BOSTON — It doesn’t seem too far-fetched to think that the goaltender matchup from Monday night’s all-Hockey East title game at the 67th annual Beanpot Tournament at TD Garden might be the same one you’ll see a few years down the road in the National Hockey League.
Joe Woll, drafted 62nd overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2016, and Cayden Primeau, taken with the 199th pick one year later by the Montreal Canadiens, put on an incredible show for Boston College and Northeastern, respectively.
Not that anyone expected anything different, of course.
In a meeting that featured Team USA’s last two starting netminders at the World Junior Championships, Woll was dazzling at times in making 31 saves on the Huskies’ high-powered offense, but it was his counterpart who predictably once again stole the show.
Primeau led Northeastern to back-to-back Beanpots for the first time since 1984-85 in stopping 59 of the 62 shots he faced over the two-week event to win both the tournament MVP award and also his second consecutive Eberly Award as the top goaltender. However, it was the 19-year-old’s Monday night duel with Woll—Primeau made 33 saves, including 13 in the third period on some Grade-A chances—that had everybody talking after the game.
“Cayden made some excellent saves late in the game, as did Joe Woll throughout the game,” legendary BC bench boss Jerry York said. “I thought Joe had an outstanding game, made some saves that, from the bench, were pretty incredible… That was quite a display of goaltending at both ends, I thought.”
Primeau seems to have picked up right where he left off after a freshman year in which he quickly emerged as one of the top goaltenders in the country; he was one of only two freshmen to be a finalist for the Mike Richter Award thanks to a year in which he posted a 19-8-5 record, 1.92 goals against average and .931 save percentage in 34 games.
Although his peripheral stats are a bit more inflated in his sophomore campaign—a still-impressive 2.37 GAA and .923 save percentage in his first 24 games—the fact seems to remain that the Huskies will go as far as Primeau, the son of former NHL’er Wayne Primeau, will take them.
Last year, it was a return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015-16.
This year? Another Beanpot sure seems to be a good start.
“Cayden Primeau, I thought, was just outstanding tonight. He was deserving of the awards that he got,” said Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan.
“He’s grown physically, and he’s a seasoned goaltender back there because he has the experience. He loves the big stage. He’s a quiet young man as you see, but he’s been on a lot of big stages. He was the goaltender that backstopped the U.S. to a silver medal in the Hlinka Tournament, the best 17-18-year-old tournament in the world. He was at World Juniors this year and got them to a silver medal. Last year, he helped our team to do the success we had last year and then again this year. The only concern I have is he’s been so good of a success that the red, white and blue in Montreal might be coming after him soon. But that’s a good thing, we’ll deal with that at the right time.”
That jump is likely a year or two away for the 6-foot-3, 200 pounder. But, the experience he’s gaining now, not only in big events like the Beanpot, but also the upcoming Hockey East Tournament, are proving to be invaluable for when that time does come.
“Definitely being on the big stage, you’ve got to act like you’ve been there before,” Primeau said. “Getting that experience is huge for your confidence. Every time, you try to show up for big games and that’s ultimately what happened… It’s unbelievable, there really are no words to describe it, there are so many emotions running through the veins and the body. There’s an adrenaline high right now, and I don’t know how long it’s going to be until I can come off of that. It’s a hard tournament to win, and to be able to do it back-to-back with this group and the incoming freshmen, it’s unbelievable. There really are no words.”
Senior captain Eric Williams chose to add a few more.
“[Primeau] was unbelievable tonight and last week. We don’t win this tournament without him,” Williams said. “He gives this team confidence, he gives our defense confidence with taking more risks and staying up to make plays. There were times we were on our heels this game, and he bailed us out several times. He was incredible and we feel very confident having him in our net… It’s incredible, it’s such a great feeling to get a win in my last Beanpot Tournament. It’s something none of us are ever going to forget, and I wish I could play in this tournament every year until the day I die. It’s that much fun.”