CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Fifteen seconds remained in overtime between Boston College and an upstart Northeastern team, the game knotted at three.
The Eagles controlled the puck and looked to make one last rush in an attempt to win the game. Little did anyone know 11 seconds later, it would be the Huskies celebrating victory as the Eagles fell in defeat.
After the Eagles turned the puck over just in offensive zone, Northeasterns Joe Vitale rushed down the left wing, beat the Boston College defender and centered the puck towards the goalmouth. Jimmy Russo, crashing hard towards the net, tipped the puck off Boston College goaltender John Muse and into the net with 3.9 ticks off the clock remaining, giving Northeastern a hard-fought 4-3 overtime win.
Thats a difficult loss for our club, said BC coach Jerry York. We have possession of the puck with 15 seconds left to play and then things turned.
I told our guys that you have to play the game with a steel jaw.
As Northeastern celebrated the game-winner, referee Joe Andrews stood at the goal line with his linesmen looking a bit confused. None of the trio was able to get back in good position to see the entire play develop. And immediately after the goal was scored, there was question whether Russo had kicked in the puck.
They were looking to see if he had kicked it, said Northeastern coach Greg Cronin of the confusion following the game-winner, which led Andrews to check with the goal judge for clarification. But give [the goal judge] credit. He stood there the whole time and had conviction.
The victory boosts Northeasterns lead for the top stop in Hockey East to three points over Massachusetts, and extends the Huskies unbeaten streak to six straight.
Converse, BCs loss extends their winless streak to six games, its longest since the 2001-02 season when it dropped six straight decisions.
Though Russo deposited the game-winner, it was Vitale who was the offensive hero on the night, potting a goal and adding three assists to figure in all four Northeastern tallies.
Neither team mustered many shots on goal, but when they did, many were spectacular requiring both goaltenders to make incredible saves. Muse finished the night with 22 stops, while his counterpart Brad Thiessen made 20 to get the win.
The Eagles wasted no time jumping on top. Andrew Orpik worked a perfect give-and-go at the blue line with Tim Kunes. Kunes curled behind the net and fed the puck back to Orpik in the slot for a quick shot over Thiessens left shoulder at 5:52 for a 1-0 Eagle lead.
At 16:01, BC extended the advantage on the power play. Working the puck back to the left point, Benn Ferriero fired a wrist shot through traffic that banked off the left post and in.
The Eagles controlled the play throughout the opening 20, outshooting the Huskies, 9-3, and nearly entered the third with a 3-0 lead. Ferriero and Brian Gibbons perfectly worked a shorthanded two-on-one with 30 seconds remaining, but Thiessen made a nifty left pad save to stone Ferriero and keep the BC lead at two through one.
The first period, I was nervous, our team looked nervous, we were tentative, said Cronin. We looked like we were at the bus stop waiting for the bus to show up.
As little energy as the Huskies showed in the first, it was the exact opposite to open the second, something that quickly paid dividends.
Rookie Mike Hewkin blasted home his first career goal on the power play at 6:41 to bring Northeastern within a goal at 2-1. And 24 seconds later, Vitale caught the BC defense loafing, getting just enough space in front to bank home a centering pass to knot the game at two.
Northeastern had a perfect opportunity to take a lead into the third. A bad BC line change in the closing minutes sent Greg Costa and Russo in on a two-on-none breakaway. Costa chose to pass the puck to Russo, who snapped a quick shot that Muse followed all the way, making the save.
In the third, Northeastern took its first lead on 5-on-3 power play, as Tyler McNeely banged home the rebound of a Wade MacLeod shot at 5:57. The Huskies, though, failed to capitalize on an ensuing two-man advantage just minutes later, which left the door open for the Eagles.
BC took advantage. After an interference penalty to NUs Louis Liotti with 10:08 to play, the Eagles scored with Ben Smith lifting a rebound over a sprawled Thiessen with 9:19 remaining to knot the game at three.
Both teams pressed towards the end of regulation, but neither mustered a quality shot forcing overtime. It was the sixth overtime game of the year for BC and third for the Huskies.
The win was the first for the Huskies at BCs Kelley Rink since November 15, 1998, also an overtime victory, 5-4. Combined with two wins over New Hampshire this season and a position in first place in Hockey East entering the night, its certainly made people take notice.
Tonight was the first time were the first place team and being hunted, said Cronin. But the good thing is that we responded.