BC bags bragging rights with Beanpot championship

Thousands of students in the upper deck of the TD Garden rose to their feet Monday night, breathless after two hours of screaming chants at their counterparts.

No one expected Northeastern University to even contend with the Boston College Eagles, the No. 1 ranked team in college hockey and defending national champion. This was unfamiliar territory for the Huskies.

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When three periods of hockey had ended, the team from Commonwealth Avenue found themselves in a 6-6 tie with the Chestnut Hill elite. A sudden-death overtime would be necessary to decide Boston bragging rights.

“I said to myself after the third period, it is a shame that somebody has to lose this,” said Greg Cronin, Northeastern’s head coach. “If somebody came in here and bought tickets, they got every penny’s worth of their money.”

Sean Legnini, Northeastern senior and coach of Emerson’s club hockey team, agreed.

“It was a great game and it was good to see Northeastern play hard against a good team,” said Legnini, who watched the game on television. “I have a lot of friends at Northeastern who have never watched hockey before, but they went and were really excited about the Beanpot. It definitely matters to the schools and is a big part of Boston.”

The sea of black and red Husky fans worked to a crescendo, the underdogs gaining momentum as they taunted BC goalie John Muse. On the other side of the Garden, the infamous BC Super Fans, decked in maroon and gold, returned the favor, and overtime began.

BC’s Chris Kreider had already scored two goals and was poised to complete the hat trick six minutes into overtime as he let loose a one-timer.  But in one of Boston’s biggest college hockey games, it was a hometown kid who clinched the win.

As Kreider’s shot flew wide right, it settled on the stick of Dorchester native Jimmy Hayes.

The junior from South Boston stashed the puck into the back of the net, giving the Eagles their second consecutive Beanpot trophy with a 7-6 win.

“This is our Stanley Cup,” yelled Hayes, as he hoisted the Beanpot trophy into the air during the postgame celebration on the ice.

“I’m not sure where [the goal] ranks [in my career]. I was more excited to just celebrate with my team. That is what we strive for.”

BC defeated archrival Boston University last week in overtime, 3-2, to advance to the finals. But, as head coach Jerry York explained, nothing was guaranteed.

“Each game is different,” York said. “You try to prepare for what the 60 minutes is going to bring, but this one had some unusual twists in it. College hockey is a strange beast.”

The 13 goals were the most in a Beanpot final since 1996. BC’s Tommy Cross, who scored the overtime winner versus BU, started the scoring by tallying an eerily similar goal to last week’s winner.

Cross threw a shot from the point towards the net that ticked off a Husky defenseman and past goaltender Rawlings, who was in no position to make a save.

After defenseman Luke Eibler found the back of the net with 2:54 left in the first period, Rob Dongara reclaimed the lead for Northeastern with a highlight reel goal in the second.

Skating shorthanded, Dongara put the puck on his backhand, neatly slid it through the legs of an Eagle defenseman, and snapped a forehand shot to the top right corner.

Kreider, who was named the tournament MVP, tied the game three minutes later with one of his two goals on the game.

The sophomore forward was the 19th overall pick of the New York Rangers in the 2009 National Hockey League entry draft, but has yet to make the jump to professional hockey.

Kreider isn’t the only NHL-committed player taking part in the Beanpot. The Toronto Maple Leafs drafted Hayes in 2008 and the Colombus Blue Jackets selected BC’s Cam Atkinson in the same year.

Boston University has four players with NHL ties, including David Warsofsky (Atlanta Thrashers) and Max Nicastro (Detroit Red Wings).

A slice of that culture is something that Brian Rodgers, an Emerson junior who skates with the Lions’ club hockey team, has always wanted to be a part of.

“When I was growing up, I always dreamed of playing for BC and winning the Beanpot,” said Rodgers, whose parents are from Boston. “I always make sure to watch the tournament. There aren’t many hockey cities like Boston left, so it’s really good to see them keep it up.”

And while Rodgers wasn’t on the Garden ice hoisting the Beanpot trophy Monday night, Hayes, Atkinson, Muse, and the rest of the Eagles were, celebrating their 16th Beanpot championship in school history.

“We set goals at the beginning of the year and this was one of the goals we wanted,” Hayes said.