The month of February always brings with it the highest level of Hockey East matchups. On Thursday night, Boston College men’s hockey opened up its home-and-home series against Northeastern, setting the stage for a top-10 matchup with playoff implications looming over both teams’ heads.
The No. 5 Eagles (20-8-1, 13-6-0 Hockey East) understood the opportunity they had to further separate themselves from their opponents in the final playoff race, and they capitalized on it. BC took the ice sharing the conference throne with UMass at 24 points––maintaining the head-to-head tiebreaker for postseason seeding––while the No. 10 Huskies (17-9-3, 10-8-1) trailed just three points behind.
The only thing tighter than the race for first might have been Thursday night’s battle, as a hard-fought 3-2 victory that came right down to the wire gave BC the exact cushion that it was looking for.
The win marks BC’s 10th 20-win campaign in the past 11 years and 15th in the past 17 seasons. Renowned head coach Jerry York registered a 20-win season for the 20th occasion of his 26-year BC career.
In a situation where the Eagles control their own destiny in closing out their season, the first game of a double header against the Huskies was one of the toughest tests thus far. Northeastern kicked things off red hot, having swept the 68th annual Beanpot and won five of its last six outings.
The Huskies were able to find the back of the net a mere two minutes into the opening frame. On just the second shot of the night, Matt Filipe capitalized on a wraparound opportunity as he shoved the puck past Eagles goaltender Spencer Knight, beating him under the pads.
The remainder of the period saw back-and-forth exchanges traded on both ends of the ice. With just around a minute left in the frame, the Eagles tied things up thanks to a nifty Julius Mattila goal. After captain David Cotton slid a pass along the left wing, Mattila juked to the left faceoff dot before wristing a low shot right through Huskies’ netminder Craig Pantano’s five-hole.
The second period told a much different story than the first, with the Eagles dominating all areas of the ice. Coupled by defensive physicality throughout the bulk of the frame, BC outshot its opponent by an 18-6 margin. The Eagles had a plethora of chances in front of the net in a frame that seemingly should have ended with much more goal-scoring early on. Nonetheless, BC was able to find the back of the net twice through the likes of Marshall Warren and Julius Mattila.
Midway through the period, Jack McBain sent a low shot on target that allowed Warren to tuck the loose puck just inside the left post. With the goal, Warren became one of three rookie defensemen in Hockey East to find the back of the net at least five times.
Six minutes later, Julius Mattila found his second tally of the night. During a two-on-one rush, Logan Hutsko slipped a cross-crease pass to Mattila from the right side, allowing him to fire the puck right past Pantano. Hutsko continues to prove himself as a key playmaker integral to BC’s recent success, as his pair of assists in the victory marked the 49th and 50th of his collegiate career. He stands at fourth in the nation in goals per game with 17 tallies through 24 contests, having at least one point in all but three games this season.
That dominant second-period push from BC proved to become the crucial turning point in the game, as the Huskies were only able to get one more past Knight before the final buzzer sounded at a 3-2 scoreboard in favor of BC. The final goal came in the opening half of the third frame after Jordan Harris’ low one-timer squeezed its way through Knight’s pads and just over the goal line.
Northeastern peppered Knight with shots from all areas of the ice before and after that tally, requiring a strong presence in between the pipes from Knight until the very final seconds of the contest. And needless to say, he did not disappoint.
A highlight-reel kick save with nine minutes left in the final frame from a point-blank shot from Matt Demelis was just one of the many key stops that kept the Eagles’ lead alive. Knight’s 27-save performance was enough to register his 19th win on the season, and he finds himself sitting 10th nationally in both goals allowed per game (2.07) and save percentage (.927).
Featured Image by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor