Men’s Hockey drops a pair to Boston College in first weekend of league play

BOSTON – The Northeastern Huskies dropped a pair of hard-fought battles to the Boston College Eagles this weekend, losing 4-2 on Friday at Chestnut Hill and 4-3 in overtime at Matthews Arena on Saturday. The Huskies have lost three in a row since their 5-0 start to the season, and now sit at 0-2 in Hockey East play.

On Friday, Northeastern jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead. Sophomore Ryan Belonger got his shot past Eagles freshman goaltender Thatcher Demko for his third goal of the season, around twelve minutes into the first period. This matched Belonger’s previous season total. It didn’t hold for long, though, as the Eagles answered with 31 seconds left in the period. On its third power play of the period, Boston College tied the game at 1 with a score from senior Kevin Hayes. In the second period, each team had multiple power play opportunities. However, some sloppy play on Northeastern’s power play led to the only goal of the period – a short-handed, breakaway score for the Eagles’ Johnny Gaudreau. Just one minute into the third period, Bruins draft pick and freshman Ryan Fitzgerald extended the BC lead to 3-1, burying his second goal of the season. Northeastern would fight back, as a shot from the point by Colton Saucerman was tipped in by Mike Szmatula. With the score 3-2, the Huskies fought desperately to find the equalizer. The Eagles weathered the storm, though, and put away their eventual 4-2 victory with an empty net goal with thirteen seconds to go.

On Saturday, the Huskies found another quick lead. Despite being outplayed by BC early on, Northeastern took a 1-0 lead as a backhanded pass from Jake Schechter glanced off Torin Snydeman and past Eagles senior goaltender Brian Billett. Ryan Fitzgerald tied the score three minutes later, scoring his second of the weekend for Boston College. The second period was a scoreless, back and forth affair. It wasn’t until about two and a half minutes into the third period that Northeastern broke through. Kevin Roy made a terrific play to create a turnover in front of the Eagles’ net and quickly found Mike Szmatula who put it away to give the Huskies a 2-1 lead. About four minutes later, Colton Saucerman extended the Huskies’ lead to 3-1 with a shot from the point that deflected into the net. The Eagles fought back, though. Another short-handed goal for Boston College, courtesy of senior captain Patrick Brown, brought the Eagles back within one and Johnny Gaudreau tied the score with a nifty wraparound fake that caught Clay Witt off guard, with space between himself and the post. Gaudreau banked it off Witt’s skate, and into the net. The game would head to overtime, where BC proved too much for the Huskies. A rebound of a Patrick Brown shot found a wide open Adam Gilmour (freshman) who buried the game-winner, his first goal of his career. Boston College walked away with a 4-3 OT win, a weekend sweep, and four big points.

Northeastern’s biggest weakness coming into this weekend was their lack of discipline on the ice. They led Hockey East in penalty minutes, averaging over 25 a game. The Huskies did an admirable job reining those in this weekend, taking just nine penalties over both games. Unfortunately, they instead saw their power play struggle against a talented Boston College penalty kill. The Husky power play scored just once on eleven opportunities this weekend. Two of those opportunities saw shorthanded goals for Boston College. Needless to say, trouble will come from being outscored on your own power play.

Even when five-on-five, though, Northeastern struggled to limit the odd-man rushes for the Eagles. The Huskies repeatedly asked for trouble here, but Clay Witt bailed out Northeastern time and again in net. Witt saved 29 of 32 shots on Friday and 36 of 40 on Saturday. While the third goal for the Eagles on Saturday came as a result of not sealing off the post quick enough, Witt was otherwise outstanding, saving Northeastern with huge save after huge save. He was the key reason that the Huskies were in both of these contests down to the wire.

Northeastern will travel to UMass-Lowell next Saturday to continue Hockey East play. Lowell has won four in a row, after sweeping a home-and-home against New Hampshire this weekend. Puck drop is at 7:00 PM.