BOSTON — In a messy Tuesday night competition at Matthews Arena, the Huskies stumbled their way to a 2-1 victory over the Boston College Eagles, the first time they’ve defeated the local rival in regulation this season. Northeastern came into the game on a four game win streak, and used their momentum to hand the Eagles their fourth straight loss.
“All the hard work that we do in practice just paid off today,” said sophomore forward Matt Choupani. “When we play against another Boston school, we always look forward to it. We don’t really pay attention to who we’re playing, but once it’s a BU/BC type of game, we put it into overdrive and it’s nice to get one today.”
Though the Huskies found a way to emerge victorious, the Eagles controlled long stretches of the action, luring the Huskies into physical play in their own defensive zone as they notched shot after shot toward the net of junior goaltender Devon Levi.
“This time of year, you have to know how to win close games and maybe when you’re not at your best, but we found a way,” said head coach Jerry Keefe.
The Eagles’ physical strategy came to fruition 5:32 into the game when senior defender Jeremie Bucheler was sent to the box for hooking and the Huskies went down a player. With Boston College capitalizing on the power play in 25% of opportunities this season and notching five power play goals over their past four games, the player deficit was dangerous for the Huskies. This sentiment hit home when a shot from freshman forward Oskar Jellvik rang off the post with a few seconds left in the power play.
The puck then skittered loose toward the neutral zone, and Northeastern freshman forward Jack Williams was quick to grab it, skating between two Boston College defenders for the shorthanded attempt before they managed to trip him up and send him flying into the net.
The Huskies drained the final few seconds of the penalty and breathed a sigh of relief as they evened the playing field once more, but it was not for long as the team was quickly penalized once more with a call against captain and senior forward Aidan McDonough for interference.
Levi was tested hard on this second penalty kill, but he slid back and forth between the pipes to deflect the attempts peppering in from the flock of Eagles on the ice. Boston College gained another post shot on the power play, this time off the stick of freshman forward Cutter Gauthier, the highly-anticipated fifth overall pick acquired by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2022 NHL draft.
After a series of rebounds were finally cleared away, McDonough was freed from his cage and the game returned to even strength.
Although the Eagles had been dominating the offensive zone time throughout much of the period, the Huskies finally generated some momentum down by the net of junior goaltender Mitch Benson toward the tail end of the frame.
Freshman defender Hunter McDonald sent the puck toward the net before getting bodied into the boards and the shot was picked up by graduate student forward Liam Walsh. Walsh got a couple touches on the puck, keeping it in the crease, but his attempt deflected off the pad of Benson. The Huskies kept crashing the net, though, and sophomore forward Matt Choupani swept the puck behind the out-of-place netminder from the doorstep to put his team up 1-0.
“We practice all week, just driving net, getting to the net,” Choupani said. “And I was there. Lucky bounce and a rebound came out and I just wanted to put that in the net.”
When the second period began, it was clear that it was still anyone’s game. Boston College continued to generate the majority of offensive zone time, and was able to capitalize on that with a goal 1:54 into the frame.
From the back of the left faceoff circle, sophomore forward Connor Joyce whipped the puck through traffic where it ricocheted off the stick of graduate student forward Christian O’Neill to find the back of the net
Not long after, misfortune struck again for the home team with yet another Huskies penalty, this time against goal-scorer Choupani.
With the strength of their power play unit, the Eagles were determined to make the Huskies work, and work they did. Over the course of the two minutes, only one shot made its way through to Levi, a one-timer from Jellvik that the netminder stopped in the air to eliminate the chance of a rebound. The Huskies were able to stave off the encroaching Eagles to keep the game locked at one apiece.
The rest of the period ticked by without another major moment — no pucks found the back of the net and no players found themselves at the wrong end of a whistle.
The Huskies may not have had as strong a showing as the Eagles in the frame, but they were not without their own opportunities.
While Boston College opted to create chaos in front of the goal, a benefit of their many minutes spent on offense, Northeastern looked to set up a shot with a breakaway or a series of quick passes whenever a player was able to turn over the puck.
“We weren’t sharp, we weren’t executing those plays we need to execute, we were icing some pucks when we didn’t need to ice them,” Keefe said. “And then what happens is you give a good team more zone time, now you have to defend tired and you’re kind of containing.”
Jumping into the third period, the Huskies had already had a taste of the lead and were hungry to add onto their winning streak.
2:45 into the final frame, Northeastern regained its lead off a strong drive from its fourth line.
From the blue line, junior forward Michael Outzen beat out a quickly approaching Eagle for the puck, saucing it up to graduate student forward Jakov Novak with barely a look over his shoulder. Novak wrestled his way through two defenders, outpacing them to backhand the puck under the crossbar. The assist was the first of Outzen’s career, and his second-ever collegiate point.
“Honestly, I just tried to make him shift,” Novak said. “In our pre-scout, we knew that this is a goalie we could hopefully take advantage of, get a lot of shots.”
Back on top, it seemed as though the game had finally turned in Northeastern’s favor. Boston College spent the first half of the period without a single shot on goal, an unforeseen turn of events after outshooting the Huskies 24-16 through the first 40 minutes of play.
The Eagles saw a little bit of that favor back with one final power play opportunity 10:31 into the frame, a call against senior defender Jayden Struble for tripping, but the Huskies drained the clock once more, ending Boston College’s power play point streak.
With time running out and tensions running high, the Eagles began to lose their composure, taking back-to-back penalties in the waning minutes of regulation to seal their fate.
The Huskies got a few more good looks at the net, in large part thanks to the quick stick work of Williams, who drew the final Eagles penalty. However, Benson remained strong in his net for the final few minutes of play and held the Huskies to a one-goal lead to close out the game.
Luck and skill were on the Huskies’ side Tuesday night, from the pair of post shots on behalf of the Eagles to the agility of Levi between the pipes. A large credit for the game, however, goes to the fourth line, as all three of its members — Choupani, Novak and Outzen — notched points on the night.
“The thing with [Choupani] and [Novak], those two guys really made a commitment to checking for us lately,” Keefe said. “Their play without the puck has been really good for us so to see those two guys get rewarded with goals tonight is huge.”
The victory extends Northeastern’s winning streak to five, and keeps its Pairwise rank at 19 with just over a month remaining in the regular season.
On Friday night, Northeastern will square up against the UConn Huskies for the third time in under a month at Matthews Arena. Emma Sullivan and Daisy Roberts will be on the call when the puck drops at 7 p.m.