CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Late in the second period it seemed possible that Northeastern could be on its way to its first win of the season — and over No. 2 Boston College, no less.
As the Huskies went on a five-on-three power play holding a 2-0 lead, there was an eerie sense for the Eagles that a third goal could be lights out. That horror, though, was erased as sophomore Stephen Gionta stripped NU’s Tim Judy and walked in alone on goaltender Keni Gibson, deking him to score two men shorthanded.
That turned the momentum, and the game, around as BC went on to a 4-2 victory.
“Sometimes when we’re on the power play we think we can lay back,” said Northeastern’s Jason Guerriero, who had set up each of NU’s two goals to give his team the cushion. “A team like BC, when they’re on the penalty kill it seems like they’re on the power play and we can’t let up for a second.
“You almost have to outwork their penalty killing. We didn’t outwork them [on the 5-on-3], they got the goal and the momentum changed.”
That would be an understatement, as BC allowed just four shots to the Huskies the rest of the way, while plastering Gibson (38 saves) with a total of 42 shots overall.
The loss drops NU to 0-9-2 on the season, extending the worst start in school history. It was the Huskies’ 12th straight game without a win dating back to last season, tying the all-time winless record set by the 1961-62 team that closed the season with 12 straight losses.
“It’s like a dog chasing its tail,” said NU coach Bruce Crowder, comparing his team to his one-year old chocolate lab, Bailey. “My dog can chase its tail for 20 minutes and keep itself occupied and that’s what this is like for us.
“Everybody is pressing and everybody is gripping their stick a little harder. We should be relaxing. There shouldn’t have been any pressure on us in this game. It’s 2-2 going into the third period in [BC's] building. All the pressure should have been on them.”
But the Eagles instead played a near-perfect third period and junior Ryan Shannon scored the winning goal for the second straight game, breaking a 2-2 deadlock at 5:14 of the third. Tony Voce added an insurance tally at 11:06 to account for the final.
“It’s was a good test for us,” said BC head coach Jerry York, whose club came from behind to a victory for only the second time all season, completing an unbeaten month of November (6-0-2). “We came in after the first period down 2-0 and we had to generate some offense and get going.”
Despite being outshot, 15-4, in the opening period, the Huskies staked that early 2-0 lead thanks to nifty moves and heads-up play.
Rookie Yale Lewis got NU on the board just 1:29 into the game. He took a headman pass at the offensive blueline from Guerriero and skated one-on-one against a BC defender. Lewis put the puck through the defender’s legs at the top of the circle, moved around him and, losing his balance, slid the puck past BC goaltender Matti Kaltiainen (11 saves) to give the Huskies the 1-0 lead.
Five and a half minutes later, it was Guerriero again setting up an NU goal. This time he moved behind the net with the puck so quickly that by the time he fired a pass out front to Brian Deeth, Kaltiainen had lost track. Deeth simply one-timed it into the empty net for his first career goal and point.
BC had its chances to pull closer in the frame. Gibson was forced to make a quick save moving left to right to deny Chris Collins at 9:45 and then got a little help from the goalpost when J.D. Forrest’s slapper from the post clanged off the metal to send the game to the locker with the Huskies leading 2-0.
It was only the second time that this season BC was held scoreless in the opening period, the other coming in a 1-0 loss to Notre Dame on October 24.
In the second, special teams made the difference. After Northeastern killed off an early penalty, it appeared they would gain momentum when BC’s Greg Lauze and Forrest were sent off a minute apart giving the Huskies a 5-on-3 for 61 seconds. After Kaltiainen stopped Brian Swinarski, Eric Ortlip and Steve Birnstill point blank, Gionta turned the game around.
“For Gionta, it was just a great individual effort,” said Shannon of Gionta’s goal at 15:13, his third shorthanded tally of the season. “If you can score shorthanded, it completely brings the momentum back to you.”
Shannon himself set up the tying goal at 18:51, winning a faceoff back to Chris Collins, who immediately blasted a high shot over the blocker of Gibson.
“You try that play 100 times and you’re lucky if it works once,” said Shannon.
From there, the Eagles had control of the game and after the two third-period markers, all the Eagles had to do was shut down the Huskies.
“We were pretty impressive in the third,” said York of a defense that stifled NU once it had the lead, allowing just three third-period shots.
The win catapults Boston College (9-2-3, 5-0-2 Hockey East) into first place over Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, all three either idle or playing nonconference games on Saturday. BC will return to action to face another crosstown rival, No. 12 Boston University, at home next Friday.
Northeastern does not resume Hockey East play until January 3 when it hosts BC. The Huskies will play four non-league games in December beginning by hosting Vermont next Saturday night.