No. 18 Huskies Fall to No. 2 Eagles in Regular Season Capper

By Khalin Kapoor

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.

#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.

2020–21 Men’s Hockey East Preview: Boston College Eagles

Last season: 24-8-2 (17–6–1, first in Hockey East)

Head coach: Jerry York (27th season)

Preseason poll projected finish: First

Departures: D Ben Finkelstein, D Connor Moore, F David Cotton, F Julius Mattila, F Aapeli Räsänen, F Graham McPhee, F Ron Greco, D Luke McInnis, D Jesper Mattila, F Zach Walker, F Mike Merrulla, G Ryan Edquist

Additions: D Stephen Davis, D Tim Lovell, D Eamon Powell, D Jack Agnew, F Nikita Nesterenko, F Gentry Shamburger, F Trevor Kuntar, F Danny Weight, F Harrison Roy, F Colby Ambrosio, G Henry Wilder

By Mike Puzzanghera

Jerry York’s Eagles really flipped things around after a string of disappointing seasons.

Last year, they were one of the top teams in the country. BC ended last year ranked fourth nationally, easily winning the Hockey East regular season title.

This year, they received eight of 11 first place votes in the Hockey East preseason poll. Spencer Knight is one of the best goaltenders in the country — the Panthers prospect was a Richter Award finalist and finished with a .931 save percentage as a freshman. And wasn’t even the Eagles’ only first-year star last year. 

Alex Newhook led the team with 19 goals and 23 assists and was named NCAA Rookie of the Year. A first-round pick of the Avalanche, Newhook led all freshmen in goals and was third in the country in plus/minus (+28).

Matt Boldy finished the year strong, ending with nine goals and 17 assists. Nineteen of his 26 points came in 24 games of Hockey East play.

BC seemed poised to make a deep run in the Hockey East and NCAA Tournaments. After a run of underwhelming seasons, the loss of a realistic shot at a national title couldn’t have been easy to swallow. Luckily for the Eagles, a good chunk of that core returns this year, making them a clear top-five team in the country.

They lose a few excellent players — David Cotton and Julius Mattila are tough for any team to replace, and Ben Finkelstein was a solid defenseman throughout his time in Hockey East. Aapeli Räsänen chose to forego his senior season, opting to go pro in his home country of Finland, which hurts the forward group even more. But they do bring in three draftees from their freshman class. Trevor Kuntar went 89th to the Bruins, and Eamon Powell and Colby Ambrosio both went in the fourth round, at 116 and 118 respectively.

Kuntar, a six-foot left-shot forward, logged 28 goals and 23 points for Youngstown in the USHL last year. He changed his commitment from Harvard after their hockey season was cancelled due to COVID-19, giving the Eagles a huge boost to their recruiting class and to their top lines. Ambrosio is a bit small — 5’9”, 165 lbs — but he managed 26 goals and 24 assists for Tri-City in the USHL.

Powell has valuable Team USA U-18 experience, making him a huge get for the Eagles’ blue line. They’ll look to him to help fill the hole Finkelstein leaves on defense and to bolster the corps playing in front of Knight.

Bottom Line: The Eagles have one of the top goaltenders in the country, young prolific scorers who are still developing, and another solid recruiting class. Newhook is a legitimate star and gives the Eagles a great top-line scoring threat. They’re the clear preseason favorite to win Hockey East, and they look ready to make a fierce run at a national title.

Men’s Hockey Suffers Worst Loss in 27 Years

By Christian Skroce

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — It was one of the worst performances in recent memory.

After a hard-fought Thursday game between the Northeastern Huskies and the Boston College Eagles ended in a 3–2 BC victory, tonight’s matchup saw the Eagles demolish the Huskies 10–1, the worst margin of loss for Northeastern since a nine-goal loss to Maine . . . on December 5, 1992.

Northeastern grabbed some early momentum, beginning the contest with two early power plays. But despite some nice movement and a few chances, the momentum faded and the Huskies had nothing to show for the man advantages.

Grant McPhee got the scoring going for Boston College after finishing off a centering feed from teammate Marc McLaughlin. When Husky goalie Craig Pantano lost his stick behind the net, his defense momentarily fell asleep, leaving McPhee wide open in front of the net.

BC had a clear strategy to begin the game, as almost every offensive possession started with a centering feed from behind the Northeastern net. Despite the offensive onslaught, the Huskies found themselves down by only one heading into the first break.

And then BC decided to stop messing around.

Northeastern’s defensive luck ran out quickly in the second frame, as BC doubled their lead just one minute into the period off a breakaway goal by Alex Newhook. The NU defense seemingly lost the freshman first-round pick, who found himself one-on-one with Pantano off of a great pass from teammate David Cotton.

The defensive lapses continued for Northeastern as Marc McLaughlin made the score 3–0 after a poor clearance by Pantano, who found himself on the bench after letting in a fourth goal, this one from long range by Logan Hutsko.

But freshman goaltender Connor Murphy fared no better than Pantano. The Eagles didn’t let up in the second period, as their first-round forward Matt Boldy got on the scoresheet with a power play goal that looked eerily similar to Hutsko’s.

The Huskies could do nothing to stop the bleeding, as forwards Mike Hardman and Marc McLaughlin scored a goal each to give the Eagles six goals in the period and a 7–0 lead.

Northeastern finally got something going at the end of the period, as forward Matt Thomson finished off a fantastic breakaway effort to score his first career goal and foil BC’s shutout bid. The goal was a small consolation prize in the end, though.

Boston College poured more salt in the Huskies’ wounds in the third period, as Boldy, defensemen Ben Finkelstein, and forward Aapeli Räsänen each added a goal in the final frame to put BC into double digits. Northeastern could only watch with dropped jaws as the final seconds ticked down and BC celebrated their best performance of the season.

The Huskies showed a total lack of composure, with nearly every player failing to make a positive impact. While Northeastern’s defensive miscues did them no favors, Boston College’s dominant performance began on their own defensive end, as the Eagles barely allowed Northeastern forwards to get anywhere near goalie Spencer Knight. The physical BC defensemen were in full force, and the Huskies had minimal offensive zone presence.

“I don’t know what to say. They were the better team tonight,” Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan said. “They sensed blood in the water and those kids on BC are sharks. They just kept coming as soon as they saw us struggling. I could talk a lot about a lot of things, but bottom line is they beat us up.”

When asked about where Northeastern goes from here, Madigan took a more positive tone, noting, “Well, we’re gonna reset. We’re gonna reset and get back to work tomorrow in preparation for the rest of the way.”

The absolute drubbing by Boston College gives the Eagles a weekend sweep and puts Northeastern in a precarious position. With several Hockey East games still to be played this weekend, the Huskies find themselves in seventh place after Providence’s helpful loss to Merrimack.

Northeastern will end their season with two crucial series against Vermont and Boston University. While most of the Hockey East seeds remain up in the air, the weekend performance certainly does not help the Huskies’ outlook. Northeastern probably needs to win all four remaining games to have a chance at a home first-round playoff series. Anything less than eight points during their final two weekends will likely see Northeastern traveling for the first round, while completely missing the tournament remains a possibility.