By Nate Ewell
As Northeastern pursues its first Beanpot title in 30 years Monday night, Husky fans can be forgiven for a little impatience.
Ironically, it’s the patience and development of their top three players that gives Northeastern what might be its best chance in three decades to capture Boston’s coveted trophy.
Junior Adam Gaudette (Braintree, Mass./Cedar Rapids-USHL/VAN) and seniors Dylan Sikura (Aurora, Ont./Aurora-OJHL/CHI) and Nolan Stevens (Sea Isle City, N.J./U.S. NTDP/STL) accounted for all three Northeastern goals in the Beanpot semifinals and each have more than 30 points on the year.
They form one of the nation’s best lines and a formidable group for Boston University to try to slow down in Monday’s Beanpot title game (7:30 p.m. ET, NESN/TSN2).
None of the three arrived on campus as dominant players, however. Gaudette was impressive as a freshman, but all three needed seasoning. They have improved in every facet and developed into some of the top players in the nation.
“It goes to show that the college process – on-ice and off-ice – allows players to grow physically, mentally and emotionally,” said Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan of his top trio. “These players trust the process and they’re enjoying success.
“Nobody said it better than [Penguins head coach] Mike Sullivan, who was working with Chicago in player development when Dylan was a freshman. Sully said that when you have patience and a good player, the process works.”
Sikura, a Chicago draft pick, and Gaudette, a Vancouver prospect, certainly could have signed NHL contracts last offseason. Both were top 10 scorers in the country and the majority of those players signed. Stevens also could have signed with St. Louis, but an injury-shortened junior year made his return to campus a bit less surprising.
Each returned to campus knowing, as Sullivan pointed out to their coach, that they could be rewarded for their patience. They’d seen significant development at the NCAA level already and knew they had further room to grow.
“Could [Gaudette] have come out this year and competed and done well? Yes,” said Ryan Johnson, Canucks director of player development, last summer. “But his intention is to put on some more weight and get stronger and he doesn’t want to come out and just survive or compete, he wants to come out and hit the ground running.”
Likewise, Sikura sees the value of continuing his development now, at 22, much like older brother Tyler did for four years at Dartmouth.
"A guy like me,’’ Sikura told the Chicago Sun-Times last summer, ‘‘kind of a late bloomer, a smaller guy, if I went the [junior] route, I would have been two years pro by now. The fact that I can still go back to school and kind of fit into my own body and get ready for the pro level definitely helps a lot.”
All three players have 20-goal seasons to their credit at Northeastern (and each could hit that mark this year; Gaudette already has). Madigan has his three big guns playing together on one line and it’s a nearly unstoppable force.
Gaudette and Sikura have played together the past two years, while Stevens – the son of Los Angeles Kings coach John Stevens – skated with his brother, John, and Zach Aston-Reese. He has fit right in as a power forward presence alongside the creative Gaudette and Sikura.
“We are really comfortable together and really confident,” Gaudette said. “It’s really fun out there. We know we’re the best line on the ice and we’re going to battle the hardest.”
The three players’ patience has already been rewarded with their development at Northeastern. Monday they’ll see if it also allows them to bring the long-awaited Beanpot back to Matthews Arena.