BOSTON - Ryan Donato has been attending Beanpot games for as long as he can remember. He can't recall missing one since his father, Ted, became the head coach of the Crimson in 2004.
His long-held fondness for the tournament made Monday night that much sweeter, as fourth-ranked Harvard withstood a late Northeastern comeback to secure a 4-3 victory to reach the Beanpot final for the first time since 2008. The Crimson will play Boston University in the title game on Feb. 13.
"We're so excited," said Donato, a sophomore forward and 2014 second-round pick of the Bruins. "It's something we've been looking forward to all year. We've had it marked on our calendars. I've been to every single game since my dad's had the job.
"A lot of guys have been watching these games for a long time. Just happy to be here and get a chance to play for a championship in the Beanpot."
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Harvard built a 4-1 lead midway through the third on Luke Esposito's shorthanded tally. But Northeastern responded with two goals in the second half of the period to close within one.
"I think they're just competitive," said junior defenseman and Bruins 2013 fifth-round pick Wiley Sherman, who assisted on Tyler Moy's goal that gave Harvard a 3-1 lead.
"That's what it's going to be when it was a one-goal game. Emotions were high. That's how it goes."
The Crimson buckled down, however, and held on for the win, which brings them one step closer to their first Beanpot title since 1993.
"It's pretty exciting," said the 6-foot-7, 220-pound Sherman. "It's been a goal of ours all year [to get to the final]. Going into my third year now, it's something we haven't had yet. I'm really excited and looking forward to it."
Donato did not factor into the scoring on Monday night, but has 21 points (11 goals, 10 assists) in 23 games this season. Sherman now has seven assists in 23 games.
McAvoy, JFK Pace BU Over BC
Third-ranked Boston University defeated seventh-ranked Boston College at the Beanpot for the first time in 10 years. Bruins prospects Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson (goal) and Charlie McAvoy (assist) helped lift the Terriers to a 3-1 victory over their Commonwealth Ave. rivals.
Forsbacka Karlsson, a 2015 second-round pick of the Bruins, scored his 11th goal of the season just 4:29 into the contest to put BU up, 1-0.
"I think it was my second or third shift," said Forsbacka Karlsson. "Patrick Harper brought the puck in the zone…he tried to tuck it in backdoor, but I managed to get the rebound."
After BU went up, 2-0, early in the second, the Eagles responded on an Austin Cangelosi tally just over three minutes later. Ryan Fitzgerald, a 2013 fourth-round pick of the Bruins, assisted on the goal when he threw a shot on net from the left circle, producing a rebound that Cangelosi converted.
"You just get that shoot everything mentality, kind of just threw it there, knew there were bodies there," said Fitzgerald, who has two goals and three assists in his last five games. "Luckily, we got a few bounces and it went it."
McAvoy, last June's 14th overall pick, got into the act later in the second. The blue liner collected the puck in defensive zone and delivered a sweet dish on the rush to Clayton Keller, who broke in all alone and buried a backhand five-hole on BC goalie Joseph Woll.
The shorthanded marker gave the Terriers a 3-1 lead, which they did not relinquish.
"It's pretty special," McAvoy said of advancing to the final. "We came up short last year [losing to BC, 1-0, in overtime of the title game], now we're back in the championship and hoping for a different result this time."
The Bruins have five prospects participating in the tournament: Donato and Sherman for Harvard, Fitzgerald for Boston College, and Forsbacka Karlsson and McAvoy for Boston University. But during the Beanpot, those Black & Gold allegiances are put to the side.
"It's respectful," said Sherman. "When you're on the ice, during the game, you're battling. After the game, though, it's congratulations, that's how it goes."
"It's college hockey, so right now we look at them as enemies," added Fitzgerald. "Those are the people that you're going up against. There's not a whole lot of love lost there…right now it's a pretty big rivalry."