By Matt Neiser
BOSTON — Coming off a hard-fought weekend sweep of UMass Lowell, No. 10 Northeastern hoped to carry their momentum against another top Hockey East team Thursday night at Matthews Arena. This time it was the No. 5/6 Boston College Eagles, holders of the top spot in the conference.
Despite encouraging play in the first and third periods, a rough second frame doomed the Huskies as they dropped the game — and crucial points in the Hockey East playoff race — by a 3–2 score.
“I thought Boston College was a better team than us tonight,” said Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan after the game. “They’re a very well-balanced team with a great goaltender . . . If we’re gonna get wins against very good teams like them, we’re gonna need a much better effort for a full 60 minutes. Disappointing to have that inconsistent effort.”
Unlike some of their recent games, the Huskies (17–9–3, 10–8–1 HEA) got off to a great start. They established the forecheck early, which led directly to their first goal. Julian Kislin held up the puck as the Eagles (20–8–1, 13–6–0 HEA) tried to clear the zone, shuffling the puck to Riley Hughes. The freshman threw the puck into empty space in the Boston College zone, allowing Matt Filipe to run onto it. Filipe, fresh back from an injury that held him out for four games, picked up the puck and wrapped around the opposing net, playing a shot in front that appeared to bounce off a skate and into the net.
Despite Northeastern being arguably the better team for most of the frame, the Eagles struck back late in the period when Julius Mattila fired home a shot after a slick drop pass from David Cotton to open him up. The goal allowed Boston College to enter the break none worse for wear after a lackluster first period.
It also served as a springboard for the Eagles, who thoroughly dominated the Huskies for much of the second frame. After peppering Northeastern netminder Craig Pantano with countless shots, one finally leaked through at the 10:45 mark of the period. After making the initial save on Alex Newhook’s redirect from the slot, Pantano couldn’t scramble back into position to stop Marshall Warren’s follow-up.
Mattila added his second of the night on a two-on-one breakaway six minutes later to make it 3–1.
Northeastern turned the intensity back up in the third period, competing at a much higher level. Just under seven minutes in, their hard work paid off when Biagio Lerario got the tip of his stick on a Jordan Harris shot from the slot. The tip did just enough to throw off Eagles goaltender Spencer Knight, who slowed the puck down under his pad but couldn’t fully stop it.
Madigan praised his team’s third-period turnaround, saying, “I thought our compete level was better; I thought we had a good first period as well. We had our backs against the wall and we had to respond, but we just didn’t respond enough.”
The Huskies continued their push for an equalizer and generated some quality opportunities, but the final product just wasn’t there as they failed to net a third tally and succumbed to the Eagles. Madigan emphasized that despite midseason trophies like the Belpot and Beanpot, the team has much bigger goals this year.
“I’m hoping it’s a wakeup call for our guys. We need to play better or else we won’t get the result we need tomorrow night,” Madigan said. “We’re in a playoff hunt, you know? We haven’t won anything yet. Our goals are measured by what we do at the end of the season. I think they need to understand in our locker room that we haven’t won anything yet. Some of these guys might have won something in the past couple years, but this team hasn’t won anything yet.”
These two teams will face off again on Friday night, this time in Chestnut Hill. Christian Skroce and Matt Neiser will be on the call, with pregame coverage starting at 6:45 PM EST.