Northeastern forward Zach Solow is not one to shy away from the big moments.
As a sophomore last season, he tied a school record with six game-winning goals, including the overtime winner against Boston University in the Hockey East semifinals at TD Garden. Last week, when the Huskies fell behind, 1-0, in the first round of the Beanpot against Harvard, it was Solow who got Northeastern on the board and on track to make the 3-1 comeback.
And in Monday night’s Beanpot championship game, with the Huskies tied with BU, 2-2, midway through the second period, Solow delivered yet again, his power-play goal putting his team on top, 3-2. After Northeastern prevailed in overtime to win its third straight Beanpot title, Solow was named tournament MVP. He’s had three goals in his last four games at the Garden.
“It’s my teammates putting me in those situations,” said Solow. “We all work so hard and practice these small plays. Little things like that. So when you get put in those situations like that, you want to make the most of them. I’ve been lucky to get the better bounces in most situations, and I’m not complaining.”
Northeastern coach Jim Madigan considers Solow’s approach along the lines of Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron when explaining his success in crunch time.
“He plays the game the right way,” said Madigan. “He’s a 200-foot player. He doesn’t cheat the game. His understanding of the game, his positioning, it’s not flashy, but very effective, and that’s what happens, he rises to the occasion. He likes those opportunities.”
The Huskies may need Solow to take advantage of those opportunities down the stretch. With eight games remaining in the regular season, Northeastern (15-8-3, 8-7-1) is on the bubble for the NCAA tournament at 12th in the PairWise rankings. The Huskies are currently in ninth place in Hockey East, with only eight teams reaching the conference tournament. Three points separate third through ninth place.
“The good thing about where we’re heading right now is, we’ve got experience in what’s going to happen over the next four weeks,” said Madigan. “With experience comes reflection, and for us, we reflect back over the last two years where we’ve won the Beanpot, and we had to make a run for Hockey East. We might have been a couple more points ahead in the standings, but we knew that every game was important.”
That stretch begins this weekend, with a home-and-home series with UMass-Lowell (15-7-5, 9-4-4) beginning Friday at Tsongas Arena. The following week is a home-and-home set with Boston College (17-8-1, 10-6), starting on Thursday at Matthews Arena.
“It’s the same mentality we had for the Beanpot,” said Solow. “These are all playoff games. We have some tough opponents coming up, but we’re definitely going to see our team’s resiliency.
“We’re not in a playoff spot, so we’ve definitely got our work cut out for us. It’s going to be a fun journey.”
Young and hungry
Harvard (11-8-4, 9-4-3) dropped both of its games in the Beanpot, but is still in the thick of the ECAC race. The Crimson are in fourth place, with the top four teams getting a bye for the first round and home ice for the conference quarterfinals. They will be home for a pair of games against Yale (10-12-1, 7-8-1) and Brown (6-16-1, 6-9-1)
“Everything is still right in front of us,” said coach Ted Donato. “We still have a lot to play for. As a group, we’ve shown flashes of the type of team we can be. With the fact that we’re young, we have a lot of guys going through it for the first time. We have been inconsistent. We’ll have to improve on that as we play down the stretch.
“I really enjoy this group. They work hard. I really believe there’s good things to come for this group by the end of this season.”
Who’s in goal?
It will be interesting to see whom BU (10-9-8, 7-5-5) turns to in goal for this weekend’s home-and-home series with New Hampshire (15-11-2, 9-8-1). For the first half of the season, Sam Tucker, a graduate transfer from Yale, was the main man, going 7-5-5 with a 2.79 goals-against average and a save percentage of .908.
But when freshman Ashton Abel joined the squad during the holiday break, the Terriers made a switch, with Abel performing well enough to earn Hockey East Goaltender of the Month honors for January.
But Abel surrendered four goals against BC in the first round of the Beanpot, and five more against Merrimack last Friday. After Abel struggled through the first 30-plus minutes of Monday night’s Beanpot final, surrendering four goals on 10 shots, BU coach Albie O’Connell turned to Tucker, who stopped the first 13 shots he faced before Northeastern connected on a power-play goal to win in overtime.
BC has a home-and-home series with Merrimack (7-19-3, 5-11-3) this weekend beginning Friday in North Andover, while Maine (15-9-4, 9-7-2), which is 10-0-2 at Alfond Arena, will host UConn (11-12-4, 8-7-2) for a pair of games. Providence (14-9-5, 8-8-2) hits the road for two at last-place Vermont (3-20-4, 0-15-2).Follow Andrew Mahoney on Twitter @GlobeMahoney.