No. 18 men’s hockey falters late against No. 2 Boston College

The+Northeastern+men%27s+hockey+team+falls+to+Boston+College%2C+4-2%2C+ranking+sixth+in+the+Hockey+East+Power+Index.+

Albert Tamura

The Northeastern men’s hockey team falls to Boston College, 4-2, ranking sixth in the Hockey East Power Index.

Mike Puzzanghera, news staff

Faced with a tall order and a towering foe Friday night, the No. 18 Northeastern men’s hockey team matched No. 2 Boston College blow-for-blow at Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, only to give up two third-period goals and fall to the Eagles, 4-2.

The Huskies have struggled to put shots on net in most games this year, with NU head coach Jim Madigan promoting a “quality-over-quantity” approach to their attempts all year. But they threw 17 shots at BC goalie Spencer Knight in the first period, more than they totalled in recent home losses to UMass Lowell and Providence. They finished the night with 34 shots on Knight.

“[Knight] is really good and we wanted to get some traffic in front of him and coming down on the puck and spend more time in the offensive zone down below the dots and possessing pucks,” Madigan said. “For the first two periods, we did a good job with that.”

To add to that shift from how they’ve opened, coming into the game NU had scored four more goals in first periods than their opponents. They went into the locker room down 1-0, however, with BC freshman Trevor Kuntar put his sixth of the year past sophomore goaltender Connor Murphy in the NU goal. A nice feed from junior Patrick Giles found Kuntar driving forward into the slot and Murphy bit too hard toward the Eagle cutting backdoor, allowing Kuntar to steam in and flip his backhand over Murphy’s glove.

Northeastern picked up two power-play opportunities in the second period, something that has been so key to their games all year (28.1% on the power play with 25 goals). The first attempt went begging, with little more than a skied one-timer by sophomore forward Aidan McDonough. But the second attempt went even worse, as BC’s Matt Boldy scooped up a pass and raced in on a 2-on-1 against Murphy. Boldy lost the puck for a second but got it right back on his stick to roof a backhand over Murphy shorthanded to make it 2-0. It was BC’s NCAA-leading eighth shorthanded goal of the year.

The Huskies snuck one back right after their power play expired though, as freshman forward Dylan Jackson batted in a high loose puck to cut the deficit to one. Knight broke up the initial pass from sophomore forward Riley Hughes, but Hughes picked up his own rebound and elevated a shot attempt over Knight, who was sprawled out on the ice. Hughes’ shot was heading wide, but Jackson was alert to it and batted it in for his fifth of the season.

“That was huge,” Madigan said. “We needed to get one on Knight and we did that, then we had some shifts right after that that allowed us to keep playing in their offensive zone.”

And with four minutes left to play in the second, the Huskies tied it up through senior forward Zach Solow. Fellow senior forward Grant Jozefek won the puck with a tenacious forecheck and slipped it down low to McDonough, who turned and found Solow open in the slot. The captain delayed his release to wait for the hole to open up, and it did — right between Knight’s legs for the leveller. It was Solow’s team-leading 11th tally of the year, and it gave the Huskies all the momentum heading into the locker room.

The game didn’t remain knotted long, as junior Casey Carreau knocked in a rebound for the Eagles 1:34 into the third. Junior captain Marc McLaughlin caused chaos in front with his initial shot, then, after collecting his own rebound to the right of the net, tossed it back at Murphy. Murphy made the save, but spilled the rebound to Carreau who set it to his backhand before flipping it into the net.

Murphy kept the Huskies in the game with two huge consecutive saves to deny BC’s Mike Hardman. First, he flung his leg out to seal the post to deny the wraparound attempt. Then, Murphy elevated his glove to save the second attempt.

But Boldy iced the game for the Eagles with just under seven minutes to play with his second of the night. The sophomore drifted back to find the soft spot in between the circles and ripped his one-timer past Murphy for his 50th career point.

“There was some good momentum into the first two periods of playing in the offensive zone but we just didn’t have that same intensity in the third,” Madigan said.

BC secured the top seed in the Hockey East Tournament with the win, while Northeastern entered the game ranked sixth in Hockey East Power Index, or HEPI, and will drop points with the loss.

With Merrimack unable to play in the Hockey East Tournament due to COVID-19 concerns, the Huskies would lock up a first-round bye if they finish the year in the top six of HEPI. With no formula released, it is unsure if they will hold that sixth spot by the end of the weekend, especially with the loss, and it could be vulnerable should UMass Lowell beat Boston University Saturday afternoon. If the Huskies fall to seventh, they would host a first-round playoff game Wednesday at Matthews Arena.