BOSTON — It’s not easy being Mike Gilhooly.
In fact, against Boston College on Saturday night, it was darn near impossible to be the Northeastern netminder.
A potent BC power play equipped with plenty of opportunity paved the way to the Eagles’ 6-3 decision at Matthews Arena. BC took sole possession of first place in Hockey East.
“We can’t give Boston College the opportunities we gave them tonight,” said NU coach Bruce Crowder. “They have the best power play in the league, and have some great players that will exploit you.”
Crowder’s BC counterpart felt pleased with how his team played with the man advantage.
“Special teams are such a huge part of the game,” said Eagle coach Jerry York. “Even when we didn’t score, I felt we moved the puck well. I thought we had a lot of jump all night, and did a good job cycling down low.”
All eight of BC’s power-play opportunities came before the second intermission, including a pivotal stretch with the man advantage for nearly seven straight minutes.
During a five-minute major on Husky junior assistant captain Trevor Reschny for hitting from behind, the Eagles netted a pair of goals.
After the first, a re-direction by BC freshman Stephen Gionta at the 6:46 mark of the second period, NU senior captain Mike Ryan added himself to the penalty mix by cross-checking the goal scorer.
“We aren’t a team that can afford to take penalties like we did tonight,” Crowder said. “I expect that stuff from a freshman, but not someone wearing a ‘C’ or an ‘A’ on their jersey.”
In addition to the power-play attempts, Gilhooly’s crease was under heavy traffic throughout the night. On the game’s opening goal, a wrist shot by BC sophomore Taylor Leahy, the NU netminder couldn’t have seen much more than the M-U-R-P-H-Y stitched across the back of Eagle sophomore Ryan Murphy’s maroon jersey.
“They must’ve made a conscious effort to put more people in front of the net, because they did it a lot more tonight than usual,” Gilhooly said.
“On the Eaves goal, I didn’t even see the puck until he’s knocking it off the side of the goal, picking up the rebound, and roofing it.”
Despite clanging four posts on the night, the Eagles jumped out to a 2-0 lead after one period. Sophomore Ryan Shannon scored the second Eagle goal, a one-timer off a feed from BC captain Ben Eaves.
“That was just a great play by Ben,” Shannon said. “He fed me right in the slot and I had all day.”
On the power play again at 7:17 of the second, Eaves set up linemate Tony Voce. After receiving the puck from the left point, Eaves sliced a pass through the NU crease to Voce waiting on the right of the net. Voce took little time in dumping a 4-0 lead on Northeastern.
The Huskies, who were outshot 13-2 in the first period, had some bark left however. In the final two frames, NU placed 10 more shots on goal than their opponent. After goals by freshman Brian Swiniarski in the second period and Mike Morris in the third, the Huskies were sniffing the comeback trail. However, Eaves slammed the door.
Eaves, who was active around the NU net all night, found the puck down low after a scrum in front of the goal. After his first attempt rang off the post, Eaves sent his 17th goal of the year under the crossbar.
York was impressed with the play of his captain. “He’s really become one of the premier players in college hockey,” he said. “He’s been pretty good for us every time he pulls that ’22′ on.”
Shannon concurred with his coach. “They got us on our heels a little there with those two goals, but we came right back,” he said.
“That comes from the leadership on this team. We see Ben go out and turn it up and know we have to as well.”
The Huskies, who hit three posts of their own, got a late goal from Mike Morris on the power play to bring them within three goals.
The victory keeps the Eagles in the top spot of the Hockey East standings, just two points ahead of New Hampshire, heading into a crucial home-and-home series with the Wildcats.
“It’s going to be fun,” said Eaves. “Both places will be sold out, we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
York was relieved that the Eagles’ fate lies on their own shoulders. “It’s in our own hands now,” he said. “If we win Friday, we can win the championship.”
“This time of year, it seems like everyone is in playoff mode,” Eaves added. “Every game is highly contested, everyone needs points to get a better playoff spot.”