BOSTON — It wasn’t the late game. It wasn’t a full house. It wasn’t the championship.
It wasn’t even the regulars who had started all winter long.
But circumstances aside, Boston University made the most of timely scoring, just enough defense, and a few Beanpot rookies to defeat the 15th-ranked Northeastern Huskies 5-4 on Monday afternoon.
Colby Cohen, Nick Bonino and Colin Wilson scored goals in their first ever “second-Monday” contest, with rarely-used Craig Sanders and Steve Smolinsky adding assists as well. Adam Kraus earned his first win as a Terrier in his second start of the season.
The Huskies got things going almost six minutes in, as freshman Tyler McNeely redirected a Ryan Ginand shot from his perch on the 10 o’clock mark of Kraus’ crease. The preceding action had taken place with a lot of room to spare, as the Terriers had only just sprung Craig Sanders from the box to alleviate what had been a four-on-three NU advantage.
BU got even with just under three minutes to go, as two rookies connected on a textbook two-on-one.
Colin Wilson added his name to Colby Cohen’s third goal of the year with a beauty of a saucer feed as the duo streaked down sophomore Brad Thiessen’s crease. Wilson set the puck deftly over defenseman Jim Driscoll’s optimistic lumber, whereupon Cohen banged it home.
The teams each took three penalties in the first, but neither could break through on the power play. While BU had the lead in shots — 14-10 — the stat was a bit misleading, as the Terriers out-attempted the Huskies nearly two to one: the team wearing the home whites put 27 shots netward, while the Huntington Hounds only threw 14 in Kraus’ direction.
“I thought it was kind of a weird game. We played well in the second half of the first period … [but] Northeastern, they weren’t just scoring goals, but taking it to us,” mused Terriers’ head coach Jack Parker.
The Terriers struck first in the second period, as yet another freshman — Bonino — victimized Ginand on the backcheck. Junior winger Smolinsky put an initial shot on Thiessen off the rush from the right-wing dot, but Thiessen kicked a low-angle rebound way out to his right. Bonino had beaten Ginand into the slot, and knocked the disc into the gaping net.
The good times were not to last for the Scarlet and White, however, as NU drew even only a minute and a half later.
Rookie Wade MacLeod served one up to teammate and leading scorer Joe Vitale, who popped a shot into Kraus’ right armpit from barely six feet out. The ‘keeper pinched, but not hard enough, as the rubber spun over the goal line.
The Huskies were catching fire, as they lit Kraus’ lamp again 26 seconds later. Ginand made amends for his earlier mistake, cutting across BU defenseman Dan McGoff’s face on a two-on-two rush. The left-hand shot whipped one from the right-wing dot past Kraus.
Northeastern poured some more gas onto what was quickly becoming a towering inferno for Boston University. With nine minutes to go — three and a half minutes following goal number three — Ginand put himself back in the good with his legs.
The junior from Milford, Mass., raced down the right-wing boards on the power play and beat Colby Cohen late to the outside. Ginand curled hard to get to the front of the net, and coolly slipped the puck past Kraus on the forehand.
Kraus “was a little nervous at times,” allowed Parker, but the veteran helmsman was pleased with the rookie’s play overall.
With the game quickly getting out of hand, the Terriers caught their breath three minutes later, as Wilson scored his second of the game on a true cannon of a shot. Breaking into the zone over the left-wing blue line, Wilson coiled up and pounded a shot that nearly buried itself in the center iron behind Thiessen. The shot beat the goalie clean to the short side, and sounded a muffled ring throughout the arena despite the padding on the backbone of the net.
Once again, the Terriers dominated in shots and shot attempts (18 and 27, respectively), but the Huskies held the lead thanks to opportunistic scoring opportunities with consistent forays into the offensive slot.
“There were way too many second and third chances in front of our net,” said NU head coach Greg Cronin. “They had too many whacks at our goalie.”
After two, BU led 32-20 in shots, but was 0-5 on the power play.
Though the big numbers on the scoreboard held steady, the little ones continued to spin upward like the price dial on a gas pump. Even before the third frame had reached its halfway point, the Terriers had already accumulated 40 shots; Northeastern, 26.
Junior rearguard Matt Gilroy put the game back at square one with 10:42 to go. The walk-on whipped a shot from practically no angle to Thiessen’s left, but the puck took a hop off a tangled combination of BU forward and NU defenseman and handcuffed Thiessen. The sophomore goalie got a piece of the rubber with a panicked shrug of the shoulders, but not enough to send it wide: the puck caught the inside of the far post, and bounced back behind him and into the net.
Just as the swelling crowd began to prepare for another overtime contest, Popko zipped a headsy pass from his knees that put BU on top with three minutes and change until the final horn.
While fighting a losing battle for verticality with the Husky defense, Popko clipped the puck across the ice to Wilson, who stood alone thanks to a controversial stick-check of David Stratham. Wilson put it home with ease, but Cronin’s ensuing tirade — which included a thrown stick of his own — put BU on the power play.
Cronin wasn’t the only one in the rink to find the play worth a second look. It appeared that Wilson was culpable for a holding-the-stick call, as Stratham’s wood was not only removed from his grasp, but also flung a good three feet out into the slot.
Neither of the two referees — nor either of the linesmen — made the call.
The Huskies couldn’t muster the necessary barrage to send the game into extra time, and the contest ended with BU claiming dominance in shots, attempts, and of course goals.
“It was actually interesting because we had a good crowd there. You can usually hear a pin drop” in the consolation game, said Cronin.
“That was an important game for us [in the PairWise Rankings]. We can’t give up five goals coming down the stretch,” he continued.
Boston University puts its first win streak of 2008 on the line this weekend, playing host to struggling Maine in an Agganis double-dip. Northeastern looks to get back on the right track in a home-and-home with Massachusetts.