#1 Eagles Make Their Nest in Matthews

Story by Rae Deer and Milton Posner

Photos by Sarah Olender

BOSTON — It was hard to know whether Tuesday night’s Northeastern–Boston College men’s hockey matchup was an attempt to recreate the Beanpot — which begins in the first week of February in non-pandemic years — or merely a resumption of the schedule Northeastern would have played had a positive COVID test not robbed them of two weeks’ worth of games.

Either way, the Huskies hung tough with the newly minted top team in the nation for about half the game, but ultimately fell, 6–2. The fifth-place Huskies dropped to 6–4–2, while the second-place Eagles rose to 10–2–1.

Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan remarked on Monday that he wasn’t sure how much energy and stamina his team would have. After all, COVID testing protocol meant that players were rejoining the team one by one, with some only being cleared on Sunday. Nonetheless, the Huskies began the game with plenty of energy and aggression, with Zach Solow in particular proving impactful on breakouts. This energy gave them a chance when BC’s Patrick Giles went to the box for boarding, and Riley Hughes tipped in a Dylan Jackson rocket from the point.

“I thought at times we had good energy,” Madigan said. “I thought our guys who logged a lot of minutes  — like [Jordan] Harris and Solow — had good legs.”

But the 20 days between games did leave the Huskies’ conditioning short of ideal. Madigan confirmed that goaltender Connor Murphy and forward Grant Jozefek exited the game due to cramps and dehydration. Both are likely to play on Friday. In addition, defenseman Jayden Struble exited with a lower-body injury; his status for Friday is uncertain.

For the first 10 minutes, Northeastern’s energy made up for some discombobulated breakouts, which the Eagles’ size, strength, and speed made exceedingly tricky. But after an entry from the blue line ricocheted off Murphy’s pad, Nikita Nesterenko buried the rebound to even the score.

Less than a minute later, the Eagles caught the Huskies in the middle of a line change. A quick-hit stretch pass from Eamon Powell to Giles was all it took to post another tally.

Going into the second, the Huskies seemed to have solved the breakout issue. They skated with vigor, aggression, and precision, and were finally working in sync. The offense generated chances and put pressure on the Eagles’ blue line. These chances paid off when Mike Kesselring glided unimpeded to Spencer Knight’s doorstep to tie the game at two.

Kesselring, who was bumped off the first line earlier in the season for performance reasons, had notched his first goal of the year and justified Madigan restoring him to the top line. However, BC captain Marc McLaughlin could not let the score go unanswered, scoring his team-leading eighth goal of the year a mere 40 seconds later. 

“We worked hard to get it to 2–2 there in the second and then we gave a goal right back at them, we gave it to them within 40 seconds.” Madigan stated. “For me, that was a turning point and then they got the next goal.”

Marshall Warren’s goal seemed to be the point of no return, as the Husky offense seemed to lose its spark. For the rest of the period, even when Northeastern went on the man advantage, their best outcomes were a flurry of strikes in Knight’s general direction, only a few of which necessitated a save. BC, meanwhile, seemed entirely in control, as only a spectacular Murphy save prevented Matt Boldy from slotting home a breakaway.

The period also marked an escalation of the tensions that had pervaded the game until that point.

“It was a good, physical game,” BC head coach Jerry York remarked. “The refs reffed the type of game that both clubs like. There were no ticky-tack penalties.”

However, the small displays of aggression came to a head with the first of a few scuffles throughout the night. Knight made a save off of a Julian Kislin wrister, then Jozefek and BC’s Jack McBain kicked off with some pushing and shoving in front of the goal. It only amplified when Nesterenko inserted himself into the mix to defend his linemate, resulting in roughing penalties for the trio.

The aggression and skirmishes continued in the third, particularly when a frustrated Solow was whistled for an obvious hooking. Tempers were still running high as the teams departed the ice post-game, with Eagles players waving a still-barking Solow off the ice.

The third period featured two more BC goals, most notably the first collegiate goal for senior defender Michael Karow, who was playing his 120th BC game. The jubilant leaping and piling-on of his linemates, as well as the eruption from the bench, said everything.

Both goals were ceded by Curtis Frye, who took over for Murphy a few minutes into the third. It was Frye’s second appearance in three-and-a-half years with the Huskies; in both, he was inserted in the third period to halt a BC team that had Northeastern on the ropes. With the Huskies struggling to match BC’s aggression, passing precision, shot volume, and overall cohesion, the 6–2 lead was too much to overcome.

The Huskies next play Friday at 6 PM against Connecticut. WRBB will call that game, with coverage beginning a few minutes before puck drop.

