BOSTON — It was do or die time for Northeastern as they took a five-game losing streak into their regular season finale against Boston University. And to no one’s surprise, things were tense (and a little weird) from the very beginning.
The Huskies began the game on the penalty kill after backup goalie Curtis Frye was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Frye lifted a cross-ice shot during warmups that struck a BU player, which caused the referees to review the “play” just before puck drop. Because of the penalty call, senior forward Grant Jozefek spent the first two minutes on the sin bin while BU started the game on the power play. Despite a less than ideal start, the Huskies responded well in the first period and easily killed off the penalty.
Northeastern responded in a big way just six minutes after the penalty kill, as a well-constructed power play goal gave them the early lead. The Huskies combined excellent puck movement with great positioning as Aidan McDonough finished off a pass from Grant Jozefek. Northeastern controlled play for the rest of the period and headed into the first intermission with a one-goal advantage.
Despite some nice Northeastern chances throughout the second period, BU controlled the majority of play. The best chance for Northeastern came about 15 minutes into the period, as Matt Filipe nearly found fellow forward Neil Shea on a breakaway, though the pass trickled just wide of Shea’s stick.
The Huskies held their lead after two periods despite a late-period scare. With just 20 seconds left in the frame, BU forward Trevor Zegras sent a long-range shot on Pantano, who had difficulty holding onto the puck. With both teams fighting for the puck to the immediate right of Pantano, BU defenseman Cam Crotty eventually redirected the puck into the net. However, it was determined after a lengthy review that Crotty interfered with Pantano, causing the goal to be waved off and allowing NU to escape the second frame with the 1–0 lead.
After an admittedly sluggish second period, the Huskies found their grove once again just 43 seconds into the third frame, as Matt Filipe finished a rebound off a long-range drive from defenseman Ryan Shea.
The Huskies’ momentum was short-lived, however. BU responded with their own goal just three minutes later when senior forward Patrick Harper sent in a bullet from the near face-off dot. Despite the goal light going off, play continued for the next two minutes with the referees saying the shot had not gone in. A review of the play determined what everyone already knew — the Husky lead was down to one.
With their season on the line, Northeastern did what they do best: block shots and clog shooting lanes. Despite some nice chances for BU, the Huskies maintained their lead for the rest of regulation. Northeastern combined impressive defense with timely offense, as the Huskies enjoyed several stretches of offensive zone time to further drain the clock.
BU would not go quietly, however, as with just 1:44 left Northeastern was called for a tripping penalty, giving BU a man advantage for the rest of regulation. The Terriers turned it into a two-man advantage, playing the entire power play with goalie Sam Tucker on the bench. Despite the six-on-four Terrier advantage, Northeastern held its own defensively, as BU would have virtually no chances on the power play. Matt Filipe cleared the puck for the final time as the Husky bench celebrated the breaking of a five-game losing skid with an intense 2–1 victory over their crosstown rivals.
“I thought our kids played a gutty, tough, and determined game,” coach Jim Madigan said. “We wanted to make sure that we earned our way into the playoffs and just not backed into it and tonight’s win was that.”
Captain Ryan Shea echoed his coach’s thoughts, saying, “We didn’t want to leave it up to chance. We didn’t want to risk our season and watch them [UNH] at 7 o’clock . . . We just wanted to get the job done ourselves.”
“This is a building we haven’t had much success in over the years,” Madigan said of Agganis Arena. The Huskies avenged their 6–3 defeat at Agganis earlier this year while playing in front of one of the Terriers’ largest crowds this season.
On Pantano’s performance, Madigan explained, “I thought he was really dialed in today. He was tracking pucks well and getting the puck out of the crease. I also thought our guys defended well, getting in front of shots and limiting BU’s opportunities.” Madigan said the team understood how dominant Boston University can be offensively, noting “With these guys [Patrick Harper, Trevor Zegras, Patrick Curry] you can just try to contain them and hope that they don’t get the opportunities where they can get going.”
The win places Northeastern (18–13–3, 11–12–1 HEA) in seventh place in Hockey East to finish the regular season and gives them a spot in the Hockey East Tournament. Northeastern will have a quarterfinals series away at UMASS Amherst next weekend, with the game times still to be announced. The Huskies are 1–2 against the Minutemen this season, with both losses coming on the road. Northeastern will have its work cut out for them if they are going to truly turn their season around, though this win gives them the confidence boost they will need to have any chance.