BOSTON — It was a familiar battle of conference rivals on Tuesday night, but with a twist: the game was technically a non conference meeting between Northeastern and Boston College, as they vied for an additional victory on Homecoming Night at Matthews Arena. The Huskies officially tied Boston College 3-3 in the NCAA record books, though Northeastern edged the Eagles out in the moral win column with a 2-1 victory in the shootout.
The game was a battle of goalies, first goals, and swings in momentum for both teams. Graduate transfer Mitch Benson started in net for the Eagles, allowing three goals on 35 shots posting a .900 save percentage which is what he had been averaging on the season coming into the match.
On the other end of the ice, the story was similar on paper as Northeastern junior goaltender Devon Levi allowed three goals on 33 shots. Although the save totals were similar, the stats didn’t tell the whole story as the quality of shots Levi faced forced his hand into some incredible saves, especially in overtime.
“You really got to get in front of him,” BC head coach Greg Brown said of Levi after the game. “It’s the old adage ‘he sees it he’s going to save it.’ He’s right up there with the best in the country.”
Levi’s performance kept the Huskies in the game, as both teams were streaky throughout regulation and into overtime.
Off the jump in the first period Northeastern seemed to have the edge, something that they have been lacking through their first few contests. The momentum would go back and forth as both teams took penalties, but nobody gained a true edge until BC freshman forward Andre Gasseau took a tripping penalty 10:25 into the first.
Although Northeastern head coach Jerry Keefe said he felt the power play was a bit sloppy after the game, the second opportunity the Huskies power play had did not disappoint. Senior forward Aidan McDonough ripped a shot for his 50th career goal with Huskies in the most McDonough way possible – a one timer from his office in the right faceoff dot, past the outstretched goalie.
Leading up to the goal, the Huskies cycled the puck well with their five forwards on the power play making the aggressive penalty kill of BC shrink in. Junior forward Sam Colangelo saucered a pass from below the left goalline up to junior forward Gunnarwolfe Fontaine near the high slot. The Eagles penalty kill stepped up on Fontaine having to respect the possibility of a shot allowing him to shoot a pass over to McDonough who buried it 11 minutes into the first.
With the Eagles down a goal heading into the second period, Brown rejuvenated his team with a new message.
“We didn’t move our feet enough in the first period, we can create chances with energy and speed,” Brown said.
BC started off the second period playing fast and aggressive. Only 2:09 into the frame, McDonough took a cross checking penalty putting BC on the power play. The Eagles carried the momentum they had created in the early part of the period into the power play as junior forward Trevor Kuntar would put the Eagles on the board with his first of the season. Kuntar brought the puck into the zone on the power play, had some space down the right wing and as a left shot had enough angle to fire it past Levi.
“He’s heavy, he’s solid, he’s really a force over the puck and he’s done a great job being a leader [playing with two freshman wingers]” Brown said about Kuntar after the game.
BC kept the momentum rolling, as junior forward Colby Ambrosio tallied the first even strength goal of the game. Senior defender and captain Marshall Warren shot a pass up to Ambrosio who split the Huskies defenders while curraling in the skipping puck. Ambrosio knuckled a shot just over the right pad of Levi giving BC a 2-1 lead 6:53 into the second.
Northeastern didn’t stay out of the contest for long as senior forward Matt DeMelis got the Huskies right back into the game with a scrapy goal in the paint.
DeMelis sent the puck in deep to enter the zone and got behind the defense to retrieve it himself. He then sent the puck to the point for sophomore defender Braden Doyle who shot the puck toward the front of the net. Sophomore forward Matt Choupani took some hacks at the puck but DeMelis was the one who forced it across the goal-line 11:04 into the second.
“He plays the right way, you can put him out there in any situation,.” Keefe said about DeMelis. “There is this term low maintenance, DeMel is no maintenance, he just drives our culture and does everything the right way and he’s a really good player. We ask him to play a certain way cause we trust him and he does.”
The third period heated up when top five NHL draft pick and freshman forward Cutter Gauthier got the puck on his stick with speed. Gauthier broke out off a pass from Ambrosio, beating the Northeastern defense through the neutral zone and into their defensive zone to rocket a shot past Levi for his first collegiate goal 8:00 into the third.
On the play Gauthier also drew a slashing penalty from Northeastern senior defender Jeremie Bucheler puting the Huskies on the kill after just letting up a goal. Luckily for the Huskies 39 seconds into killing the penalty Ambrosio was called for a hooking penalty meaning 4-on-4 play.
During the 4-on-4, it was sophomore forward Jack Hughes who showed just how dangerous he can be with speed as he dangled his way through the BC defense to set himself up for a wrister 9:52 in the third period tying the game up at three a piece.
“Jack’s an elite playmaker,” Keefe said. “We want him getting the puck more and with speed, that’s when he becomes really dangerous.”
“It felt good to get back in the game,” Hughes said about his first goal of the season. “It’s definitely a little bit of a confidence booster going into next weekend.”
Overtime was back and forth for both teams but BC had the higher quality chances that Levi managed to cast aside resulting in a tie for the final result for the game.
Keefe said the Huskies main areas to address leading into their next matchup against UMass-Lowell on Saturday are cleaning up the power play, and transitions through the neutral zone.
Northeastern returns to Hockey East action on Saturday with a prime time matchup against the UMass-Lowell River Hawks at Matthews Arena. WRBB will have full coverage from Emma Sullivan, Matty Wasserman, and Mike Puzzanghera starting a few minutes before puck drop at 7 p.m.