BOSTON — The battle between the penthouse and the doghouse in Hockey East looked more like the battle between the top two teams in the conference.
For 40 minutes, at least.
In the end, No. 2 Boston College used a three-goal third period to spark a comeback, as Ryan Shannon scored two goals and added an assist to lead Hockey East’s top team over cellar-dweller Northeastern 4-2 Friday evening in front of 4,120 rowdy fans at Matthews Arena.
“We’ve played three away games now that have all been grinding, difficult games to play,” said BC head coach Jerry York. “In all three we’ve found a way to win the game, and that’s a mark of a good club. Northeastern battled to the end; they gave us everything we could handle.”
The rubber match between the two squads went to the Eagles, giving York his 686th career win, tying him with longtime rival Jack Parker of Boston University for the lead among active coaches.
Northeastern skated hard out of the gate and had excellent opportunities in the early moments, looking to prove that the last meeting between the two squads on January 3 — BC’s only loss in Hockey East — was no fluke.
Steve Sanders created the Huskies’ first chance of the night within the first three minutes. Making a great move at the BC blueline, Sanders kept the puck in while spinning to avoid two Eagle defenders. With most of the BC defense behind him, Sanders sent the puck to Brian Swiniarski on the low right side, and although Swiniarski connected on the one-timer, Eagle netminder Matti Kaltiainen had enough time to react and make the save.
Seconds later it was Trevor Reschny all alone in front of the BC net with the puck. Once again Kaltiainen came up big, stopping a blistering shot.
The Huskies finally found a way past Kaltiainen at 10:17 of the first. After the NU defense created a turnover in neutral ice, linemates Mike Morris and Jason Guerriero broke into the Eagle zone on a two-on-one, with Guerriero trailing on the left side. Guerriero connected on Morris’ pass across the slot before Kaltiainen could react, making it 1-0 Huskies.
Matthews Arena continued to rock after Jared Mudryk made it 2-0 Northeastern. On a breakout created by NU netminder Keni Gibson, the Huskies drove the length of the ice, culminating in a shot by Eric Ortlip from the right faceoff dot. Kaltiainen made the initial save, but the rebound bounced out to Mudryk, and the junior forward stuffed the puck into an empty net before anyone could blink at 12:21.
The Eagles gained some composure after the second Husky tally, breaking up Gibson’s bid at a second straight shutout over BC at 15:09 in the first frame. Bringing a four-on-two attack across the Northeastern blueline, BC’s Chris Collins found a wide-open Ryan Shannon on the right side of the Husky zone. With Gibson out to challenge the shooter, Shannon rang the puck off the far post along the ice, cutting the NU lead to 2-1.
Joe Rooney had a chance to even up the contest for BC at two apiece with seconds remaining in the first. Free in the slot, Rooney’s one-timer sailed high over the net, allowing Northeastern to skate into the first break up 2-1.
The second period resembled a junkyard brawl more than anything, as hits and penalties outnumbered shots in the period. Although both teams had a few chances to light the lamp, neither squad found the back of the net in the second stanza, as Northeastern still held a 2-1 lead after two.
The Eagles owned the third period, scoring three times to preserve their five-point lead over second-place Maine in Hockey East. Tony Voce tied the contest at two at 4:31 of the third after connecting on a pass from Greg Lauze in the slot.
A penalty to Trevor Reschny gave BC its opportunity to take the lead. Called for boarding BC’s Patrick Eaves in front of the Eagle bench, Boston College went on the man-advantage at 7:39 after a brief scuffle on the ice between both teams. Chris Collins potted the game-winner at 8:50 after Voce’s shot to the net failed to reach its target due to a shredded stick.
Northeastern used a last-ditch attempt to tie the game in the waning minutes, skating with a six-on-four advantage after BC was called for delay of game. Shannon sealed the victory for the Eagles, making a play from his knees at his own blueline to not only clear the puck but also collect an empty-net shorthander at 19:17.
Kaltiainen made a total of 21 saves in net for Boston College, while Gibson stopped 24 attempts for the Huskies. The Eagles went 1-for-3 on the night on the power play, while Northeastern was unable to convert on its four opportunities.
“For the most part, I don’t think that we had the jump that we’ve had before,” said reserved Northeastern coach Bruce Crowder. “The second BC goal was a turning point in the game. One of our guys went down, and wasn’t able to get back into the play before they scored.
“We’ve played these guys three times, we’ve played them tough each time. We had a chance at the end there on the power play, we had some guys all alone in front of the net, and it’s just a 3-2 hockey game with an empty-net goal.”
Next Friday Boston College (18-3-3, 11-1-2 HE) will host Providence, while Northeastern (6-11-4, 1-9-3) will battle Merrimack in North Andover Saturday evening. Both games are slated for a 7 p.m. start. The two teams could potentially meet for a fourth time this season in the 52nd annual Beanpot on February 9 at the FleetCenter.