BOSTON — Cam Lund was so close to doing it again.
On Friday, his hat trick propelled Northeastern to a stunning win against No. 1 BC. But his power-play missile at the end of the first period on Saturday clanged off the post, and created a reverberation that echoed throughout the packed stands of Matthews Arena. It was a haunting song, reminding the fans of what could have been.
Had Lund connected, Northeastern would have entered the second period up 2-0 with momentum. Instead, that rocket off the post was just a footnote in a 3-1 loss for the Huskies, who surrendered three unanswered goals in the final 40 minutes against the top-ranked team in the country.
After orchestrating a 5-3 victory against the Eagles on the road for their first conference win, Northeastern was playing with house money at home. They had already shown that they could hang in with a high-powered team after their disaster of a start. And after Alex Cambell’s deflection goal in the first period gave them a 1-0 lead late in the first, it looked as if they were primed to keep the good times rolling.
However, things fell apart from there.
Northeastern ran into penalty trouble early and often on Friday, which allowed BC to conduct a three-goal comeback in the second period that included two power-play goals. On Saturday, it was the Eagles power play again that tied the game in the second period as freshman Gabe Perrault caught the Huskies napping on a breakaway goal off a fantastic home run pass from defender Lukas Gustafsson.
That goal was one of the first instances of Northeastern getting beat in transition, as they generally did a good job of playing a tight-checking game to keep BC’s speedy forwards to the perimeter on the rush. It was a welcome adjustment for the Huskies neutral zone play, which routinely allowed forwards in early-season matchups against Merrimack and Providence to skate from blue line to blue line and build up speed unopposed.
“I thought we checked well this weekend… our mindset that way was ‘we knew we had to play a certain way to have success and we stuck to that,” said Northeastern head coach Jerry Keefe. “I give our guys a lot of credit that way, I think we played to more of an identity this weekend.”
Northeastern’s ability to adjust and execute their defensive game plan against BC’s talented forward group bodes well for their progression in the second half, especially as they expect to welcome some injured defenders back to the lineup soon.
“They’re a heck of a team. Clearly, much better than the start they had. I’m sure they’re going to be a factor in the second semester,” said BC head coach Greg Brown.
After ceding the game-tying goal, Northeastern was given a power play when BC freshman Will Smith was called for hooking. They couldn’t muster any high danger scoring opportunities, however, as BC did an excellent job of locking down passing lanes and pinning the Huskies to the top of their formation.
The Northeastern power play finished the weekend without a goal, which isn’t necessarily a surprise against one of the top penalty killing teams in the country.But, against a team like BC that does not make mistakes very often, each of Northeastern’s missed opportunities meant a little bit more.
In the third period, BC cashed in on two net-front plays. The first of which was Smith just under two minutes in, who took the puck off a bounce and slid it under the pad of netminder Cam Whitehead. Just about ten minutes later, Gustafsson put the nail in the coffin with a breakout goal for his first of the season.
“I thought we looked a little tired in the third… I didn’t think we had a ton of push, but I do think he had some chances to score goals and we didn’t finish in the first two periods,” said Keefe. “I think what happened a few times is we got caught, we didn’t execute, we got caught out there tired, having to defend tired, and it’s hard to get offense going that way.”
BC dominated the net front throughout the entire game, a marked difference from their performance on Friday. Whitehead was stellar for the most part, but was outdueled by fellow freshman goaltender Jacob Fowler, who was impeccable for the final 40 minutes.
“This league has a lot of really good goaltenders and has for a long time,” said Keefe. “The two guys that played this weekend are two of the best for sure,”
Even though Northeastern wasn’t able to secure the weekend sweep, taking one game and staying competitive in the second brings much more positives than negatives going forward. Yes, they are still last in Hockey East with a 1-8 record. Yes, the hole they’ve dug themselves into early in the season means that there will be very little wiggle room in the second half.
However, a nine-goal showing last week against RPI and a resilient 5-3 win over BC Friday gave flashes of the true potential of this team — a potential that hasn’t been seen since the opening weeks of the season.
When they are playing up to their potential, Northeastern can go toe-to-toe with any team in Hockey East. They showed it this weekend, and there is still time for them to build back up for the second half of the season.
“I think we’re hopefully past that with the whole confidence thing, and now we’re just just back to playing hockey,” said Keefe.
Northeastern will take the ice in Providence next weekend in a road date with Brown on Saturday. Jack Sinclair, Khalin Kapoor, and Daisy Roberts will have live coverage on WRBB 104.9 FM.