BOSTON — On the surface, you would think that Boston University hockey coach Jack Parker had much to be happy about tonight. His team broke a four-game losing streak at home. His seniors got a win in their last regular-season game at home. Three players — Matt Nieto, Garrett Noonan, and Wade Megan — notched a goal and an assist in the 5-2 win over Northeastern, and senior goaltender Kieran Millan played very well.
Most significantly, roughly 40 BU hockey alumni turned up at tonight’s game to show their support for the program in the wake of the arrest of BU defenseman Max Nicastro and the subsequent announcement that the university would convene a task force to investigate the program in light of the fact that the arrest represented the second case of alleged sexual assault by a Terriers’ player this season.
However, Parker was not at all pleased with his team’s showing.
“I didn’t like the way my team practiced this week, and I didn’t like the way my team played tonight,” Parker said. “The puck jumped in the net for us tonight, and Northeastern had the much better chances, the much better opportunities. They played harder and smarter than we did for the most part.”
Parker groused about the number of odd-man rushes the team gave up, as well as turnovers and a poor effort in the defensive zone.
“I hope that’s an aberration, because we haven’t seen that for a long time.”
He did praise the play of Millan, who he believed to be shafted in the three-stars voting, as the BU point scorers took the honors. However, he conceded that Nieto had a great night on both sides of the ice.
Meanwhile, the combination of the Northeastern loss and a Massachusetts win over Merrimack spelled the end of playoff possibilities for the Huskies.
“I thought we played a good first period,” Northeastern coach Jim Madigan said. “We came out and scored and had some chances, but couldn’t get it beyond one-nothing. In the second period, in a short span you kind of saw our season. We came a little unglued, gave up a short-handed goal, couldn’t get the power play going — all in the first 10 minutes. They came at us, and we didn’t respond.”
Northeastern took all of 38 seconds to take a 1-0 lead. BU lost a faceoff in the attacking zone, and Garrett Vermeersch raced all the way down the ice and fired a shot past Millan from the right-wing circle.
Nieto and Noonan had unsuccessful chances for BU in the first, foreshadowing a second-period outburst. BU tied it at 5:30 of the middle period on a power play when Alex Chiasson held the puck for a long while before feeding it from behind the goal line to Nieto. The left wing was at a sharp angle, but his shot appeared to hit a defender’s stick and go in.
Just 19 seconds later, BU took the lead. Wade Megan won a puck battle on the left-wing boards before racing toward the net and beating Chris Rawlings high on the stick side.
Less than three minutes later, BU got what proved to be the game-winning goal. Short-handed, Noonan and Megan worked a give-and-go, with Noonan finishing it. Millan got his first collegiate assist on the goal.
The Terriers basically put it away late in the period when Ryan Santana redirected a Ross Gaudet shot by Rawlings to make it 4-1.
Madigan pulled Rawlings in favor of Clay Witt to start the third, and the Huskies responded with a five-on-three goal. Freshman Ludwig Karlsson, the team’s leading scorer, flipped a wrist shot from the point through traffic for the goal.
Knowing that UMass was on its way to beating Merrimack, Madigan pulled the goalie with five minutes remaining, only to have Chris Connolly score an empty-net goal. The BU captain had not scored in his previous three games, and avoided the longest scoring drought of his career with the goal.
While Parker told the team that “we’re not going anywhere playing the way we did night,” he was heartened by the solidarity shown by his former players. “It was really, really heartwarming. I know that they were here for me and for the program. It was great that they were waiting for the guys outside the dressing room before the game started. We had guys come in from Montreal and from the Bahamas. I will tell you that I’m not surprised, because these guys love BU hockey.”
No. 4 BU (21-11-1, 16-8-1) needs a win and a loss by arch-rival Boston College to share the regular-season title, as well as a No. 1 seed in the Hockey East tournament and a date with UMass in the Hockey East quarterfinals. Otherwise, the Terriers will host Providence. Northeastern (12-16-5, 8-14-4) joins Vermont as the odd teams out of the Hockey East playoffs, but will attempt to play for pride when hosting BU tomorrow night.