BOSTON — The first of two top-10 matchups for Northeastern this week ended pretty well for the team from Huntington Ave.
For a second time this month, the Huskies faced off against No. 3 Boston University, looking to build on their encouraging weekend sweep of Merrimack with a statement win against the Terriers. After BU scored two unanswered goals in the third period to force overtime, Dylan Hryckowian’s deflection goal secured a dramatic 4-3 win for the Huskies.
Officiating controversies mired Northeastern’s loss to BU on Jan. 9, and on Tuesday, it was the Terriers who left unhappy with the controversial Too Many Men call in overtime, leading to Hryckoiwian’s eventual game winner at 4-on-3.
But the ending drama aside, this was a critical victory for Northeastern — proving that fully healthy, they could stick with their identity and capitalize on their chances against a top-flight opponent and deliver a tough victory.
“We’ve been on the wrong side of those games a lot this year,” said Northeastern coach Jerry Keefe. “So for us to find a way there at the end and get a huge win was awesome. Great for the group.”
At the start of the first period, the Huskies dominated the Terriers, hemming them in their own zone and notching eight total shots to BU’s six in the opening 10 minutes. One key difference was the Northeastern blocks, as four of the six Terrier opportunities were blocked by different Husky skaters. In addition, the Huskies came out doing an excellent job defending in the neutral zone, limiting BU’s speedy forwards when attacking downhill.
It wasn’t until nearly six and a half minutes in that freshman netminder Cameron Whitehead even had to make a save for Northeastern. But BU finally began finding a rhythm late in the first period, as they began to string together longer shifts in the offensive zone. Still, throughout the game the Huskies never let BU’s top talent get fully comfortable at 5v5.
“I thought our centers did a really good job. For the most part, I thought we were able to handle a lot of their high rolling,” Keefe said. “With Hudson at the top of the blue line, he’s obviously really dangerous…so, they’re gonna get some looks because that’s a good team there. They’re been No. 1 in the country for a reason.”
The Huskies started off the scoring with under five minutes to go in the first period, it was graduate student defender Matthew Staudacher who found the back of the net after a ripped wrist shot from the perimeter. Liam Walsh, the graduate student forward, picked up an assist on the play after winning the faceoff and dropping it back to the waiting Staudacher.
The teams headed to the locker rooms with the score still the same, but coming out of the intermission the ice was titled all the way in favor of BU. The Terriers outshot the Huskies 14-9 in the middle frame, with half of those coming in the first ten minutes. An untimely holding-the-stick penalty on Northeastern captain Justin Hryckowian was called with 6:37 left in the period, after the junior forward ripped the stick out of the hands of BU freshman-phenom Macklin Celebrini.
The call allowed the lethal Terrier power play to get to work. Northeastern did a decent job keeping BU to the perimeter throughout the power play. That plus some incredible saves from Whitehead kept the puck out of the net for the first 80 seconds of the advantage.
Until Celebrini was left alone at the top of the zone where he rifled a shot past the goaltender to tie the game with 5:16 left in the second period.
The Huskies didn’t let the goal take the wind out of their sails however. They notched four shots on goal in the last three minutes of the period, and drew a penalty after sophomore forward Quinn Hutson slashed at the hands of Matt Choupani behind Whitehead’s net.
While the home team did not convert on the first power play either at the end of the second or in the remaining 53 seconds that carried into the third, they were able to capitalize on the next power play advantage.
BU captain Case McCarthy, just 15 seconds after the original penalty expired, was whistled for hooking. This time it was sophomore forward Jack Williams who beat BU junior goaltender Mathieu Caron over the shoulder to give the Huskies the 2-1 lead.
“He’s been awesome for us all year long,” Keefe said of Williams. “Not just the goal scoring either. He is a leader, he plays 200 feet, he plays the right way. Obviously scores big goals. I can’t say enough about him.”
Less than five minutes later, Northeastern doubled their lead thanks to yet again, a heavy shot from the left side of the ice. This time it was sophomore defender Jackson Dorrington who scored his fifth goal of the year after burying it over the right shoulder of Caron — all set up because of a terrific effort by Vinny Borgesi to draw in BU’s defensive pressure on the blue line.
“He came and skated out at me, so that’s when I started moving laterally. And I think I can do a really good job of that every single night. You know, suck that first guy in and give it to Dorrington,” Borgesi said. “I’m a pass-first guy, I’m never going to really shoot that puck. So having [Dorrington] creep in there and shoot that puck gave us the lead, on a really good shot.”
BU, who has been a top ranked team all season long, showed their skill and dominance less than 90 seconds later. With all five Northeastern skaters caught to the left of Whitehead, that allowed Quinn Hutson to skate right into the top of the crease and bury a feed from his brother Lane top corner to cut the deficit to one.
The remaining ten minutes of regulation were tight as BU hunted to tie the game and the Huskies tried desperately to keep them from scoring. Terrier forward Ty Gallagher, and Whitehead both took penalties in the final ten minutes, however no goals were scored on the advantages.
It wasn’t until BU head coach Jay Pandolfo pulled Caron for the extra attacker that the visitors were able to knot the game at three.
Northeastern kept the Terriers to the perimeter for much of the 6-on-5. However a timely shot from Celebrini bounced off the pads of Whitehead right onto the stick of a waiting Ryan Greene. The sophomore forward wasted no time tapping in the rebound for the tying goal – 3-3 with 71 seconds left to play in regulation.
“I liked the way we played in the third. I thought when it was 3-2 we kept pushing,” Keefe said. “It wasn’t like we sat back; we had some really good looks.”
That game tying goal and the momentum generated from it carried over into the extra period after neither side scored in the last minute of regulation. BU maintained puck possession for the first 3 minutes of the overtime period, playing catch with it all throughout the offensive zone.
The team only recorded one shot on goal in the overtime though, which came after Celebrini clanked a wrister off the post. Quinn Hutson tried to bury the rebound over Whitehead who was sprawled in the crease, but it was whistled dead by the officials before he could get another touch on it.
That didn’t deter the Terriers. They continued to maintain control of the puck – until a bizarre line change was determined to have caused a too-many-men on the ice penalty against BU.
The penalty allowed the Northeastern power play to get to work again. BU did a good job limiting the Huskies chances, even clearing the puck the length of the ice with 40 seconds remaining on the advantage.
And yet, with 32.7 seconds remaining, Vinny Borgesi fed Gunnarwolfe Fontaine for the one-timer at the top of the left faceoff circle, which was then tipped in front by Dylan Hryckowian for the Northeastern win. Final score, 4-3.
While the offensive fireworks secured the win, Cameron Whitehead’s fantastic night in goal should not be overlooked — he saved 38 of 41 shots on goal, and he’s notched a .949 saves over his past five games.
“He give us a chance every single night,” Keefe said of Whitehead. “I thought he was great tonight.”
While the Huskies’ path does not get any easier against Maine on Friday, their three game winning streak — and especially Tuesday’s signature win — can give the Huskies confidence that their process and talent is enough to beat top teams.
WRBB returns to coverage of Northeastern men’s hockey for their second and final game of the week on Friday, Feb. 2. The Huskies will face off against the Maine Black Bears at Matthews arena, with puck drop scheduled for 7 p.m. Matty Wasserman, Amelia Ballingall, and Luke Graham will have full coverage on WRBB 104.9 FM.