CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Friday night’s match-up between Northeastern and Boston College had all the makings for a major upset. That was until Eagles rookie forward Benn Ferriero took control of things.
With the game tied a two late in the third period, Ferriero netted his second goal of the game on the power play to give BC a 3-2 lead. Chris Collins’ empty net goal with 49 seconds remaining ended up being the game-winner as Northeastern rallied late in the final minute but ended up on the wrong end of a 4-3 decision.
The go-ahead goal came just minutes after Northeastern’s Joe Vitale was stopped on a breakaway that would’ve given the Huskies a late-game lead.
“Tonight I thought the turning point was, with the game tied 2-2, Ginand got the breakaway and [goaltender] Joey [Pearce] made a big save,” said BC associate head coach Mike Cavanaugh. “That seemed to energize our bench and we were able to capitalize on the power play.”
The win extended Boston College’s winning streak to five games (4-0-1) and allowed them to keep pace and remain tied with Providence, a 5-1 winner over Boston University on Friday, for first place in Hockey East.
It was a game that seemed that both teams, at times, looked sluggish and slow, but BC held a massive edge in the shot department out-shooting Northeastern, 32-15, on the night. It was the play of Northeastern goaltender Doug Jewer (27 saves) that even gave the Huskies a fighting chance.
“We were really, really sloppy,” said a frustrated NU head coach Greg Cronin, whose club dips to 1-12-4 on the year and is now winless in its last nine (0-6-3). “We had a couple of sporadic times where we hit pipes and had breakaways, but BC controlled the game and controlled the rhythm.”
In addition to Ferriero’s two-goal performance, junior backup goaltender Joe Pearce (12 saves) made the most of his third straight start. Pearce has played all of the games for the Eagles since returning from break as number one netminder Cory Schneider backstopped the U.S. Under-20 team to a fourth place finish at the World Junior Championship in Vancouver. Schneider reportedly returned to the BC campus just hours before Friday’s game and was dressed on the bench, but the BC coaches deferred to the more rested Pearce.
Though BC had some early jump in its step, it was Northeastern that got on the board first taking advantage of a power play at 12:35. Steve. Birnstill’s shot from the center of the blueline floated through heavy traffic eluded Pearce, hitting the top corner for a 1-0 Husky lead.
NU nearly extended the lead on a second power play chance. A shot from the right point through traffic deflected to Vitale, alone at the left post with an empty net. The rookie, though, couldn’t get his stick on the ice quick enough and the puck floated just wide of the post, leaving the NU at 1-0 through one.
BC definitively controlled play for most of the period despite the score, holding an 11-4 advantage in shots.
In the second, BC’s momentum finally translated to the scoreboard as the Eagles struck twice to take a 2-1 lead.
Ferriero got the Eagles on the board a 1:11 when he took a long pass from Andrew Orpik, skated in alone and beat Jewer under the arm.
The Eagles took their first lead at 7:35 when defenseman Peter Harrold pinched in from the point on the power play and buried the rebound of a Chris Collins shot for the 2-1 BC lead.
Though BC held a gross advantage in shots through two periods, 23-6, it still clung to a slim one-goal lead.
In the third, the Huskies capitalized on BC’s inability to take control and at 5:46 tied the game at 2. Matti Uusivrita put home the rebound of his own shot, fighting off a BC defender and roofing the puck over Pearce to knot the game, much to the delight of the small NU contingent that was part of the 7,288 on hand at Kelley Rink.
After Ferriero netted the go-ahead goal and Collins buried the empty-net marker from center ice, it appeared the Eagles had things well in control. But NU never quit and Ginand’s goal with eight seconds remaining pulled the Huskies back within one.
After a BC timeout, Northeastern won the draw at center ice and mustered two shots, the first of which Pearce saved with the second one sailing just wide of the left post as time expired.
Both teams return to action Saturday night with Northeastern hosting Boston University and BC traveling to Providence for a game that, barring a tie, will break the deadlock between the Eagles and the Friars at the top of the Hockey East standings.