Saponari, Huskies Prevail in Season Finale

BOSTON – Following Friday’s 5-2 loss to No. 4 Boston University at Agganis Arena, Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan said his team needed to play with “pride” in the series finale on Saturday night at Matthews Arena and is was clear that the troops surely listened to that comment.

Despite having its playoff hopes dashed with the loss, NU showed no quit as it posted a 5-4 victory for its second overtime victory of the season which salvaged the season series finale from the Terriers after two losses, including one at home in January.

“I was really pleased with how my guys battled and competed,” said Madigan. “It is a tough game to play, even though our season is over for a playoff spot…”

“The guys came in and battled because it meant something to them…The game was up-and-down. There were a lot of penalties, they came back and I just liked our resiliency and our determination.”

At 2:35 of the overtime, junior Justin Daniels fed Vinny Saponari with a drop pass to set him up for a backhand shot that clinched the season finale for the Huskies.

“It’s always fun playing BU, especially for me,” Saponari, a BU junior transfer student. “A lot of good friends out there. [BU senior goaltender] Grant Rollheiser was one of my roommates, so it was pretty fun to score a goal against him…It feels good because we wanted to go out with a win.”

The Huskies jumped on top at the 6:15 mark of the first period as sophomore Braden Pimm re-directed classmate Anthony Bitetto’s shot low past Rollheiser.

At the 18:39 mark of the stanza, the Terriers tied the score when junior Sean Escobedo fired a high wrist shot over the left shoulder of NU sophomore Clay Witt. The New York native took a pass from captain Chris Connolly and slipped the puck into the back of the net as Witt hugged against the left post to no avail.

The Terriers out-shot the Huskies by a 14-10 margin in the opening stanza and it seemed as if the teams saved all the offense for the second period, which saw four goals combined for the teams.

BU took a 2-1 lead just 25 seconds into the middle stanza as Connolly re-directed a point shot from sophomore Adam Clendening. Northeastern responded right back at 2:16 as junior Alex Tuckerman picked the puck off the draw and beat Rollheiser high glove-side to make it a 2-2 tie game.

At 3:43, junior Drew Ellement trickled a low shot through traffic and past Rollheiser as he took advantage of junior Steve Quailer’s forced turnover on the left wing boards.

The Terriers tied the score with a power-play goal at the 6:02 mark as sophomore Garrett Noonan slid the puck past a trailing Witt to conclude a great puck-moving sequence that started at the points before sliding down low.

Northeastern took the lead back with a power-play goal at 18:06 as junior Drew Daniels slid the puck to classmate Garrett Vermeersch for a high wrister from between the circles.

The only goal of the third period came at 3:14 as Noonan spun off a defenseman and beat Witt on a low shot through traffic to tie the score at 4-4.

The Huskies rallied around the solid performance of Witt, who made 36 saves to earn his only win of the season in the end. The Brandon, Fla. native made 13 stops each in the first two periods. Rollheiser finished the contest with 33 saves, including 14 in the second period.

Overall, the Terriers handily out-chanced Northeastern, 78-57 in the contest, which included a 40-38 shots on goal advantage.

“I thought we had some chances to win the game,” said BU head coach Jack Parker said. “We had more than enough chances to control the course of this game and we let them back in it too many times. I don’t think we were as thorough as we needed to be for the second night in a row.”

“I give Northeastern an awful lot of credit…They are out of the playoffs, their season is over and they just kept battling right to the end.”

BU will return to the ice next Friday night at Agganis Arena as it takes on sixth-seeded New Hampshire in the opening game of the Hockey East quarterfinals. The Terriers swept the Wildcats 3-0 in the regular-season series.

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