CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Behind a two-goal effort by sophomore David Spina and plenty of offensive patience and poise, No. 1 Boston College got back to winning ways Friday, knocking off pesky Northeastern, 4-1, in front of 7,500 at BC’s Conte Forum.
The Eagles used four unanswered goals in the final 27 minutes of play to prevent the Huskies from committing grand larceny by stealing a game they had no business winning.
“Our senior captains hound us on just staying positive,” said Spina about a game that saw BC outshoot the Huskies, 37-14, but trail for most of it. “The tell us that things are going to happen and they do. That’s how we win games.”
It also helped that BC was able to swing all momentum in the second period after goaltender Tim Kelleher (13 saves), not tested often in the game, came up with his toughest and most important save of the game.
With Northeastern leading, 1-0, thanks to a Mike Ryan power-play goal in the first period, Jared Mudryk came in with a partial breakaway, was stoned on the first shot but fired off a rebound bid that Kelleher miraculously saved.
“Our defenseman was cutting the angle on [Mudryk] so I knew he couldn’t cut back that far,” said Kelleher, who improved to 6-0-0 on the season. “I tried to cover the low part of the ice and stopped him.”
The initial save was good, but it was the rebound that opened the eyes over everyone in the rink.
“I knew the puck went over to the corner, so I rolled over like a fish out of water,” said Kelleher describing his save a la Dominic Hasek. “I saw him take the shot and caught a piece of it with my blocker.”
The series of saves ended when the second rebound was buried into Kelleher’s chest for a whistle, but keeping it a one-goal game turned out to be the turning point.
“You’ve got to make the most of your opportunities when you get your opportunities,” said Northeastern coach Bruce Crowder, no stranger to upsetting top-ranked teams after losing Friday for only the second time in his seven-year tenure to the nation’s number-one team. “[Mudryk] had a really good chance there and with the way [goaltender] Keni [Gibson] was playing you thought you might have been able to steal one.”
But just minutes after that key save, it was obvious Northeastern wouldn’t steal anything this night.
At the 13-minute mark of the second, Ben Eaves buried a quick, no-look pass from Tony Voce to knot the score at one. Eaves and Voce were complemented on the line by Ryan Murphy, taking the place of Ben’s brother Patrick Eaves, who is serving a one-game suspension for a spearing penalty in BC’s last outing.
Just 67 seconds after the Eagles tied the game, Spina put them ahead for good. Rookie Chris Collins fed a pass from the sideboards to the front of the net where Spina collected it, deked Gibson (33 saves) and roofed the shot for the 2-1 lead.
Eagles coach Jerry York feels that Collins is completes the line with Spina and Ryan Shannon well.
“I think Chris Collins as a freshman has really helped Dave and Ryan,” said York. “They seem to mix well and they skate well as a line. Tonight, they were a key factor.”
From that point on in the game, the Eagles limited the Huskies to only five shots, none threatening. And in the third period, it was Spina again who gave the Eagles some breathing room, taking a pass from Eaves at 9:06 and burying a pretty one-timer for the 3-1 lead.
Shannon finished the scoring for the 4-1 final.
“You’ve got to score more than one goal to win hockey games,” said Crowder. “BC did a great job tonight against us defensively, just as they have all year to teams.”
The ability not only to win, but to dominate the game, was exactly the game plan the Eagles wanted coming off their first loss of the season, 3-2 to No. 2 New Hampshire on Tuesday night.
“We came out flying, right from the gate,” said Kelleher. “That feeling in the locker room Tuesday night was a feeling that the guys in the locker room don’t want to have again. They went out and proved that tonight.”
Combined with New Hampshire’s 2-1 loss to No. 7 Maine on Friday night, the Eagles may be in a position to retain the country’s number-one spot despite Tuesday’s setback. At 9-1-1, 6-1-0 in Hockey East, the Eagles hold a one-point lead over UNH for first place in Hockey East.
Northeastern drops to 2-7-2, 1-5-1 in Hockey East.
The Eagles will once again be forced into action midweek, traveling Tuesday night for a nonleague game at Dartmouth. The Huskies don’t have as much rest, playing against Saturday when they host MAAC member Quinnipiac.