BOSTON — Nathan Krusko didn’t grow up with dreams of skating around the Boston Garden with the Beanpot trophy.
As a kid in Alpharetta, Georgia, he didn’t know much about the tournament at all.
When he arrived at Harvard as a freshman last fall, though, he could tell what it would mean to current and former Crimson players — and perhaps most of all, his coach — to claim the college hockey bragging rights of Boston after a two-decade drought.
"I know how much it means to my teammates. To me that’s even more important," Krusko said after scoring twice to help Harvard beat Boston University 6-4 in the championship game on Monday night and earn its first Beanpot title since 1993.
"Even me, from Georgia … it doesn’t mean that it wasn’t important," he said. "It’s almost easier to get the wheels going, when you’re working for the guys next to you."
Krusko scored his second goal of the game to break a second-period tie, Merrick Madsen made 14 saves and Harvard won the first Beanpot title for coach Ted Donato and the first for the school since the tournament was played at the original Boston Garden.
"It’s been a long time coming," said Donato, who played for Harvard’s 1989 Beanpot and NCAA championship team and had moved on to the NHL’s Boston Bruins when the Crimson last skated around the ice — in the old building, next door — with the Beanpot trophy.
Earlier Monday, Northeastern beat defending champion Boston College 4-2 to finish third in the tournament, which pits the region’s four college hockey powers against each other on the first two Mondays in February.
It was the Eagles’ first fourth-place finish since ’93. BC and Boston University, which last won in 2015, had combined to win every Beanpot since 1993.
While BU has won the most — 30 times in 65 years, finishing second another 22 times — Harvard had not even reached the title game since 2008.
"This is a group that has really tackled making sure that our culture was right, had great leadership," Donato said. "I think this was something they really wanted. They wanted to leave that legacy, that they were going to break the curse, so to speak. I’m happy for them."
Luke Esposito, Ryan Donato and Alexander Kerfoot also scored for Harvard, and Adam Fox clinched it with a length-of-the-ice empty-netter to make it 6-3 with 1:50 to play.
Jake Oettinger stopped 40 shots for the Terriers and was named the tournament’s top goaltender.
Krusko scored the only goal in the first, but Kiefer Bellows and Clayton Keller scored 2:53 apart early in the second period to give the Terriers a 2-1 lead. Esposito — the nephew of hockey hall of famer Mark Messier, who was in the crowd — tipped in a slap shot from Clay Anderson to tie it midway through the second.
With 66 seconds left in the period, Krusko made it 3-2. Kerfoot made it 4-2 with Harvard holding a 5-on-3 advantage to start the third, and then Ryan Donato took it over the blue line, outside the faceoff circle and back in front to give the Crimson a three-goal lead with 7:13 remaining.
Just 33 seconds later, Keller scored his second of the game to bring BU within two.
But with the BU goalie out for an extra attacker at the 2:30 mark, Madsen dove forward for a glove save to force a faceoff in the Harvard end. The Crimson won the draw, and as Fox fell to the ice at his own goal line, he sent the puck toward the empty Terrier net.
As it rolled just inside the left post, the Harvard players began to celebrate a feat that hadn’t been accomplished since before all but one of them was born.
"I grew up in Boston. I’ve played a million street hockey games being one of these teams," said Donato, who took over as Harvard’s coach in 2004. "I didn’t think it was going to take 13 years, I’ll tell you that much."