BOSTON – The Northeastern Huskies got off to a roaring start in the first period, but it was downhill from there as the Boston University Terriers turned on cruise control en route to a 5-2 victory on Friday evening at Agganis Arena, ending a four-game losing streak on home-ice.
“I did not like the way my team practiced this week,” said BU head coach Jack Parker in a somewhat surprised press conference room. “And I did not like the way my team played tonight. The puck jumped into the net for us tonight, but I thought Northeastern had much better opportunities and played harder and smarter than us for the most part.”
“Was there any good? Yes, we got two points. That was a good thing. We won a game at home! Take a picture of [the box score]!”
With the loss and Massachusetts’ home victory over Merrimack, the Huskies were eliminated from Hockey East playoff contention and will finish the season ninth in the conference standings. BU has now won three of its last four meetings against Northeastern, dating back to last season.
The Huskies wasted no time getting on the scoreboard with the first period’s only goal just 38 seconds into the proceedings as junior Garrett Vermeersch scored his third in five games and his ninth of the season.
“I thought we played a good first period,” said NU head coach Jim Madigan after his team’s playoff run came to an early end with the loss. “We came out, scored, and got a couple of chances and could not capitalize.”
He corralled the puck off a face-off in the defensive zone, sprung down the right wing and beat BU senior Kieran Millan low on the stick side for the 1-0 lead.
The rest of the period was not without action though as both sides had some strong chances on net. BU finished the period with a 23-19 edge in total chances, including 12-7 in shots on goal.
With 7:03 left in the stanza, BU sophomore Patrick MacGregor’s hit on Northeastern junior Vinny Saponari completely shattered a pane of glass along NU’s left wing to cause a ten-minute repair delay. Neither team was able to pot any goals to close the period.
BU tied the game on the power play at the 5:30 mark and then took the lead just 19 seconds later on an even-strength tally.
Sophomore Matt Nieto got credit with the first goal as junior Alex Chiasson centered the puck off the corner boards, finding a Northeastern stick around the crease and deflecting past Huskies netminder Chris Rawlings.
Junior Wade Megan beat Rawlings over the high blocker from the left circle for BU’s second goal, giving the Terriers their first lead of the contest.
At 8:32, sophomore Garrett Noonan capped off a 3-on-1 shorthanded rush with a straight-on shot to make it 3-1. Junior Ryan Santana deflected classmate Ross Gaudet’s shot low past Rawlings at the 17:16 mark, making the score 4-1.
After out-shooting the Terriers by a 10-8 count in the middle period, sophomore Clay Witt made his second relief appearance in as many games as he took over for Rawlings after making 16 saves in the first two stanzas.
“In a short span, you kind of saw our season,” Madigan said. “We came a little bit unglued, gave up a shorthanded goal, and could not get the power play going. All in those first ten minutes, they came at us and we did not respond. At that point, we tried to weather the storm.”
The Huskies made things interesting at the 7:22 mark of the third as freshman Ludwig Karlsson scored on the power play, beating Millan with a high wrist shot off a pass from sophomore Anthony Bitetto.
Despite a 10-7 Huskies advantage in shots on goal for the period and a 27-27 margin in the end, the two-goal output was not enough to secure the win. The Huskies are now 2-5-2 since the Beanpot semifinals to open the month of February.
Witt finished the third period with six saves and did not allow a goal in his 15:53 of time.
BU received some spectacular goaltending from senior Kieran Millan as he made 25 saves, including ten in the second period, for his 18th victory of the season.
“I look at the three stars,” Parker said. “Who was watching this game? The reason why we won that game was because our goalie played unbelievable. Kieran Millan was terrific tonight. Certainly, those guys played well and got some goals, but he was terrific.”
“I was really disappointed in how the game unfolded. I thought after the first period, we got it going goal-wise but even in the second period, we got the goals but we did not play well…We are not going anywhere if we play like we did tonight. Northeastern, in my opinion, got the short end of the stick tonight because our goalie played great and the puck was bouncing in.”
With little to play for in Saturday’s series finale, the Huskies look to close the season on high note with one final home contest against the Terriers. BU earned a road win on Jan. 13 at Matthews Arena, so Northeastern will also look to salvage a win in the season series.
“You play for pride,” Madigan concluded. “You go out there and you play every night. There is a reason why they keep a scoreboard, because the game counts. The players play, the coaches coach. Our playoff run is over, but you go out there and just play. If you have pride in the jersey and pride in yourself, you play to win the game.”