Sports, Hockey, Men's Hockey

Notebook: Late Push Unable to Overcome Slow Start Against Northeastern in Title Game

Boston College men’s hockey dug itself a huge hole early in Saturday night’s Hockey East title game against Northeastern. In the first 11 minutes of the contest, the Huskies scored three goals against the Eagles. With such a huge deficit, it appeared that the game was already over.

But, like it often has this postseason, BC battled its way in the second period. Taking advantage of two early power plays, the Eagles found the back of the net twice to cut the Northeastern’s edge to one. While BC would knock on the door for the rest of the way, it failed to find the equalizer. The Huskies held on for the 3-2 victory, ending the Eagles’ (14-22-3, 10-11-3 Hockey East) improbable run in the Hockey East Tournament, and, in effect, their season.

Here are some takeaways from the championship, Northeastern’s (27-10-1, 15-8-1) second in four years:

1) Bad Start

The first period could not have gone worse for the Eagles. Just 31 seconds into the frame, it appeared as if Logan Hutsko had put BC on the board, but the goal was waved off, as the referees determined the puck skittered in off Hutsko’s hand. Shortly after, Northeastern would strike first. BC netminder Joseph Woll was beat by Matt Filipe, who whipped a shot past him—this marked the first time all postseason that the Eagles let their opponent score first. That was far from the end of a disastrous stretch, though. Minutes later, Brandon Hawkins capitalized after Woll failed to control a rebound, netting the Huskies’ second goal of the evening. Later, Hawkins lit the lamp for the second time of the night, scoring on the power play. With two minutes remaining in the frame, it once again looked like BC had notched its first goal, but the referee blew his whistle prior to the score—in a similar fashion to Massachusetts’ no-goal against the Eagles the night prior—thus waving off the goal and leaving the Eagles trailing by three after the first period.   

2) Special Teams

BC successfully converted two of its four power-play opportunities, an impressive rate against one of the league’s more adept penalty killing teams. The first opportunity arose, thanks to a Jeremy Davies penalty for cross-checking. That came with one second left in the first frame, giving the Eagles a much-needed power play to start the second period. They immediately capitalized, as Oliver Wahlstrom tucked a shot behind Northeastern goaltender Cayden Primeau 18 seconds into the period—the fastest scoring play to open a period in a Hockey East title game. It didn’t take long for BC to strike again, as Davies—the Huskies’ best defenseman on the penalty kill—was again called for an infraction, this time for tripping. The Eagles began to pepper Primeau with shots, and David Cotton soon found the back of the net to cut the deficit to one. Besides Northeastern’s first power play goal, BC killed the only other penalty it committed. The Huskies bounced back after allowing those two goals, killing a penalty later in the second frame to hold the Eagles at bay.

3) Joseph Woll

After an outstanding performance against UMass, Woll did not play up to his usual standard. The junior goaltender was fresh off pitching a shutout against a Minutemen offense that averaged 3.86 goals per game. But, in the first period against Northeastern, it seemed like Woll could not stop a single shot. He was particularly at fault for the second goal, as the junior netminder snagged the puck out of the air but couldn’t hang on and dropped it at his feet. Still, after his shaky start, Woll rebounded well and shut down the Huskies offense. After allowing three goals through the first 11 minutes, he held Northeastern scoreless in the final 49 minutes of regulation. When all was said and done, Woll finished with 20 saves, but he gave up one too many goals in the early frame, resulting in a deficit that BC could not overcome.

4) Tragedy

The Hockey East playoffs have been incredibly physical thus far, and teams have not been afraid to hit each other all night long. Unfortunately, this can result in some terrible injuries, one of which the Eagles experienced on Saturday. A scary moment occurred in the third period, as Hutsko collided with Jordan Harris near the face off circle. Hutsko’s helmet hit the boards, and he awkwardly fell to the ice, headfirst. Hutsko lay face-down on the ice for several minutes, as he was surrounded by paramedics. Fortunately, he displayed movement in his legs. Eventually, Hutsko was placed in a stretcher and escorted off the ice. In an update after the game, head coach Jerry York told reporters that Hutsko was transported to the hospital and was moving his fingers and toes. He was conscious, and the team is optimistic that he’ll be okay. Hutsko previously suffered a C6 vertebrae fracture while playing junior hockey. One can only hope for a full recovery for one of BC’s most dynamic players.

5) Stumbling

After the loss of Hutsko, a top-line forward, the Eagles’ offense sputtered the rest of the way. With the Huskies not conceding any penalties, BC struggled to generate quality opportunities to attack Primeau. The momentum that the Eagles possessed early in the second period had disappeared by now, and both teams were essentially locked in a standstill. With one minute remaining, Woll was pulled from the game to give BC an extra skater. In the 6-on-5, the Eagles greatly pressured the Huskies and launched a final flurry of shots—several of which nearly found their way past Primeau—but Northeastern held on for the victory.

6) Déjà Vu

This loss to Northeastern followed a very similar course to the Beanpot final, a previous matchup between both teams. The Eagles met the Huskies at the same venue—TD Garden—and found themselves down, 3-0. In that meeting, Northeastern went up by three goals with 18 minutes remaining before BC scored two goals over the course of the next eight minutes to cut the Huskies’ advantage to one score. But, just like Saturday night, the Eagles could not break through with their final barrage of shots. Northeastern has denied BC a trophy on two occasions this season now. Still, the Eagles closed out the year on a strong note. As the No. 7 seed, BC became the first team in conference history to knock of the No. 2 seed—Providence—and the No. 1 seed—Massachusetts—in the same tournament. Ultimately, the Eagles’ strong performance in the postseason provides a great block to build on for next season, even with several key departures.

Featured Image by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor

March 24, 2019