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.

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.