CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — After a 3-2 loss on the road to Northeastern on Friday night, the bus ride back from Matthews Arena to Conte Forum might have been the longest five miles of BC coach Jerry York’s life.
York’s club, in a neck-and-neck race with New Hampshire, lost ground when the Eagles lost on Friday in a game where York felt his team played very well. Before the rematch of the home-and-home series, both teams had a day to rest and think about Friday’s game. and for BC, that paid off.
“We thought it was a well-played game on Friday night,” said York. “The outcome concerned us because Northeastern took two points from us. On the day off yesterday, we just talked about coming back [on Sunday] with the same effort and just eliminating odd-man rushes [would help us win].”
Not only did BC eliminate the odd-man rush, the Eagles stifled Northeastern defensively, not allowing a quality scoring chance for the Huskies until the 6:46 mark of the third period. At that point, the game was well in hand, as Brian Gibbons notched his first career hat trick, matched a career-high with four points and became the 93rd player in BC history to reach the 100-point plateau as the Eagles routed Northeastern, 7-1, in front of 6,180 at BC’s Kelley Rink.
While Gibbons’ effort on the day was what will be noted in the box score, he, like York, was quick to point out the strength of the team’s defensive effort on Sunday afternoon that helped feed the offensive onslaught.
“Defensively, we played about as good as you can play,” said Gibbons. “I think that translated into a lot of our offensive rushes. Good ‘D’-zone play always leads to transition.”
For Northeastern, the loss is especially disappointing given the effort the club gave on Friday night in a victory that extended the team’s league winning streak to six games. That streak though, came to a screeching halt on Sunday.
“We got beat by a better team that wanted to win every battle from the beginning of the game to the end,” said Northeastern coach Greg Cronin. “That’s as thorough and consistent effort I’ve seen from a team in five years.”
After Northeastern’s Drew Muench hit the post just 20 seconds into the game, the remainder of the opening period — and the game, for that matter — was controlled by the Eagles. BC held a lopsided 18-6 advantage in shots and seemed stymied by Northeastern goalie Chris Rawlings until the frame’s final minute.
Gibbons lit the lamp on a great individual effort for his 12th goal of the season and his 100th career point. The junior used his jets in the neutral zone to catch up to a clearing pass from Joe Whitney, beat the Northeastern defenseman and fire a shot far post for the 1-0 lead with just 27.6 seconds remaining in the period.
Early in the second, the Huskies defense broke down three times in a 3:07 span and the result was Boston College quadrupling its lead.
Pat Mullane scored at 4:12 when Northeastern’s J.P. Maley lost Mullane in front of the net. At 5:57, Chris Kreider scored his 10th goal of the season on a breakaway after Maley failed to play the puck at center ice, fearing a too many men on the ice penalty. Then at 7:19, with the Huskies on a power play, Garret Vermeersch turned over the puck in the defensive zone, allowing Cam Atkinson to score short-handed.
Suddenly, what was a one-goal game, despite Northeastern’s sub-par play, was a rout.
“Any time you can get the puck in a good position and don’t capitalize, it’s momentum for the other team,” said York. “I thought we just played a really solid second period and capitalized [on Northeastern's mistakes].”
Before the end of the second, the teams traded power-play goals, with Gibbons burying his second of the game at 13:40 and Kyle Kraemer beating BC netminder Parker Milner (22 saves) through a screen on a two-man advantage at 15:20.
BC finished the period with a 21-6 advantage in shots-on-goal for a two period total of 39-12.
Gibbons finished off the hat trick, this time pouncing on a loose puck in the slot and blasting it top shelf for the 6-1 lead. That spelled the end of the night for Rawlings (39 saves). He was replaced by Bryan Mountain (four saves), who surrendered the final goal to Jimmy Hayes with 20.5 seconds remaining to account for the 7-1 final.
The loss keeps the Huskies (16-13-1, 11-11-1 Hockey East) from capitalizing on their game in hand on fourth place Boston University. Northeastern remains a single point behind the Terriers for the final home ice spot in Hockey East.
BC (18-10-2, 13-8-2) pulls to within two games of New Hampshire for first place, with a key final weekend series against the Wildcats looming. It also allows BC to control its own destiny, as four wins in the final four games would clinch at least a share of the regular-season title.
“We were able to stay within four points of New Hampshire, which is very important to us,” said York. “But we’re all going to play a very good team in the first round [of the Hockey East playoffs].”