BOSTON — Boston College’s top line put the Eagles in position to win another Beanpot.
Ryan Fitzgerald and Kevin Hayes scored, and BC held off archrival Boston University 3-1 Monday night in the opening round of the 62nd annual tournament.
The Eagles (20-4-3) will play Northeastern, a 6-0 winner over Harvard, in the championship game next Monday night. Boston College, ranked No. 2 in the country, is looking for its 19th Beanpot title and fifth in a row.
Johnny Gaudreau added an empty-net goal and Thatcher Demko made 27 saves for the Eagles, who are 12-0-1 in their last 13 games. The struggling Terriers fell to 1-9-2 in their last 12.
The line of Gaudreau, Hayes and center Bill Arnold has been remarkable over the past 13 games, compiling 29 goals and 44 assists.
“We’re playing really well together right now,” said Gaudreau, who leads the nation with 53 points. “It’s fun to see because we’re such good friends off the ice.”
Gaudreau has 24 goals and 29 assists.
Robbie Baillargeon scored for Boston University (8-15-3), which owns the most Beanpot titles with 29. BC and BU have combined to win every one since 1994.
“That Gaudreau-Arnold-Hayes line, every time they’re out there you’re holding your breath,” BU coach David Quinn said before talking about BC’s overall strength. “They’re the measuring stick right now. They’re the premier program in college hockey. Everybody’s trying to catch them.”
The tournament pits the Boston area’s four Division I hockey programs – located just a few miles apart – against each other on the first two Mondays in February at TD Garden. Local bragging rights are at stake in an event that’s often drawn packed houses dating to its long run at the original Boston Garden.
The Eagles led 1-0 on Fitzgerald’s goal despite being outshot 10-5 in the first period.
Skating on the power play, Fitzgerald snapped off a shot from the right circle that beat goalie Matt O’Connor’s glove and slipped inside the right post.
Boston College made it 2-0 on Hayes’ goal early in the second. Arnold shifted around a defenseman and set up a cutting Hayes, who redirected the puck into a nearly wide-open net for his 20th of the season.
The Terriers killed off a 5-minute major after Doyle Somerby was whistled for checking from behind in the second. BU had the best scoring chance, a 2-on-0 break that was broken up late in the rush by Eagles defenseman Scott Savage without a shot on goal.
Demko made a big save early in the third when he was out of position but reached back and got a glove on Matt Lane’s shot. A few minutes later, Baillargeon beat him with a wrister from the deep slot to cut it to one.
In the first game, Mike Szmatula had a goal and two assists, and Clay Witt made 27 saves for Northeastern.
Kevin Roy, Dalen Hedges, Colton Saucerman, Braden Pimm and Torin Snydeman also scored for the Huskies (16-8-3).
Northeastern is looking for its fifth Beanpot title – by far the fewest among the four schools – and first since 1988. Thanks to Witt, the 11th-ranked Huskies get another shot next week in their third final in four years.
“You need goaltending,” Northeastern coach Jim Madigan said. “We obviously feel confident with our goaltending.”
Harvard (6-12-3) has lost five of its last six games.
Some of the Beanpot fervor in Boston has seemed to wear off lately, with empty seats outnumbering those filled on opening night the past few years. That pattern continued Monday, when the building was only about a quarter full for the first game.
It didn’t dampen the excitement for Szmatula, a freshman from Michigan.
“Growing up I always watched it on TV,” he said. “It’s fun to be a part of.”
Snowstorms have long been a part of Beanpot lore, too, and a mini storm dumped a couple of inches in the area Monday. Nothing serious, though.
Northeastern broke it open with two second-period goals to make it 4-0.
Skating with a two-man advantage, the Huskies made it 2-0 midway through the first period when Roy one-timed a shot over the right shoulder of goalie Raphael Girard.
Hedges scored the first goal just under 6 minutes into the game.
Snydeman’s goal on the opening shift of the second made it 3-0. Snydeman finished a 2-on-1 break by shoveling Szmatula’s pass between Girard’s pads. Pimm redirected a pass in front to make it 4-0 at 4:22.
Saucerman scored on a shot from the point 16 seconds into the third, and Girard was pulled. Szmatula added a power-play goal late in the game.
Harvard extended its longest drought without a Beanpot championship to 21 years. The Crimson have won 10 titles.
“They outplayed us all over the ice and outcoached us, for that matter,” Harvard coach Ted Donato said. “Quite frankly, we lost battles all over the ice.”