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John Connolly | The Boston Herald | February 1, 2015

Benning, Northeastern look to snap Beanpot losing streak

  Matt Benning and Northeastern play five-time defending Beanpot champion Boston College on Monday.

Since capturing the fourth and last of its Beanpot crowns back in 1988, Northeastern has endured 27 'Pot-less winters.

Sophomore defenseman Matt Benning would like to halt that long hex.

"It would be huge to win it. ... The guys on the team want to win it just as bad as the fans," Benning said, whose Huskies play five-time defending champion and Hockey East rival Boston College in the first round on Monday night. "We believe in the locker room that we have a good enough team to win it. But all the teams are skilled and well-coached that play in it."

Growing up in Edmonton, as the son and nephew of ex-NHL players, Benning wasn't aware of the Beantown winter classic.

"The first time I think I actually heard about the Beanpot, I was playing in the USHL and one of my teammates there was committed to come here, John Stevens. So, it kind of led me to it," he said. "After I committed to NU, I watched Northeastern in the Beanpot, the year before I came as a freshman, on my recruiting visit. It was a pretty exciting game and I saw how big it was. I had wanted to be in a place where I knew I could play and education was a huge part of it."

NU coach Jim Madigan said Benning's upside as a player begins from the shoulders up.

"Matt is a real cerebral, puck-moving defenseman. There is a quiet toughness to him," Madigan said. "People look at him and see the type of player he is and I think they underestimate how tough he is, whether it's giving or taking it. He's a rock back there for us. We have him playing 25-28 minutes a game. We're using him 5-on-5, we play him on the penalty-kill, and the power play. ... For me, he's as good an all-around defenseman as there is in the league."

The Boston Bruins also liked what they saw in Benning and selected him in the sixth round (175th overall) of the 2012 NHL draft.

— Jim Madigan
"Well, from our perspective, from the time when we drafted him until now, has been quite a transformation," said Bruins assistant general manager Don Sweeney, a Harvard teammate of Benning's uncle, Mark. "His ability to start the transition coming out of the zone is a real strength as is the ability to make that pass through the first level. The days of Scott Niedermayer and Paul Coffey carrying the puck through the neutral zone are over. It's always clogged up. So, you have to be able to make that first pass and that's what we want in an NHL player."

Benning's hockey pedigree is distinguished, to say the least. His grandfather, Elmer Benning, is a longtime NHL scout with the Montreal Canadiens. Matt's dad, Brian, played more than 500 NHL games spread among five different clubs. Uncle Jim skated for the Toronto Maple Leafs and, after leaving the Bruins front office, is now the general manager of the Vancouver Canucks. Mark Benning was an All-America defenseman at Harvard.

Elmer Benning had his sons learn to figure skate at first, the better to hold the edges on the ice. Matt Benning did that for four years and believes it has helped him get to the level where a school like Northeastern would recruit him. He also credits the family's collective hockey experience for leading him to take the college route.

"I definitely think my dad's experience in the NHL helped me, just like my uncle, Jim. We sat and talked and weighed what was the better fit for me," he said. "I think that if I didn't have my Uncle Mark and my grandfather I probably wouldn't have gone this way. They brought a lot of knowledge to the table".

This article was written by John Connolly from Boston Herald and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


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