No. 20 Northeastern picks up fifth-straight win in 2-1 contest against rivals BC


Taina Lorenzana

Graduate student forward takes a faceoff against Boston College. Walsh extended his five-game point streak with an assist in Tuesday night’s game.

Ariana Ottrando, news staff

In Hockey East’s Game of the Week Tuesday night, the No. 20 Northeastern men’s hockey team (13-9-3, 11-4-2 HE) beat Boston College (9-10-5, 5-7-4 HE) in a scrappy 2-1 battle for its first regulation win against the local rivals this season. For the teams’ fourth and final regular season matchup of the year, the Huskies snatched their fifth-straight win and handed the Eagles their fourth-straight loss. 

“Just sticking with our details — that’s the biggest thing that’s kept us on this hot streak and our winning streak so far,” said assistant captain and graduate forward Jakov Novak. “[We’re] just doing the right things, we’re getting the bounces that we need right now.”

Though the Eagles dominated possession for the majority of the 60 minutes, the Huskies found a way to come out on top — a key trait that has heavily contributed to their winning spell.

“This time of the 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. “[I’m] proud of the way that we were able to get the lead in the third and then close out the game.”

Right out of the gates, senior defenseman Jeremie Bucheler took a hooking penalty five minutes into the first period, putting BC on the one-man advantage. 

With the Eagles capitalizing on 25% of their power plays so far this season — their power play ranked second in Hockey East and ninth nationally — the Huskies’ 84.9% penalty kill struggled to clear the defensive zone as cleanly as usual.

As the two-minute timer for BC fizzled out, freshman forward Oskar Jellvik squeezed in one last attempt and fired the puck off the post. The puck found its way to neutral ice, leading to a shorthanded effort by freshman forward Jack Williams, who was tripped by Eagle defensemen and crashed into the net before he could get a shot on graduate student goaltender Mitch Benson.

Thirty seconds after Northeastern killed BC’s first power play, the Huskies reverted to 4-on-5 play once again after senior captain and forward Aidan McDonough was sent to the penalty box on an interference call.

Halfway through the Huskies’ second penalty kill, the puck rang off the post again — this time off a shot by freshman forward Cutter Gauthier, the fifth-overall pick in the 2022 NHL draft. While a messy penalty kill for Northeastern, junior goaltender Devon Levi and his clean-up crew were successful at blocking shots and taking away rebound opportunities from BC’s power play squad.

“We spent way too much time defending in our own end tonight … And then what happens is you give a good team more zone time, now you have to defend tired,” Keefe said. “I give the guys credit. We bent, we didn’t break. And then when we did, [Levi] was there to make some key saves for us tonight.”

After taking two penalties in the first ten minutes of regulation, the Huskies struggled to  generate many offensive opportunities until the latter half of the frame. As the team came off the second penalty kill, it was eager to score, putting five shots on Benson in two minutes to nearly catch up to BC’s nine shots on goal.

Northeastern’s revved-up offense paid off when a pack of hungry Huskies charged over the blue line and set up in the offensive zone. 

Off the wall, freshman defenseman Hunter McDonald put the puck on net, setting up graduate forward Liam Walsh near the crease. Walsh’s attempt deflected off Benson’s pads, but sophomore forward Matt Choupani was in position to tip the puck past the red line, and give Northeastern the 1-0 lead. The goal was Choupani’s sixth of the season.

“[McDonald] shoots it on net and we practiced all week just driving net, getting to the net,” Choupani said. “I was there, a lucky bounce and a rebound came out and just wanted to put that in the net. It felt good.”

However, the Huskies lost their lead just under two minutes into the second frame. 

BC sophomore forward Connor Joyce ripped the puck toward Levi. Graduate forward Christian O’Neill then grabbed the puck just in time to send it to the back of the net, getting the Eagles on the board for a tie game at one.

Northeastern’s offense was put on hold for a third time when Choupani took a slashing penalty less than two minutes after the BC goal. 

As Northeastern came out of its third penalty kill, it struggled to maintain the composure it had through the first period, allowing the Eagles to generate several good looks in an effort to take the lead. The Huskies failed to break out any quality scoring chances, but Levi and the defensive core stuck to its game plan and kept the score at one going into the second intermission. 

In an effort to regain the lead, the Huskies sprung into the third frame eager for a goal, and it wouldn’t take long for them to score one.

Graduate student forward Jakov Novak rockets the puck towards the net. Novak scored the game-winning goal against the Eagles in Tuesday’s match. (Taina Lorenzana)

Just under three minutes into the period, Novak dangled around two Eagles, sped for Benson’s crease and roofed the puck off the backhand into the top right corner. Novak’s leading goal was his sixth of the season with assists from Bucheler and junior forward Michael Outzen — the latter’s first collegiate assist and second-ever point.

“Coming into the goalie there, I just thought I’d make a quick move  — shift in left to right there, just try to raise it a little bit,” Novak said. 

Keefe highlighted Novak’s goal, along with the impact of both scorers’ recent playmaking. 

“That was a big-time goal by [Novak]. It was a great move, [to] put it underneath the bar,” said Keefe. “The thing with [Choupani] and [Novak] — those two guys have really made a commitment to checking for us lately. Their play without the puck has been really good for us, so to see those two guys get rewarded with goals tonight is huge.”

Finding a 2-1 lead gave the Huskies a boost and stunted momentum for the Eagles. While BC didn’t see any shots on goal for the first half of the third frame, a final opportunity at tying the game came when assistant captain and senior defenseman Jayden Struble took Northeastern’s fourth penalty for tripping.

The Huskies were successful at eating up BC’s power play minutes yet again and secured a perfect 4/4 penalty kill for the night.

“We needed the [penalty kill],” Keefe said. “You need your goaltender to be your best penalty killer, and I thought [Levi] was tonight.”

Under increasing pressure to tie up the score with less than four minutes remaining in regulation, the Eagles drew back-to-back penalties and wiped their chances of sending the game into overtime. 

For its first and only power play opportunities in the matchup, Northeastern created a few scoring chances, but Benson stayed rigid between the pipes and held the Huskies lead at one until the final buzzer rang.

Novak credits the team’s victory to its dedication in practice and drive to uphold its winning stretch.

“All of us just come to the rink every day dialed in, trying to get better and this is the perfect time to keep our win streak and to heat up,” Novak said.

Shooting for their sixth-straight win with Hockey East points on the line, the Northeastern Huskies will take on the University of Connecticut Huskies Friday for the third time this year. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. in Matthews Arena.