CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — The Boston College Eagles were seconds away from heading to the holiday break winless in their last four games. Then David Spina stepped in.
Spina, on and end-to-end rush that looked almost Bobby Orr-esque, scored the game-winning goal with 22.6 seconds remaining in overtime as the Eagles sneaked past crosstown rivals Northeastern, 2-1, to end the first half of the season on a high note.
“It was a big win for us because we’ve tied or lost the last three games,” said Spina, who scored his seventh goal of the season to send the BC crowd of 5,247 into pandemonium. “We’ve been playing well but the results haven’t been ending up with the ‘W’ on our side.
“An overtime win gets everyone excited and ready to come back on for the second half of the year.”
Spina’s goal began when linemate Patrick Eaves fished free a puck in the defensive zone. Spina, with a full head of steam, took a perfect pass from Eaves short of the red line and sprinted down the right wing side, catching the NU defense flatfooted and burying the goal under NU goaltender Keni Gibson with a perfect goal-scorer’s move.
“I had a little bit of speed and Pat Eaves found me with just a perfect pass,” said Spina of the game-winner. “I was fortunate to get around [the defenseman] and the rest is a blur.”
The goal spoiled an outstanding effort for Northeastern, particularly since the Huskies fell, 4-1, to BC 13 days ago, in a disappointing effort.
“I thought our kids played great,” said Northeastern coach Bruce Crowder. “It’s obviously a disappointing result but I told them after the game that I’m encouraged with a lot of the things they did today but I’m excited for the remainder of the season in what these guys are showing us that they can do.”
The hard-hitting and open game featured solid goaltending by both teams. Gibson finished the night with 35 saves while Boston College goaltender Cory Schneider, in what appeared to be a surprise start, finished with 28.
“Matti [Kaltiainen] is going to play all three games over the break because of Cory Schneider being at the World Juniors,” said BC coach Jerry York of his choice to go with Schneider, who remained unbeaten on the season at 4-0-3. “We figured this was a chance to get Cory a game here.”
The opening period saw the Eagles firing on all cylinders, buzzing around the offensive zone and cycling the puck well enough to keep the Huskies defense looking desperate.
After generating a few solid chances, rookie Matt Greene got the Eagles on the board at 3:10. Greene was on the doorstep to finish off the rebound of a Dan Bertram shot from the left-wing corner to give BC a 1-0 lead.
“Our line works best when we get it down low and start buzzing,” said Greene. “That’s exactly what we did. [Bertram] did all the work to get it to the net and I just had to bang it home.”
Northeastern would regroup, though, and late in the period post chances of its own. The best opportunity was a 51-second five-on-three man advantage during which NU showed solid puck movement but couldn’t get a quality opportunity on the net, sending the game to intermission with the Eagles leading, 1-0.
In the second, Northeastern picked up the pace and created a handful of quality chances, the first of which evened the game.
While on the power play, a John Awe shot from the point struck Eagles defender Stephen Gionta in the hand. With Gionta shaken up, the puck bounced to Mike Morris, who, after playing catch with Jason Guerriero, fired a shot that hit an Eagle body and deflected over the shoulder of Schneider at 5:55 to even the game at one.
Later in the frame, NU had its chances to take the lead. Brian Swiniarski fired a point-blank shot from the left circle at 14:10 and Guerriero followed that up just seconds later when he hit the post on a shot from the left wing at 14:44.
In the third, both teams earned more opportunities. Northeastern had the best one in the closing minutes when Donny Grover, Yale Lewis and Aaron Moore all had whacks at a loose puck in front of Schneider, but none could get enough wood on the shot to lift it over the fallen goalie.
In overtime, NU pressed for the first two shots, but BC countered and nearly won the game on two separate occasions. Eaves was denied by Gibson twice with 1:50 remaining, the final time as Eaves got off a backhander from his knees.
And Greene just 20 seconds later couldn’t deflect a centering pass into a wide open net, making a deadlock look apparent.
Until, of course, Spina took to the game into his hands to end things and send BC into the break on a high note.
Northeastern will have one final shot at righting the ship on Saturday night when the Huskies take on Lowell. The Huskies (6-8-1 overall, 3-4-0 in Hockey East) will look to return to .500 in league play.
Boston College heads to the holiday break at 7-3-3 and 4-1-3 in league play. The Eagles return to action on December 28 when they face Cornell at the Florida College Classic in Estero, Fla.