BOSTON — After last weekend’s disappointing home-and-home series against Boston College, Northeastern was desperate for a win. And with both the captain, senior forward Aidan McDonough, and assistant captain, senior defender Jayden Struble, suspended on the heels of Saturday’s chippy contest, the Huskies faced an uphill battle against a red-hot Boston University squad Friday evening.
Thanks to two goals in the final period of an otherwise-scoreless game, Northeastern pulled through for a huge 2-0 road victory.
Though Northeastern welcomed sophomore center Jack Hughes back to its lineup Friday night after a two-week injury absence, it was still missing steady junior forward Michael Outzen, graduate student forward Liam Walsh and senior defender Tyler Spott due to injury.
“When you’re playing a good hockey team, it’s a good college hockey game, you’re on the road, you want to make sure you’re managing the game smart,” Northeastern head coach Jerry Keefe said after the game. “It’s no secret we’re playing a short bench, but our guys really bought in for each other.”
Northeastern’s win serves as a testament to junior netminder Devon Levi’s strength in the net. Even with the Huskies’ tired second-period start, Levi had one of his best performances of the season — and of his career — in Agganis Arena, stopping all 41 of BU’s shots.
The Huskies stayed strong through a back-and-forth first period, killing two penalties and blocking 11 shots, while allowing only nine shots on goal.
BU’s first power play came after a slashing call against freshman forward Cam Lund nine minutes into the frame, though Northeastern kept the Terriers at bay through the ensuing two minutes.
Northeastern was put at a disadvantage once again with just under five minutes left in the first period. After the puck was lost along the boards in the Husky defensive zone, freshman defender Vinny Borgesi was caught up in a scramble for the puck, where he was flagged for holding. Northeastern’s penalty kill unit prevailed once again, holding the score at 0-0.
Upon the return to even-strength play, the Huskies’ power returned. Sophomore defender Cam Gaudette found the puck and tossed it up the ice, giving Northeastern’s offense one last chance to fire shot after shot against BU junior goaltender Drew Commesso before the period ended. Northeastern, though, was still unable to find the back of the net.
The Huskies saw another penalty just 15 seconds into the second frame with an elbowing minor going against senior forward and assistant captain Riley Hughes. Northeastern remained steady and killed the penalty, though the third disadvantage put a damper on the momentum maintained throughout the first.
When Northeastern finally got its first power play four minutes into the second period — a boarding penalty against Boston University senior forward Ethan Phillips — the Huskies were lethargic. BU cleared the puck right off the bat and 30 seconds later fired a shot against Levi off a short-handed rush down the ice. Without McDonough, the Huskies struggled to find their groove on the man advantage.
Northeastern found another edge over BU when junior forward Nick Zabaneh was sent to the sin bin for hooking with seven minutes left in the period. Though the Huskies had a stronger presence the second time around, keeping the puck in the Terriers’ defensive zone through most of the power play and pressuring Commesso, they were still unable to crack BU’s barricade.
Northeastern’s defense endured through the end of the second, tracking the puck and poking it away from Levi’s crease at every opportunity.
The Terriers dominated the beginning of the third period, keeping the puck away from Northeastern for almost two full minutes. The Huskies struggled to command possession of the puck until a fourth penalty called on sophomore forward Justin Hryckowian for holding woke the team up with 13 minutes left to play.
The Huskies blocked all but one shot during BU’s final power play of the evening, leaving the Terriers unable to capitalize on any of the four advantages they saw during the game.
“I think we have to do a better job of not getting too many shots blocked,” said BU’s head coach Jay Pandolfo. “[Northeastern] did a good job. I gotta give them credit.”
The Huskies relaxed as they came off the power play, but only for a second. Just two minutes later, Lund grabbed the puck off Northeastern’s boards and soared up the ice, surrounded by four Terriers. Skating into the left faceoff dot, Lund pulled the puck back with his stick and flung it over Commesso’s right shoulder, breaking the standoff after 51 minutes of play.
“I really like the way he’s playing right now,” Keefe said. “He’s not thinking out there; things are coming more natural to him. His 200-foot game is much better now … We needed someone to step up and make a play there, and he did.”
Lund’s game-winner lit a fire under every player on the ice. While the Terriers were determined to dismantle Northeastern’s lead, the Huskies were set on keeping it. Both sides skated faster, pushed harder and shot cleaner.
Commesso left the ice with two minutes left in the game, giving BU a one-man advantage in an attempt to push the game into overtime. But the Husky flame was burning too brightly to be snuffed.
After a rush towards the empty net by Jack Hughes was stopped by an offsides call, Northeastern craved a second goal. In a last-ditch effort to extend the lead, junior forward Sam Colangelo nabbed a pass between two BU players off the board and sent it to Hryckowian, who shoved the puck into the empty net from the center line.
Though the Husky victory is a much needed boost, Keefe noted that there’s still work to be done before tomorrow’s rematch against the Terriers.
“Sometimes these wins are big for you, but for us, now, we’ve got to follow it up with a really good effort tomorrow night,” Keefe said. “You can’t be happy with one game. You’ve got to build on this. We’ve got to be better tomorrow night.”
WRBB Sports will have full coverage of the rematch between the Huskies and the Terriers Saturday night at Matthews Arena. Puckdrop is scheduled for 7 p.m. Matty Wasserman and Mike Puzzanghera will have the call on WRBB 104.9.