us in all facets of the game,” Harvard coach Ted Donato said. “It’s frustrating, because we have been playing well coming in.”
Rawlings was strong throughout the game for the Huskies, stopping all 41 shots.
“I thought Rawlings got stronger as the game went on,” Donato said. “There was not enough traffic in front…and we have not come out with the same passion.”
The Huskies will return to the Beanpot title game, which takes place next Monday (Feb. 14), for the first time since 2009.
McLaughlin said that he was happy to get some pucks to bounce his way in the game to help boost confidence and “it is nice to help contribute towards that title.”
Cronin sent a message to all Northeastern fans in his post-game press conference, saying “they would be foolish [not to come]. We should not have to give T-shirts away in order for them to come either!”
“Near misses are the memories for the past 20 years,” Cronin said. “[If we won], we would have to get the Northeastern and Boston Police around that campus.”
Joshua Kummins is a sophomore at Malden High School and the Hockey East beat reporter for BostonSportsU18.com.