CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — The clich that “it’s amazing what a difference a day can make” was brought to full life Saturday night when Boston College and Northeastern, two teams coming off polar opposite games one night earlier, squared off at Kelley Rink.
Boston College entered the game on a massive low, having surrendered three third period goals to squander a lead against New Hampshire, settling for a 4-4 tie. Northeastern, on the other hand, earned an emotional 1-0 victory over rival Boston University on Friday, riding a brilliant 42-save shutout by goaltender Chris Rawlings.
Thanks to a flawless display of special teams play by Boston College, the night became a 180 for both teams, as the Eagles routed the Huskies, 5-1, in front of a vocal crowd of 5,238.
For BC’s turnaround, the key was putting Friday’s tie, which coach Jerry York said clearly felt like a loss, behind them.
“It was definitely tough on the bus ride home,” said BC assistant captain Ben Smith. “This morning, the guys did a good job of compartmentalizing things and focused on today.”
While Northeastern would have loved to ride the momentum, injuries made things extremely challenging with Tyler McNeely, Jim Driscoll and Steve Qualier, three of NU’s top players heading into this season, nursing injuries. That list was compound on Saturday when Randy Guzior sustained an injury early in the period that coach Greg Cronin alluded might take quite some time for the senior to recover.
“We had about as short of a bench as you’ll have in college hockey,” said Cronin.
Compounding the Huskies problems, though, was the team’s inability to stay out of the penalty box, giving BC seven chances with the man advantage. The Eagles converted twice after going four-for-five a night earlier.
“We just took terrible penalties,” said Cronin, who said he specifically told his team to stay out of the penalty box with the shortened bench. “We’ve had these problems in the past, but I thought we’d corrected them.”
The Eagles showed their clear desire to make up for Friday’s shortcomings and controlled the action in the early going of a fast-paced first period. Still, it was Northeastern that got on the board first.
Defenseman Chris Student skated the puck from the right point into the corner and fed a quick pass to Kyle Kraemer, who beat John Muse (16 saves) at 4:23 to ignite the vocal visiting crowd that made its way across town.
BC kept the pressure on, having multiple chances on the power play after Mike Hewkin was whistled for interference at 8:20. It seemed as if BC might be snakebitten, but right after the man advantage ended, the Eagles evened the score.
Rookie defenseman Philip Samuelsson blasted a shot from the left halfboards that surprised Rawlings and sneaked in short side at 10:39 to draw the game even.
BC finished the first with a 15-9 advantage in shots, nine shot coming from the grade ‘A’ area for the Eagles. Rawlings, though, withstood the early test to send the game to the locker room deadlocked at one.
Back-to-back penalties early in the second put Boston College on an extended two-man advantage. The Eagles wasted little time cashing in, as Smith poked home the rebound of Carl Sneep’s one-timer from the point at 5:15 for a 2-1 lead.
The Eagles extended the lead at 10:39 when Cam Atkinson fired home a low wrist shot on Rawlings’ blocker side to give BC a two-goal lead heading to the third.
BC wasted little time in the third putting the game out of reach. Sophomore Paul Carey scored his second of the season, burying a rebound between the legs of Rawlings on the power play at 2:17. Brian Gibbons then extended the lead to 5-1 at 3:27, finishing off a three-on-two with a quick snapshot glove side.
The Eagles defense then put the clamps down, allowing just four third period shots. Northeastern was unable to score even on a penalty shot, as Muse stopped Alex Tuckerman with 1:39 to seal what York called Muse’s best performance since returning from hip surgery at the start of the season.
Both teams return to action next weekend, Northeastern on Friday when they open a two-game series at home with Maine, and Boston College on Saturday as they host Vermont for a Saturday-Sunday doubleheader.