CHESTNUT HILL, MA — In the final game of a 2020–21 season that presented its fair share of challenges, the No. 18 Northeastern Huskies (9–8–3) fell to the No 2. Boston College Eagles (16–4–1) by a score of 4–2.
After a rare loss the week before, BC clinched the top spot in Hockey East. The Huskies ended the regular season on a low note, but likely will finish in sixth place and earn a first-round bye in the conference tournament.
This game started at full tilt and didn’t slow down until the final horn. The first period was fast and physical, with both teams creating scoring opportunities, working well in their offensive zone, creating rushes, and making life difficult for the opposing goalie. BC forward Trevor Kuntar opened the scoring seven minutes in with a strike past Husky netminder Connor Murphy after some wicked stickhandling off an odd-man rush.
It was the only goal in the period despite 31 total shots, of which Northeastern had 17. Star BC netminder Spencer Knight put on a clinic in the first and turned them all away. It was clear that the Huskies modified their game plan for BC, as their first-period shot count was higher than the total number of shots from two of their past four games.
“We wanted to get a lot of shots,” Northeastern coach Jim Madigan said post-game. “We want to get some traffic in front of them and . . . spend more time in the offensive zone down below the dots.”
Both teams kept up the intensity in the second period. BC showed off their incredible penalty kill throughout the period, killing off three Northeastern power plays and scoring a short-handed goal courtesy of Matt Boldy.
The Huskies turned the puck over in their defensive zone often. Connor Murphy bailed out his defense with some amazing saves, including an incredible effort to stop a wraparound chance later in the second.
Down 2–0, Northeastern responded better than they had all season. Freshman Dylan Jackson put the Huskies on the board, showing off some impressive hand-eye coordination batting the puck out of the air and into the net. The goal proved that Spencer Knight wasn’t infallible.
“[It was huge] to get one in on Knight,” Madigan remarked. “There was some good momentum into the first two periods of playing on the offense zone.”
With just under five minutes remaining in the second, Northeastern captain Zach Solow received the puck from Aidan McDonough and rifled it five-hole past Knight. The fire was clear in Solow after the goal as he let out a celebratory yell while being mobbed by his teammates.
Northeastern had a number of missed scoring chances after tying the game, but nonetheless entered the third with momentum on their side.
“Yeah, I know, for two periods, I thought we played well,” Madigan said.
But BC showed everyone they were going to own the period less than two minutes in when winger Casey Carreau put the puck in off the rebound.
A one-goal deficit didn’t seem insurmountable at the time, but as the period went on it was painfully obvious that Northeastern just couldn’t keep up.
“You don’t wanna be playing from behind [against] this team,” Madigan remarked. “They’re quick on transition, and they’re very offensively gifted, and they’ve got the goaltender factor. They were really good.”
BC controlled the entire third, outshooting NU 22–7 and keeping the puck away from Northeastern attackers. Even when Northeastern managed a rush, BC quickly cleared the puck and set up their own rush. It was like watching a completely different game.
Matt Boldy increased BC’s lead with about seven minutes left in regulation, rocketing the puck past Murphy with a back-foot one-timer from the slot. His second goal of the game secured the Eagles’ victory.
“We showed good effort in the third period, but they were too much for us,” Madigan said ruefully. “We just couldn’t match that intensity in the third period.”
The game ended with little excitement. Northeastern pulled Murphy for an extra attacker but couldn’t muster any offensive pressure. Northeastern matched BC for 40 strong minutes, but the last 20 showed why BC is among the top teams in the nation and that Northeastern has some serious work to do heading into the playoffs.
“And in the [third] period, you know, they came at it, and we just didn’t match the same intensity,” Madigan said.