By: Josh Brown
A night after Northeastern put up three first period goals on Boston University, the Terriers one-upped the Huskies, scoring four in the opening frame en route to a 6-1 victory on the last day of the regular season.
Boston University (21-7-5, 14-5-3) was led by freshman phenom Jack Eichel, who scored both the first and last goals of the game for the Terriers.
Dave Quinn’s team secured the one-seed in the Hockey East tournament before their own game even ended, thanks to a Notre Dame win over rival Boston College.
“I’d like to say how proud I am of this team,” Quinn said. “To finish first in this league is never easy.”
“It’s been a tough few weeks for us,” the second year head coach added. “To respond the way we did tonight after last night (a 6-5 loss to Northeastern) says a lot about our group, our resiliency, our leadership.”
The Huskies(16-4-4, 12-8-2), who came into the night looking for a potential bye in the first round of the tournament after starting the season 0-8-1, had their hopes slip away before the defeat even came final due to other results around the league.
Instead, Northeastern ends the year with the six seed, and will host Merrimack in a best-of-three beginning Friday night at Matthews Arena.
Huskies coach Jim Madigan served his second, and last game of a suspension handed by down Hockey East earlier in the week.
“I obviously had a different view of the game,” Madigan said after the final whistle blew. “When you get that view you get to analyze your team much closer.”
“I thought BU just established a game and really put us in uncomfortable situations, and we weren’t able to establish any of our game early. I was just disappointed with us not being able to establish our game…any forecheck down low…any neutral zone transition.”
Before the game Northeastern honored their four seniors, Adam Reid, Dax Lauwers, Torin Snydeman and goalie Clay Witt.
After an up-and-down opening couple minutes by the two teams, Eichel scored shorthanded to give the Terriers a 1-0 lead.
The North Chelmsford native took the puck in his team’s defensive zone, went coast-to-coast and was able to beat Witt for the early lead.
Just three and a half minutes later Ahti Oksanen, who played as a defenseman for the first time this season, scored his first of two goals on the night to increase the lead to two.
Skating in transition, the junior crashed the net on a J.J. Piccinich shot, found the rebound right on his stick and buried it into the back of the net.
With Trevor Owens off on a hooking penalty, BU wasted no time putting the Huskies in a three goal deficit.
Oksanen, who was playing on the goal line, took a Evan Rodrigues pass and flung it cross ice to Danny O’Regan who was able to stick tap it in.
Just under two minutes later Northeastern found some life, and cut the Terriers lead to two.
Reminiscent to the goal he scored in the Beanpot Championship game, Roy received a pass in transition, deked his way into the slot and beat Boston University net-minder Matt O’Connor over his shoulder.
Unfortunately for the Huskies, any hope to cut into the lead further was quickly squashed.
Just 26 seconds after the Roy goal, Matt Grzelcyk answered, putting a rocket from just inside the blue line through traffic and past Witt.
Quinn was more than pleased the way his team responded after a slow start last night.
“It certainly had nothing to do with the x’s and o’s,” Quinn said. “It had everything to do with each guy elevating their game.”
“Tonight from the get-go we did a much better job taking away time and space, being more physical with them, trusting each other and obviously we were opportunistic too.”
Both Boston University and Northeastern got several opportunities to score throughout the second period, but no one could capitalize until Ahti Oksanen scored his second of the game on the power play with under two minutes to go in the period.
Eichel put a hard shot on net that produced a juicy rebound, Oksanen was able to jam home to make it 5-1 Terriers.
With the game all but over, the two teams played a very conservative third period, electing to skate within the neutral zone and play dump and chase hockey.
With 3:19 left in the game and BU on the power play Quinn pulled starting goalie Matt O’Connor for the second consecutive night, but this time for a different reason.
Quinn elected to plug in graduate student Anthony Moccia, who had played just six total minutes in his career to ride out the Terriers victory.
“He’s a special person I’ll tell you that,” Quinn said. “I wish he had five more years.”
With time quickly expiring, Eichel, who had not scored a goal in the first two meetings between the teams, snagged his second of the night, the third power play goal of the game for BU.
“It’s a great line,” Quinn said of is first line of Eichel, O’Regan and Rodrigues. “They all have a work ethic to them. They’ve got great skills, they’ve got hockey intelligence.”
For Northeastern, Madigan reflected on tonight’s loss but was also confident his team will bounce back come next Friday.
“More than anything in the third period disappointed with our frustration and amount of penalties we took,” the fourth year head coach said.
“It was a little bit of a selfish play letting our frustrations show and taking dumb penalties. It’s suicide taking seven penalties against Boston University.”
“I think it was Bill Parcells who talked about it. Now we’re moving on to the tournament.”
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