Story by Emma Sullivan
Photos by Sarah Olender
BOSTON — Ten days ago it was the Northeastern Huskies on top of the Boston College Eagles in the semifinals of the Beanpot. Tonight, it was the opposite. In the first game of the weekend series, the Eagles walked into Matthews Arena and captured their first victory of 2022 by a score of 4-1.
Only a few hours before puck drop, it became apparent that BC would be getting some key components of their team back in the lineup for the matchup against Northeastern. Team USA was eliminated from the Beijing Olympics earlier this week, allowing for the return of forward Marc McLaughlin and defender Drew Helleson for BC, both of whom had been playing with the American squad.
The return of these players for BC wasn’t expected of them even by their head coach Jerry York who didn’t think they’d want to play so soon after returning from overseas.
“I was so surprised when they said they wanted to play,” York said with a laugh. “But they’re younger, and they have a lot more grit and they want to play hockey.”
So Helleson and McLaughlin returned to the lineup, and that made all the difference to BC.
In this contest, it was all Eagles early. Sixteen seconds into the game, forward Brandon Kruse chipped the puck up from the defensive zone for BC and connected with linemate Colby Ambrosio who drove to the net before putting the puck up and over goaltender TJ Semptimphelter to give BC the 1-0 lead. Also picking up an assist on the play was defender Mitch Andres.
Three minutes later, BC struck again to give themselves the two goal lead. This time it was forward Trevor Kuntar who scored off a rebound put back in front of Semptimphelter’s net. Forward Nikita Nesterenko originally carried the puck all the way down ice from the BC defensive zone before rifling a shot at the net which was originally stopped by the goaltender. Kuntar, however, nabbed the puck and immediately fired home the shot with 16:09 remaining in the first. Defender Jack St. Ivany also had an assist on the play.
The next few minutes remained mostly in control of the Eagles. BC generated 10shots in the next 10 minutes, including seven which had to be saved by Semptimphelter. In comparison Northeastern generated six shots, but only four were on goal.
Northeastern was able to get one back thanks to forward Matt Choupani. Defender Jeremie Bucheler won a battle along the boards before centering a pass out in front for Choupani. The freshman then fired a quick shot into the back of the net to put Northeastern within one with 5:35 remaining in the period.
The one goal deficit did not last long however, as BC took advantage of another misplayed rebound in front of Semptimphelter to give themselves the 3-1 lead. McLaughlin drove to the net hard and snagged the puck after the shot from defender Aidan Hreschuk bounced off Semptimphelter’s pad. McLaughlin then took another shot that again rebounded in front before the captain found a wide open right side of the cage to send the puck home with 4:08 remaining. Ambrosio added his second point of the night with an assist on McLaughlin’s goal.
To start the second period, both teams went back and forth in terms of sustained puck possession, however that soon turned into more momentum in favor of the Eagles. Northeastern would get an opportunity to get something going offensively after Kuntar received a hooking penalty with 15:17 remaining in the period.
The Huskies had one scoring chance on the power play thanks to forward Jack Hughes, but it was blocked in front. Then, BC came all the way back down the ice for their own scoring opportunity, which resulted in a penalty against defender Jordan Harris for the Huskies after he threw a cross-check, thus ending the power play for Northeastern at just 56 seconds.
No goals were scored on the ensuing four-on-four, however a penalty on forward Gunnarwolfe Fontaine put Northeastern back on the penalty kill with 9:59 remaining in the period. The penalty kill for the Huskies has been dominant this entire season, entering the weekend ranked third nationally and only giving up four goals in 2022. That soon changed in this game however.
As time wound down on the power play for BC, defender Marshall Warren carried the puck coast to coast and backhanded it past Semptimphelter for the Eagles’ fourth goal of the game. On his drive to the net, Warren slipped between Harris and forward Riley Hughes, deking them both before scoring with 8:03 left in the period. It was Warren’s fifth goal of the year assisted by fellow defender Eamon Powell and Eagles netminder Eric Dop.
Northeastern had one power play they had to kill before the period ended, this time after defender Tyler Spott tripped up an Eagle with 2:25 to play. This time, Northeastern killed the penalty off with little trouble thanks to some key clearings by their penalty kill units after BC shots went wide behind the net.
In the third period, the Huskies started to gain momentum, outshooting the Eagles 16 to three. Northeastern had a lot of strong offensive plays, especially shots from the blue line, however those were all stopped by Dop in net for BC to keep the score 4-1. A scary moment for the goaltender came with just 5:15 left to play, after he was caught in the face by a puck shot by Northeastern forward Aidan McDonough. Dop was thankfully okay and was able to stay in the game, soon closing it out for BC.
It was too little too late for the Huskies, after those early goals proved to be their downfall in this matchup. Head coach Jerry Keefe was blunt in his post game remarks, saying “you give up a goal 16 seconds into the game, that’s not exactly how you want to start the game… The first goal hurt us, but the third goal killed us,” he added.
Offensively, this Northeastern squad has struggled all season, something Keefe also noted. The loss of forward Justin Hryckowian hasn’t helped at all, and with the loss of his top line center it’s become a shuffling game for Keefe to try and create a forward lineup that can get rolling again.
“We have guys that can score, that have scored before,” he said. “For whatever reason, they’re all in a little bit of a drought together at the same time which is never good, but we have enough there to score goals.”
Both of these teams are back in action against one another, this time at Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, tomorrow night at 7 p.m. WRBB has coverage from Matty Wasserman, Mike Puzzanghera, and Rae Deer starting a few minutes before puck drop.