BOSTON, Mass. — After scoring like lambs in their previous two games this season, Boston University and Northeastern saw March come in like a lion tonight.
The cross-town rivals combined for just four goals in their first two games before more than doubling that total in front of 5,249 at Agganis Arena this evening. Vinny Saponaris goal halfway through the third period broke a tie and gave the Terriers a 5-4 win to keep their bid for home ice in the playoffs alive.
Chris Connolly and Wade Megan led the way with a goal and an assist each for BU, while freshman defenseman Jake Newton notched a pair of goals for the Huskies.
One, I was very, very pleased with my teams effort tonight, Terriers head coach Jack Parker said. We made a few turnovers that cost us, but we survived them. I thought both teams played pretty hard. I dont think either team played up to its capabilities in terms of how smart wed like to play. But there was pretty good effort, pretty good physical play. So it was another one-goal game against Northeastern, and well see what happens tomorrow.
It was a tough pill for Northeastern to swallow, given that the visitors had scored two second-period goals in just 29 seconds to tie up the game despite getting outshot 30-19 through two periods.
I honestly dont have much to say, Huskies coach Greg Cronin said. Its a shame [to lose] after we came back to tie the game when were getting outplayed in the second period there.
The Terriers took the lead less than four minutes into the game when Wade Megan knocked in the rebound of a Chris Connolly shot from the left wing. Within another four minutes, though, the Huskies tied it right after a clear face-off win in the offensive end. Jake Newton got the puck in the right circle and stickhandled unimpeded toward the net before beating Kieran Millan.
BU got that one back within two minutes. Zach Cohen got the puck behind the net and attempted to jam it in low on the glove side of towering goalie Chris Rawlings. After making the initial save, Rawlings moved his skate a bit and Cohen knocked the puck in. Apparently thinking the net had left its moorings, referee John Gravallese emphatically waved off the goal but then counted it after a video review, leaving Cronin incredulous.
I dont want to get into it, Cronin said. I dont understand it. Cronin seemed to believed that Gravallese had waved off the goal because of blowing the whistle.
Parker had no doubt about what occurred.
It was clear that two things happened: One, the net never went off [the moorings]. He thought it did, and it didnt. And when he blew the whistle the puck was already in the net, so it didnt matter. And even if he had blown the whistle before the puck trickled over, he couldve called it a goal because he realized he blew it for the wrong reason.
Northeastern tied it again at 16:06 when Justin Daniels came in on the left wing, dangled the puck, and then beat Millan. But BU got that one back within two minutes, thanks to the play of linemates Alex Chiasson and Chris Connolly after Rawlings had roamed from his crease.
Chiasson made a nice play trying to find me in front of the net, Connolly said. I just tried to get a stick on it because I knew nobody was in the net. It deflected off a couple of their guys. It was kind of a melee out front. They all had their backs turned as the puck popped up in the air. I was fortunate enough to keep an eye on it and just kind of threw it [at the net].
BU looked great early in the second period and took at 4-2 lead at 1:20 when Chiasson teed up a blistering one-time slap shot from David Warsofsky, beating Rawlings high on the glove side.
On the ropes as the period wore on, Northeastern shocked their hosts with two goals in 29 seconds. Mike McLaughlin scored his first goal of the season on a wrist shot at 13:11, and then a Newton one-timer from close range tied it at 13:40. As a result, BU failed to lead going into the third period for the sixth game in a row — their longest streak since the 2001-02 season.
Fortunately for the Terriers, captain Kevin Shattenkirk set up Saponari with a fantastic pass from behind the Husky goal line.
Somehow Shatty passed it through about four guys to get it right on my tape, Saponari said. Luckily I got enough wood to get it by. It squeaked through.
It was a bad breakdown, Cronin said. When you think about it, we had the puck on our sticks on three of the five goals — full possession, no pressure, and it ends up in our net three seconds later.
The Terriers (15-15-3 overall, 12-12-2 in Hockey East) travel to Huntington Avenue tomorrow night for a rematch with the Huskies (16-15-2, 11-13-2).
The league standings are so close that it would be absurd to summarize all of the possibilities, but BU has moved very close to qualifying for the Hockey East playoffs and could finish as high as third. Northeastern no longer has a shot at home ice and could finish anywhere from fifth to ninth.