CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Few pundits gave Northeastern a chance to rebound in its best-of-three quarterfinal series against Boston College after losing on Thursday night, 3-0.
For those who did, it took less than a period in Friday’s second game to prove them wrong.
Though the Huskies opened the scoring in the second minute of play, that was as close as NU would get to victory as BC reeled off the games final seven goals for a 7-1 victory to clinch the series, two-games to none, and advance to Hockey East final four for 14th time in the tournament’s 23-year history.
“The best Saturday in the year is when you’ve won both [quarterfinal] games and you wake up knowing that you can bring your team with you to the league banquet,” said head coach Jerry York, who improved to 29-11-1 all-time in the Hockey East tournament.
The key to the game for both teams was special teams. Boston College scored a season-high four goals with the man advantage and shut out the Northeastern power play on five attempts, including an extended five-on-three advantage early in the second period.
“If we’re going to have success, we’re going to do so with special teams and goaltending,” said York. “During the five-on-three [penalty kill] we did a good job of taking away the lane and playing good position.”
Said defensemen Brett Motherwell, who tied a Hockey East tournament record with four assists in the game, of the power play, “When we’re clicking like that, we’re all just moving the puck. No one is taking bad shots. We’re just completely unselfish.”
Though one might not believe it from the final score, Boston College goaltender Cory Schneider played a big role for the Eagles early in the game. With Northeastern leading 1-0 thanks to a Ryan Ginand goal in the opening minutes, Schneider was called upon to make some big saves to keep the Eagles within a goal and allow his team time to turn the game around.
“[Schneider] was rock-solid again for us tonight,” said York. “They’re up 1-0 and if they’re able to get that next goal, it’s a completely different game.”
Instead, BC made sure that Ginand’s goal was Northeastern final bright light of the game.
The Eagles scored the next four goals of the period, three coming on the power play. Joe Rooney buried a rebound of Benn Ferriero shot at 12:42
Ferriero then struck twice, scoring when a puck deflected off a Huskies defender at 16:10, and a second marker on the power play at 18:02.
Finally, Brock Bradford finished off perfect tic-tac-toe passing in which all five Eagles touched the puck with 20.5 seconds to play in the frame to give the Eagles the healthy 4-1 lead through one.
If anyone thought the Eagles would relent in the second, they were far from correct.
After Northeastern failed to scored on an extended two-man advantage, the Eagles went on yet another power play and wasted no time taking advantage. Boyle fired a hard wrister that snapped the twine at 8:53 for a 5-1 lead.
At 13:49, Bertram buried his sixth of the season, cleaning up the rebound of a Motherwell shot from the point. And after Northeastern pulled goaltender Brad Thiessen (12 saves) in favor of senior Adam Geragosian (10 saves), BC buried yet another shot, this one the first goal of his career for rookie Matt Lombardi at 15:42.
The third period was a simple exhibition of pond hockey with neither team able to score. The sparse crowd of 2,471 was able to give one final cheer to Schneider, who finished the night with 21 saves, as he was relieved with 7:05 to play by senior Joe Pearce, who made three saves to complete the Eagles’ effort.
Though Northeastern went out with a whimper on Friday, it doesn’t overshadow the improvement that the Huskies, winners of just three games a season ago, made in earning 13 victories this year.
“It was a good year, it just wasn’t a great year,” said graduating senior Steve Burnstill. “Going from three wins to 13 wins was a big improvement. We were a great bunch of guys who always stuck together.”
The Eagles advance to next Friday’s semifinals as possibly the nation’s hottest team. They’ve won eight straight games, 10 of their last 11 and 12 of their last 14.
“We just have to keep the heart and desire of our team,” said Motherwell. “Another good week of practice and we’ll be ready to rock in the Garden next Friday night.