BOSTON — Northeastern got four goals from the unlikeliest of sources to defeat Boston University, 4-1 Sunday. Graig Mischler, who led the team in assists but hadn’t scored all year, netted two for the first time in his collegiate career. Sean MacDonald added another to break a 51-game drought. And Chris Lynch got his first five-on-five goal in over a year. For good measure, defenseman Joe Mancuso totaled three assists, one more than he’d accumulated in his 43-game career.
The Huskies fell behind 1-0 in the first period, but rebounded to dominate in the second and take a lead they would never surrender. Jason Braun played well in the nets, weathering an early third-period BU storm before Mischler’s second and Lynch’s goal provided a safe cushion.
As a result, the Huskies, who have played one of the toughest schedules to date in the country, move to 5-2-1 with a 2-1-1 mark in Hockey East. This was their only game of the weekend.
“For us, that was a great game,” said NU coach Bruce Crowder. “BU is a very good team. We were just a little bit better tonight. We had some guys who were equal to the task.
“The kids want to make some waves this year. We don’t want to get too high or too low. We realize that it’s only November and it’s only one game tonight. But at the same time, we’re going to enjoy the win. We just want to keep things rolling.”
The news for Boston University was more grim. Combined with a disheartening 4-2 loss to UMass-Lowell on Friday night, the Terriers have now fallen to 2-4-1 with a 1-3-1 league record.
BU coach Jack Parker, however, is a long way from pushing the panic button. In fact, he wasn’t all that displeased with his team’s performance.
“When you lose 4-1, you think you’d be unhappy, but I was pretty happy character-wise in how hard we played,” he said. “There’s the old saying of two out of three a’int bad. I thought we played great in the first. I thought we played real hard and real smart in the third except for a couple mistakes. … I was real disappointed that we seemed to revert to the way we played against Lowell in the second period.
“[But Northeastern] is a good team. They’re going to win a lot of hockey games.”
BU played the first period as though determined to rebound from their Friday night loss, outshooting Northeastern, 13-4, while taking a 1-0 lead.
The Terriers drew first blood at 4:06 on the man advantage, although arguably it had more to do with a great individual play by Dan Cavanaugh than the typical man-up puck movement. Cavanaugh carried the puck over the blue line on the right wing and faked defenseman Rich Spiller into the cheap seats. Cutting across Spiller’s body to the inside instead of the expected outside move along the boards, Cavanaugh broke in on NU netminder Jason Braun, forced him to protect the short side and slid the puck to Mike Pandolfo on the far post, where the winger put it into the empty net.
At 12:24 it appeared that Northeastern had capped some excellent puck movement on a power play of its own with a Mike Ryan goal. A fraction of a second earlier, however, referee Jim Fitzgerald had whistled the play dead because of a crease violation and the apparent goal was nullified.
Northeastern roared back in the second, dominating play en route to a 2-1 lead. As would be the case all game, both goals ironically came off Husky sticks that had been remarkably cold.
Just 2:15 into the period, sniper Mike Ryan put a shot on Jason Tapp that fell at the goaltender’s feet. As the puck trickled toward the goal line, Mischler whacked it into the net. Although Mischler entered the game with a team-high nine assists, the goal was the top-line center’s first of the season.
Northeastern continued to press and at the 6:40 mark Tapp had to make a sharp save on a Brian Cummings tip in front. Northeastern then went on the power play, but a partial break by Jack Baker on the shorthanded attempt resulted in a Husky penalty to even the sides.
At the midway point, Lynch cut through the BU defense, but as he cut across the goalmouth, he couldn’t control the puck enough to backhand it in.
The decisive territorial advantage finally turned into a lead for Northeastern at 11:00. Willie Levesque picked off a pass at center ice, broke in on the left wing, stopped on a dime. His shot was blocked, but Sean MacDonald put it in from the doorstep. The goal broke a 51-game scoring drought for the senior dating back to Nov. 13, 1998.
“It’s a relief and it’s exciting, too,” he said. “It’s nice to contribute offensively to the team’s cause.”
BU got the next two power plays and almost cashed in on the later one, which extended into the third period. Just as the penalty expired, Greg Johnson hit the post on the rebound.
The Terriers continued to apply pressure, but rarely got more than a first shot as the Northeastern defense cleared the best rebound opportunities. And when push came to shove, Braun made the big save.
None was bigger than Cavanaugh sending Pandolfo in at 7:30, attempting to reprise their first-period goal. However, Braun made the huge save.
Until Northeastern reasserted itself at 12:30, it looked like only a matter of time before BU converted its territorial domination into a tie game. Ryan Dudgeon set up Lynch for Northeastern’s best chance of the period and within a minute the Huskies had not only stemmed the tide, but added an important insurance goal.
Mike Jozefowicz shot from the point and while Scott Selig wreaked havoc in front, Mischler stuffed in his second “garbage” goal of the game.
“They weren’t the prettiest goals I’ve ever scored,” he said. “They just came from hard work. I’ve got two guys on my line [Selig and Ryan] who work their butts off. Tonight I was just getting the bounces.”
Lynch, who ironically had a hat trick earlier this year but still was without a five-on-five goal, ended that streak, too, at 15:38. One of the top faceoff men in the league, he won two draws cleanly back to the point for shots which Tapp saved. On a third straight faceoff win, he got the puck back to Mancuso, who shot and Lynch put in the rebound.
From that point it was just a matter of Braun and the Northeastern defense holding the fort while time ran out. The junior netminder finished with 34 saves on 35 BU shots.