Jackson Goodman/WRBB Sports

BOSTON — As his teammates raced to embrace him on the ice, their hands in the air and helmets and gloves flying in all directions, Gunnarwolfe Fontaine busted out the “heartbreaker” celebration to punctuate his latest moment of Beanpot glory. 

Since arriving at Northeastern four years ago, winning the Beanpot is the only expectation Fontaine and his teammates have known. That sentence may have once been inconceivable to generations of Huskies fans, who not only endured a 30-year Beanpot drought, but the dismissive perception from Boston’s three more storied programs that Northeastern was an afterthought. 

That’s why Monday’s title celebration felt both routine, and still validating as ever to those who experienced the long climb to get here. Because Northeastern — both this year’s team, and more broadly, the program over the past decade — has clawed their way to respect, found a way to stick around, and ultimately, broken their opponents’ hearts in the biggest moments time and time again. 

And now, Fontaine’s clutch goals and cold celebrations have come to embody Northeastern’s modern Beanpot renaissance. 

Behind Fontaine’s game-winning goal with 28.6 seconds remaining in overtime, Northeastern topped No. 3 BU 4-3 to capture their fifth Beanpot title in the past six tournaments, and ninth all-time. It was also the Huskies’ sixth straight victory, improving their record to 13-12-2 (6-11 HE) and keeping their once-longshot NCAA tournament hopes alive.

“When we’ve gotten into this tournament over the past six or seven years, we’ve expected to win. We didn’t come in here feeling like we’re the underdog,” said Northeastern coach Jerry Keefe. “I think our program is at a spot now that when we go out and we feel like we play our game, we should win [against anyone].”

The game-winning goal was Fontaine’s second straight overtime winner in this year’s Beanpot, after he sent Harvard packing in extra period of last Monday’s semifinal. Both goals were set up on feeds from junior captain Justin Hryckowian.

In six career Beanpot games, Fontaine has tallied a total of five goals and eight points, cementing himself in Northeastern lore and all but guaranteeing himself an eventual spot in the Beanpot Hall of Fame.

“I don’t look too much into it,” Fontaine said. “But obviously those were just two great plays from Justin on those back-to-back overtime goals, so I owe a lot to him.”

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BU outshot Northeastern 36-17, and each of the Terriers’ three goals resulted from avoidable puck-handling mistakes. And yet, the Huskies managed to come back from a deficit three separate times, finding just enough transition offense and capitalizing on their special teams chances in the third period.

For a team that started the season 1-5 in one-goal games and was repeatedly unable to find clutch goals, the Huskies have recently transformed into a group that finishes strong.

“You figure out as a team how you win the close games. You have to experience it,” Keefe said. “Even though I didn’t think we played our best hockey tonight — and some of that was BU, they are really good — there wasn’t panic…I thought our guys did a great job of just staying in that moment.”

The first period on Monday mirrored the teams’ first meeting on Jan. 9 at Agganis Arena, when Northeastern struggled to adjust to BU’s speed and possession-based approach in the first period. While BU’s star freshman Macklin Celebrini got the scoring started on a transition goal, the deficit could have easily been more if not for freshman goaltender Cameron Whitehead’s stellar 12-save opening frame.

Whitehead was given the Eberly award as the Beanpot’s top goaltender, saving 54 of 59 shots across the two games.

“Every single week, I feel like he’s more confident,” Keefe said of Whitehead. “That kid is dialed in and he’s got a lot of confidence in himself and obviously our group has a lot of confidence in him. To do it on a big stage as a freshman, that’s huge.”

The second period started much like the first, until Northeastern finally found an answer six minutes into the frame. Shortly after BU sophomore Jeremy Wilmer’s one-timer ringed off the crossbar, Northeastern sophomore Cam Lund broke out in transition before whistling the puck to Fontaine, whose initial shot set up an easy rebound tap-in for senior Matt DeMelis. 

Then, after BU regained the lead on fourth-line senior Sam Stevens’ transition score, Northeastern’s junior captain Justin Hryckowian answered moments later with a gritty hustle goal. Approaching the offensive zone 1-on-3, Hryckowian banked the puck to himself along the back wall and snuck the rebound short-side underneath BU netminder Mathieu Caron. 

“I wanted to get a shot on net, and it got blocked,” Hryckowian said of his goal. “The goalie was a little squirmy trying to locate the puck…and luckily it squeaked through.”

Much like last week’s semifinal — and really, the entire second semester — Hryckowian’s fingerprints were all over this game. Beyond just his goal or his assist on Fontaine’s eventual winner, Hryckowian’s neutral zone defense, breakouts, and poise navigating a tightly-packed defense flipped the momentum whenever Northeastern’s first line was on the ice.

While the game appeared to be headed for a 2-2 tie after two frames, with just seven seconds remaining in the second period, BU sophomore Lane Hutson caught the Huskies lagging in transition and snuck in a snipe from the left circle.

Despite the crushing goal just before the break, Keefe’s message remained that Northeastern was still right where they wanted to be.

“You’re going into the third period of the Beanpot championship game, you’re either up a goal, down a goal, or tied,” Keefe said. “And that’s exactly where you want to be. Knowing that if you win a third period, you have a chance to win a Beanpot.”

Special teams became a major factor in the third period — while only three penalties were called combined between the two teams, each team got one high-leverage power play late.

In the teams’ previous two meetings this season, BU’s lethal power play (26.6% on the season) had scored three power play goals in eight opportunities against the Huskies’ kill. But neither of the Terriers’ top power play weapons — Celebrini and sophomore Lane Hutson — registered a shot on goal on either of BU’s two power plays.

Then, with the Huskies granted their lone power play of the night just moments later, Jack Williams’ one-timer from the left dot tied up the game at 3-3 — his third power-play goal in the past four games. 

Williams, who had just one goal and three points in his first seven games this season, has logged 14 goals and 28 points in the 18 games since — an average of 1.55 points per game.

“You need your best players, you need your leaders to show up in these big games and lead the way,” Keefe said. “And that’s exactly what [Williams] did tonight.”

The Huskies hung on for dear life in the final five minutes of regulation, with their top players appearing gassed — likely a result of BU shifting their bottom six far more than Northeastern throughout the night.

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In the 3-on-3 overtime, BU outshot Northeastern 6-1, controlling the bulk of possession and keeping the Huskies on their back feet.

Finally, with just one minute remaining in the frame, Hryckowian collected the puck and weaved through the neutral zone, picking the perfect moment to feed Fontaine and set up the finishing blow.

“It started off with a 2-on-2 with me and Justin,” Fontaine said of the winning goal. “I tried to do a drop pass to him and the play got a little messed up, and Justin just had a great second effort, made a little sauce pass to me, and I just got it on net.”

Now winners of six straight, Northeastern will need to continue playing at this level to climb the Hockey East standings. Currently sitting at No. 20 in Pairwise, it will likely take a near-perfect record in their final seven regular season games to sneak into the NCAA tournament. 

“We kept receipts from the [beginning] of the year. We heard all the noise and we stuck together through it,” Hryckowian said. “And we’re a resilient group now and we’re gelling at the right time.”

Northeastern will return to action on Friday night, as they visit Tsongas Center to take on Lowell. Emma Sullivan, Matty Wasserman, and Luke Graham will have the call for WRBB Sports.