BOSTON, Mass. — With first place in Hockey East at stake, the league’s two titans settled for a 2-2 draw. Boston University, which entered the game trailing Northeastern by a point, seized a two goal lead in the first period, but the Huskies outplayed the nation’s top team from that point on.
Brandon Yip and Colin Wilson opened the scoring for BU with Matt Gilroy factoring in with a big assist on the Yip goal. Steve Silva and Wade MacLeod scored the comeback and tying goals for Northeastern.
Goaltenders Brad Thiessen and Kieran Millan played well, combining for 42 saves on 46 shots. Millan made a game-saving save on Tyler McNeely in the final minute of overtime.
With third place Vermont, the only team in immediate striking range, also settling for a tie, the battle for the regular season crown now moves across town to Matthews Arena where BU and Northeastern will complete their season series on Saturday.
A tussle at the end of overtime resulted in no fighting penalties but signaled the frustrations for both teams, Northeastern that it couldn’t take two points after coming back and Boston University that it frittered away a two goal lead in such a crucial game.
“We played a pretty good first period and then we acted like the game was over, up 2-0,” said BU coach Jack Parker. “The difference between Northeastern’s effort and determination and our effort and determination and the difference between their awareness and positional play compared to our awareness and positional play from the second period on was like night and day.
“We were unbelievably fortunate to get a point. We really dodged a bullet. That team outplayed us for the last forty minutes. It was a great show by them and a sad show by us.
“I’ve got to give Northeastern a lot of credit. It’s easy to see why they’re in first place and we’re chasing them. They’re talented and determined.”
BU captain Matt Gilroy echoed those frustrations.
“It’s human nature to get ahead of yourself when you’re up 2-0, but good teams don’t do that, especially down the stretch,” he said. “We’ve got to get that out of our system. Northeastern took over in the second and it was a dogfight from there on in. We have to finish games even if we go up early.”
Rebounding from a loss last Saturday, Northeastern (20-8-3, 15-5-2 HEA) extended its streak as the only team in the country without back-to-back losses. It also gave the Huskies the upper hand in the weekend’s home-and-home series, taking a point on the road and heading back to what promises to be a raucous Matthews Arena. Even so, the result left the Huskies unfulfilled.
“What do you say about a tie?” asked NU coach Greg Cronin. “Both teams wanted to get two points, particularly where we are in the standings. Ties are tough. You reflect back and [think] woulda, coulda, shoulda. We come to play and win every game.
“[But] it’s good that we were down two goals in a hostile environment and came back. It speaks to the team’s maturity and leadership of the group. They don’t get too rattled.
“It was like a playoff game. The guys were fighting for space and fighting to create scoring chances. The game took on that flavor especially in the last ten minutes of the third period.”
After an opening five minutes spent mostly in the BU end, the Terriers began to assert themselves and at 7:23 got onto the scoreboard. Gilroy carried the puck into the zone along the left wing and found Yip free on the far post. Yip one-timed the pass into the open net for his 12th goal of the season.
The Terriers widened their lead to 2-0 in the final minute of the period as a result of a 39-second 5-on-3 advantage. While the Huskies had gotten their first man back for five seconds, they hadn’t yet been able to reset their defense down load and BU capitalized. Thiessen saved Kevin Shattenkirk’s shot from the right point, but it caromed off the back wall to Wilson along the goal line and he roofed it into the open side.
The second period turned decisively in Northeastern’s direction, however, especially with a stunning two-and-a-half minute stretch in which the Huskies tied the game.
At 10:38, Greg Costa passed from the right corner to Silva at the top of the near faceoff circle and Silva rifled a slapshot home. It was only the second goal this year for the playmaker who had made his mark setting others up, totaling 15 assists.
The Huskies tied the game at 13:11 on MacLeod’s goal. The sophomore came around the net and with two teammates hovering at the doorstep put a shot in that appeared to carom off Millan’s pads.