Northeastern Tops BU, Clinches Playoff Spot

By Christian Skroce

BOSTON — It was do or die time for Northeastern as they took a five-game losing streak into their regular season finale against Boston University. And to no one’s surprise, things were tense (and a little weird) from the very beginning.

The Huskies began the game on the penalty kill after backup goalie Curtis Frye was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Frye lifted a cross-ice shot during warmups that struck a BU player, which caused the referees to review the “play” just before puck drop. Because of the penalty call, senior forward Grant Jozefek spent the first two minutes on the sin bin while BU started the game on the power play. Despite a less than ideal start, the Huskies responded well in the first period and easily killed off the penalty.

Northeastern responded in a big way just six minutes after the penalty kill, as a well-constructed power play goal gave them the early lead. The Huskies combined excellent puck movement with great positioning as Aidan McDonough finished off a pass from Grant Jozefek. Northeastern controlled play for the rest of the period and headed into the first intermission with a one-goal advantage.

Despite some nice Northeastern chances throughout the second period, BU controlled the majority of play. The best chance for Northeastern came about 15 minutes into the period, as Matt Filipe nearly found fellow forward Neil Shea on a breakaway, though the pass trickled just wide of Shea’s stick.

The Huskies held their lead after two periods despite a late-period scare. With just 20 seconds left in the frame, BU forward Trevor Zegras sent a long-range shot on Pantano, who had difficulty holding onto the puck. With both teams fighting for the puck to the immediate right of Pantano, BU defenseman Cam Crotty eventually redirected the puck into the net. However, it was determined after a lengthy review that Crotty interfered with Pantano, causing the goal to be waved off and allowing NU to escape the second frame with the 1–0 lead.

After an admittedly sluggish second period, the Huskies found their grove once again just 43 seconds into the third frame, as Matt Filipe finished a rebound off a long-range drive from defenseman Ryan Shea.

The Huskies’ momentum was short-lived, however. BU responded with their own goal just three minutes later when senior forward Patrick Harper sent in a bullet from the near face-off dot. Despite the goal light going off, play continued for the next two minutes with the referees saying the shot had not gone in. A review of the play determined what everyone already knew — the Husky lead was down to one.

With their season on the line, Northeastern did what they do best: block shots and clog shooting lanes. Despite some nice chances for BU, the Huskies maintained their lead for the rest of regulation. Northeastern combined impressive defense with timely offense, as the Huskies enjoyed several stretches of offensive zone time to further drain the clock.

BU would not go quietly, however, as with just 1:44 left Northeastern was called for a tripping penalty, giving BU a man advantage for the rest of regulation. The Terriers turned it into a two-man advantage, playing the entire power play with goalie Sam Tucker on the bench. Despite the six-on-four Terrier advantage, Northeastern held its own defensively, as BU would have virtually no chances on the power play. Matt Filipe cleared the puck for the final time as the Husky bench celebrated the breaking of a five-game losing skid with an intense 2–1 victory over their crosstown rivals.

“I thought our kids played a gutty, tough, and determined game,” coach Jim Madigan said. “We wanted to make sure that we earned our way into the playoffs and just not backed into it and tonight’s win was that.”

Captain Ryan Shea echoed his coach’s thoughts, saying, “We didn’t want to leave it up to chance. We didn’t want to risk our season and watch them [UNH] at 7 o’clock . . . We just wanted to get the job done ourselves.”

“This is a building we haven’t had much success in over the years,” Madigan said of Agganis Arena. The Huskies avenged their 6–3 defeat at Agganis earlier this year while playing in front of one of the Terriers’ largest crowds this season.

On Pantano’s performance, Madigan explained, “I thought he was really dialed in today. He was tracking pucks well and getting the puck out of the crease. I also thought our guys defended well, getting in front of shots and limiting BU’s opportunities.” Madigan said the team understood how dominant Boston University can be offensively, noting “With these guys [Patrick Harper, Trevor Zegras, Patrick Curry] you can just try to contain them and hope that they don’t get the opportunities where they can get going.”

The win places Northeastern (18–13–3, 11–12–1 HEA) in seventh place in Hockey East to finish the regular season and gives them a spot in the Hockey East Tournament. Northeastern will have a quarterfinals series away at UMASS Amherst next weekend, with the game times still to be announced. The Huskies are 1–2 against the Minutemen this season, with both losses coming on the road. Northeastern will have its work cut out for them if they are going to truly turn their season around, though this win gives them the confidence boost they will need to have any chance.