As the saying goes, the harder you work, the luckier you get.
That was the case for Northeastern Thursday night, as the Huskies put in a great 60-minute effort and were rewarded with some good bounces against No. 13 Boston University in Game 1 of the best-of-three Hockey East quarterfinal series.
Led by the great goaltending of Chris Rawlings as well as two goals and an assist from top centerman Steve Silva, the Huskies beat the Terriers 4-2 in front of 3,039 at Agganis Arena. It was a nice welcome back for coach Greg Cronin, who was reinstated as coach this week following a suspension by the school as recruiting improprieties were investigated.
“It was not the type of game we wanted to play,” Cronin said. “The number of penalties we took was not a very healthy way to try and win a hockey game, especially against a team as talented as BU. I really felt fortunate that we dodged a bullet there, giving them nine power plays and a 37-second five-on-three. Our penalty killing and goaltending get a lot of credit for the win.”
Meanwhile, Terriers coach Jack Parker was left to rue an inconsistent effort as well as some bad luck.
“I thought we got beat by a team that was a little more hungry and determined than we were tonight,” Parker said. “I thought Northeastern played extremely well tonight. I thought we played well in the third period. Halfway through the second we came on a little bit. But we were the victim of a couple of tough goals. It was the second game in a row that we gave up a faceoff goal on an interference play that isn’t called. That was tough to watch — made it 2-1 with two minutes to go in the first period.
“Other than that, some guys played well, and some guys didn’t have nights anywhere near what we needed them to have. We had some bad puck luck, and they had some pretty good puck luck.”
The Huskies took a 1-0 lead on a power-play goal at 8:16 of the first period. Garrett Vermeersch took a shot from the point, and Kieran Millan made the pad save. The puck caromed into the left-wing circle, and first-line centerman Silva knocked in the rebound.
BU tied it just 41 seconds later, thanks to a gritty effort by its fourth line. Left wing Justin Courtnall got the puck behind the net and slipped it into a crowd in front. Right wing Kevin Gilroy put it on net, and the rebound caromed to David Warsofsky on the right-wing side. Warsofsky, in his first game back from a concussion, threw the puck toward the net. It hit a defender’s skate, and Courtnall poked it in.
Northeastern had a near miss at 12:50 when Silva hit the top left corner of the pipes with a slap shot. Then Kieran Millan bailed out the Terriers by thwarting a short-handed breakaway by Steve Quailer at 15:45, denying Mike McLaughlin on the rebound for good measure with another great save.
Millan couldn’t stop the next Huskies chance at 18:05. Wade MacLeod took a 30-foot shot that appeared to glance off of the goalie’s right shoulder before going in. That one left Parker screaming about the non-call of interference after the offensive-end faceoff.
BU dug a deeper hole for itself at 2:53 of the second period. Freshman Braden Pimm got the puck in the neutral zone and raced in on the left wing. He didn’t have the best angle, but the puck slipped between Millan’s pads when a Terriers defender hacked at the puck, redirecting it.
Millan yielded another tough one 18:42, when Silva floated a soft knuckler toward the net from the right-wing circle. A BU defenseman attempted to bat it away but knocked it into his own net to make it a startling 4-1 lead.
At the other end, Chris Rawlings stretched his long left leg to stop Charlie Coyle in tight halfway through the period. Millan bounced back to keep Cody Ferriero from scoring a few minutes later on two consecutive great chances. The Terriers couldn’t convert on two power plays later in the period.
BU threatened to make it interesting with a goal at 4:22 of the third. On a power play, Sahir Gill fired a shot-pass from the right point toward the far post. The puck hit traffic, and Ryan Ruikka was there to slip a low slot past Rawlings to make it 4-2.
Ross Gaudet had a great short-handed chance at 9:53, but Rawlings came up with that one and proceeded to stand tall through several good BU bids as the period wore on. He stopped Alex Chiasson on a three-on-one and looked composed when BU pressured steadily through a power play and a brief five-on-three.
Steve Qualier almost finished things off with four minutes left, clanging a slapper off the inside of the post. BU pulled Millan with almost three minutes left, but the score never changed.
The teams will face off again on Friday night in Game 2.