CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — So much for tradition.
As steady as Boston College’s team has been, so has its line combination for the first six games of the young season. But Friday, with Marty Hughes serving a suspension for spearing and rookie Ben Eaves out with muscle spasms, BC’s first-line offense would have to come from elsewhere.
And that it did, as captain Brian Gionta, Mike Lephart and Ales Dolinar combined for three goals and seven assists to pace No. 4 Boston College, 6-3, over in-town rival and No. 12 Northeastern in front of a packed house at BC’s Conte Forum.
“We were able to have one practice together,” said Dolinar, who led the line with a career-high four assists. “But Lephart and Gionta have great speed. It makes it easy to just hit them and watch them go.”
BC coach Jerry York was pleased with his club’s quick start, a first period that saw the Eagles grab a 3-1 lead while outshooting the Huskies 16-3 in the frame.
“It was definitely our best [first period] of the season,” said York. “We had a lot of jump tonight.
“But Northeastern hung in there Even though we had more shots and more opportunities, it was still a hockey game late.”
But hanging in wasn’t enough for Northeastern coach Bruce Crowder, who admitted his team was a little outmatched.
“We got beat by a better team,” said Crowder. “We didn’t come out of the gate too well, but we hung in there. We fought our way back into it but it wasn’t enough.
“We had a lot of guys who didn’t bring their ‘A’ game tonight, and they played great. The two of those put together are a recipe for disaster.”
Shots on goal, like the first period, were lopsided throughout the game. And even though Northeastern goaltender Jason Braun (31 saves) allowed six goals, he still made countless point-blank saves to keep the Huskies in it.
His counterpart, Scott Clemmensen (12 saves), recorded the win for the Eagles, his fifth of the season.
The Eagles grabbed a 2-0 lead before the fashionably late even had time to arrive. At 5:23, Krys Kolonos scored his team-leading seventh goal of the young season when Braun couldn’t cover the rebound in front. Kolonos, skating past the left post, tipped the puck between the open legs of Braun for the 1-0 lead.
Just two minutes, 21 seconds later, the Eagles connected again on the power play. Gionta, camped out behind the net a la Wayne Gretzky, waited for Lephart to position himself in the slot and made a picture-perfect pass that Lephart one-timed inside the left post for his first of the night, giving the Eagles a 2-0 lead.
But the Huskies fought back, and at 10:07, Northeastern’s Rich Spiller was the beneficiary of good bounce off the boards. Jim Fahey’s pass from the right post bounded past Spiller, but the rebound off the boards allowed him to one-time a blast that beat Clemmensen over the left shoulder to pull the Huskies within a goal.
The Eagles answered, though, before the end of the first. What looked like a failed rush turned into a goal when Chuck Kobasew’s shot was blocked by the Husky defense, but ended up right on the tape of Jeff Giuliano. He wristed a shot past Braun to give the Eagles back a two-goal lead at 3-1.
Northeastern came out with all cylinders firing in the second period. Twenty-one seconds into the frame, Willie Levesque’s breakaway bid was turned aside by Clemmensen. And less than a minute later, Ryan Dungeon’s blast from the left-wing circle forced Clemmensen to make a spectacular pad save.
The period began without linesman John Jones, who injured his knee before the game and was forced to leave the game late in the first period. Halfway through the frame, his loss proved costly to Northeastern.
With just two officials, a referee and a linesman, left to work, referee Jeff Bunyon’s blew a Northeastern two-on-one offside just a second before Chris Lynch blasted a shot over Clemmensen’s glove. The play appeared to be onside and sent Crowder and the entire NU bench into a rage.
“I can’t fault the refs for anything,” said Crowder. “It’s difficult [to be shorthanded], and they battled hard through the adversity.”
Despite additional offensives chances by both clubs, the period ended scoreless, giving the Eagles a two-goal cushion into the third.
After a slow start to the third, BC opened up a three-goal lead thanks to the quick shot of Gionta. With the draw in the circle to the right of Braun, Dolinar’s win found Gionta moving in from the left-wing side. Gionta’s quick-release wrist shot beat Braun over the shoulder for the 4-1 lead at 7:31.
There was still plenty of fight, though, left in the Huskies. After Dudgeon tipped home a loose puck to the left of Clemmensen at 9:07, John Peterman brought Northeastern at within a goal with a power-play tally at 9:53.
But the Gionta-Lephart combo proved too strong for Northeastern, and when the two hooked up for Lephart’s second of the night at 12:40, the knockout blow was delivered.
Freshman Tony Voce added his first career goal with 3:27 to play to account for the 6-3 final.
The win improves the Eagles record to 6-1-0 (2-0-0, Hockey East) while Northeastern drops to 4-2-0 (1-1-0, Hockey East). Boston College will travel to Umass-Lowell on Saturday night to take on the reeling River Hawks, while Northeastern will host the Maine Black Bears, its third consecutive game against a nationally-ranked opponent.