BOSTON — A win is a win is a win.
Northeastern was outshot in every period, finishing with a 38-18 shot deficit, but made the most of its opportunities with timely scoring in a 4-3 win over Boston College.
The contributions came from many sources. The penalty-killing combination of Leon Hayward and Brian Tudrick scored a huge shorthanded goal in the first period to give the Huskies a lead they would never relinquish. Mike Ryan, who’d been sidelined since late August with mononucleosis, scored in both the second and third periods, including the game-winner. Goaltender Mike Gilhooly made 36 stops.
“If we’re going to win a lot of games this year,” said Hayward, “it’s going to have to be team-oriented: good goaltending, our big guys come and play hard and then the muckers and grinders chip in. We’re a consummate team. We have to play together in order to get things done.”
As a result, Northeastern (2-2-0, 1-0-0 HEA) defeated Boston College (1-3-1, 0-2-0 HEA) for the first time in nine games dating back to Nov. 12, 1999. Coincidentally, that date also began BC’s last four-game winless streak, a mark matched by this loss.
“We were on the short end of the offensive chances and shots, but on the right end of the goals and assists,” said Northeastern coach Bruce Crowder. “It was a funny game that way, but you gotta love winning.”
That said, Crowder wasn’t getting carried away with the W.
“We did a lot of things bad tonight,” he said. “There are a lot of things that need to be corrected if we want to be successful in this league. We can’t say that we beat BC, therefore we’re world-beaters. We have to look at ourselves honestly and get better.”
BC coach Jerry York was likewise keeping the result in perspective. Despite the Eagles dropping their first two league games to go 0-3-1 overall in the last four, he remained optimistic about his very young team.
“I like our club,” he said. “We’re playing well in a lot of different areas. I think we’re going to be a very good hockey team. I like our skill. I like our tenacity. Now we just need some experience.
“There’s a bright future for this team. It might not be next weekend or the weekend after, but I think by the second half of the year we’re going to be a pretty dangerous club.”
BC dominated the first period territorially, outattempting Northeastern 27-6 with an 11-4 advantage in shots on net. Nonetheless, the Huskies were opportunistic to the extreme in taking a 2-1 lead.
Just 30 seconds into the game Boston College silenced a vocal student section revved up for NU’s Hockey East opener. Gilhooly came out of the net to play the puck up the boards, but saw every goaltender’s nightmare unfold. Jeff Giuliano quickly collected the puck and slid it in front where Ryan Shannon put it into the open net.
At 2:20, however, BC freshman Dave Spina was whistled for a five-minute hitting-from-behind major penalty and game misconduct. It took only 37 seconds for the Huskies to even the score. Tim Judy, on the right point, set up Jim Fahey’s one-timer from the left faceoff dot before BC goaltender Matti Kaltiainen could move to cover the short side.
Although almost four and a half minutes remained on the major, the Eagles’ defense stiffened, standing up the Husky forwards at the blue line and quickly clearing it out of the zone after dump-ins. After almost three ineffective minutes on the power play, Northeastern took a penalty to nullify the rest of the advantage.
That infraction was the first of four straight NU penalties that ceded puck possession to the Eagles, who had none of Northeastern’s problems gaining the zone. However, the Huskies did a good job blocking many shots and those that weren’t blocked were most often shot wide, preventing BC from capitalizing.
On the third of the four straight penalty kills, Tudrick turned the game around stealing the puck at the blue line and racing up the left wing. He found Hayward in the slot, fed him the puck and the gritty senior roofed it for his 10th career goal.
“I saw that the defenseman was fumbling the puck at the point,” said Tudrick. “We’re taught on the penalty kill that when he’s fumbling it to pressure him and hope he’ll cough it up. He coughed it up so I tipped it ahead of him. I was trying to get to the net, but he was backchecking pretty hard and I heard Leon calling for it.”
Hayward then finished off the perfect setup.
“Tuddie jumped and I was gone,” he said. “I was just waiting for him to get it over to me. I don’t know how many times we’ve done that in practice… probably a million times.”
The period ended with Northeastern the improbable leader at 2-1 thanks to the shorthanded goal.
A much more evenly played second stanza saw Northeastern sniper Mike Ryan make it a 3-1 game midway through only to have BC’s Ales Dolinar make it a one-goal game again late in the period.
Before all that, Gilhooly redeemed himself for the opening-minute miscue, with nice saves on Giuliano off a faceoff and then Shannon and A.J. Walker on the doorstep.
That redemption, however, almost proved short-lived at 6:49 when Gilhooly came way out of the net to beat a BC skater to the puck, but failed to clear it out of the zone and had to dive back to the crease to avoid a crushing second “empty net” goal.
Ryan made it a 3-1 game on a rush at 10:11, fighting through the defense just inside the blue line and gaining control of the puck in the slot in time to rip a low shot past Kaltiainen.
“[I wanted to] make him move laterally,” said Ryan. “I was able to chip [the puck] to space, delay for a second, make a move and went five-hole.”
At 17:59, after being denied by Gilhooly’s stacked pad save 30 seconds earlier, Voce fought down low to get a puck lose for Dolinar who put it in short side.
At 3:21 of the third period, Ryan made it 4-2 on a goalscorer’s goal. Taking a perfect Willie Levesque pass from the defensive zone to the left wing boards, Ryan broke in on Kaltiainen, faked a forehand shot and then pulled the puck around to his backhand and beat the goaltender.
“Willie made a great pass,” said Ryan. “It allowed me to keep my feet going. I was surprised [Kaltiainen] stayed back in the net so much because I didn’t think I had a very good angle to the goal. When he stayed back, I just quickly got to my backhand and went to the far side.”
With 1:34 remaining and a faceoff in the Northeastern end, York pulled his goaltender for an extra skater. That paid off with 41 seconds on the clock. Shannon whacked in a loose puck in the crease for his second goal of the game to make it 4-3. BC then kept pressing to the final buzzer, but couldn’t get the equalizer.
Next weekend, Northeastern travels to New Hampshire on Friday night and then hosts Notre Dame. BC has only a lone Friday home game against the Fighting Irish.