BOSTON — Home ice is something that every Hockey East school strives for during the first round of the playoffs. Tonight, the winner would take home ice. No scoreboard watching, no tiebreakers, the winner got home ice. It was playoff hockey between Boston College (17-11-8, 11-9-7 HEA) and Northeastern (15-16-3, 12-13-2 HEA).
In this physical game, BC got on the board first with a power-play goal. Kyle Kucharski was on the doorstep when he got a feed from Matt Lombardi. Kucharski put one deke move on Huskies’ goalie Brad Thiessen and scored.
BC struck again a little over a minute later, with less than one minute to go in the first, when Brian Gibbons slapped a Nathan Gerbe feed towards the net. As the puck bounced in mid-air, Huskies’ defenseman Jim Driscoll tried to bat it away, but instead hit it into the back of the net, giving the Eagles a two-goal lead.
Before the first period was up, a mere 18 seconds since their last strike, BC stuck again when Nick Petrecki scored a goal on the back door of Thiessen, giving the Eagles a 3-0 lead in a span of 1:44 to end the period on a strong note.
“It was certainly the turning point in the game.” BC coach Jerry York said.
“Last two minutes of the first period was the game.” Huskies’ coach Greg Cronin said.
In the second period, the physicality of play picked up heavily. With Drew Meunch already sent off with a game misconduct for checking from behind in the first, which Greg Cronin took offense with, both Steve Silva and Nathan Gerbe collected 10 minute misconducts, resulting from play after the whistle. Neither Silva or Gerbe were happy with their penalties and keep chatting up official Jeff Bunyon who tagged them both with the 10.
Northeastern finally got on the board halfway through the second when Mike Hewkin blasted a shot from the point that beat John Muse high on the glove side.
The third period was a critical time for the Huskies, short a defensemen for the rest of the game, but they were unable to find the back of the net as Muse turned away shot after shot, making 16 saves in the third period.
“I thought Johnny Muse was very solid and strong in goal again tonight,” said York. “That’s his 36th game for us. He seems to get stronger as this season has gone on.”
Nathan Gerbe iced the game, putting in an empty-net goal off an errant pass from Huskies’ defensemen David Strathman. It gave Gerbe 24 goals during the regular season.
“We met as a team after the game last night and I thought that we did not play well at all last night,” York said. “In fact, Northeastern was a much better team than we were. We talked about just trying to get back to fundamentals, doing small things, not worrying about goals. We have been in an offensive drought here for awhile. I thought we did that. We were a pretty well disciplined team as far as system of play.”
“We’re happy with this win, and we’re going to move forward from it,” BC captain Mike Brennan said after the game.
Next up for Boston College is a best-of-three series against visiting Providence College at Conte Forum.
“I think Providence is a really good team,” Brennan said. “I think that we match up well with them. We played two very good games against them and they had the better of us two of those games.”
Northeastern travels north to take on Vermont in a best-of-three series as well.
“We haven’t played them in a while,” Huskies’ captain Joe Vitale said. “We obviously got swept last time we were up there, then we handled them pretty good when they came here. We’re excited to play them.”