BOSTON — It’s a script that Boston College has seen all too often in this building. With the backdrop of a raucous sellout crowd of 4,746 at Matthews Arena on Saturday, the defending national champions lost their first game of the year to Northeastern, 3-1.
The win was the third time in the last five years that the Huskies had claimed a win over BC while the Eagles were ranked No. 1. All three wins occurred at Matthews Arena. The victory also gave Northeastern its first 2-0 start since 1999.
Northeastern’s goal scorers were all freshmen, with Ryan Belonger and Colton Saucerman tallying their first career goals and Kevin Roy scoring his second in as many games. Another freshman, Cam Darcy, chipped in two assists en route to the victory, one which meant a lot given his local roots.
“I always dreamed of playing college hockey in Boston,” said Darcy, who grew up in South Boston watching the local college teams compete. “To now play with a team like Northeastern, and beat a team like BC, especially when they’re ranked number one, it’s a dream come true.”
Jerry York’s squad looked out of sync in the first 10 minutes of the game. The Eagles’ defensemen (half of which are freshmen) were caught on the back foot early and often as the Huskies controlled the tempo and possession, testing goalie Parker Milner early.
“That’s certainly going to be something we’re going to go some growing pains with,” York said of his young freshmen. “As the year progresses, I’m sure they’re going to benefit from the ice time they’re getting. They’re just young kids, so it’s going to take a little while.”
Reminiscent of Wednesday’s early outburst versus Merrimack, the Huskies sprinted out to a 2-0 lead in the first period. At 5:03, Darcy threw a centering pass in front of the net, but it bounced off the skate of BC freshman Colin Sullivan, leaving another rookie, NU’s Belonger, wide open to swat it into a largely vacant net. Moments later, another freshman got in on the act as Kevin Roy scored his second goal in as many games, receiving a beautiful pass through the slot from Cody Ferriero and shooting it past Milner stick-side.
The Eagles saved themselves from a bigger hole to dig out of, converting on a power-play chance just eight seconds into the man advantage at 14:55. After the Eagles had won the draw, Steven Whitney walked in from the right circle and flicked a well-placed wrist shot past Chris Rawlings, bringing the Eagles to within 2-1.
The game turned into a goaltending exhibition in the second period, as Northeastern controlled possession for much of the frame, leaving the majority of BC’s chances to transition play and turnovers. Milner kept BC in the game, stopping 26 shots, the majority of which were grade ‘A’ chances, forcing acrobatic, well-timed saves. The lone exception came with the Huskies final goal, a long, knuckling shot from Colton Saucerman taken from behind the blue line, freezing Milner and hurtling into the back of the net to make it 3-1 early in the third period.
Equally as impressive was Rawlings’ performance, making 31 saves, including 15 in the third period.
Not surprisingly, it was also a physical game; the hitting began early and often. Each blow was retaliated against, each grab of the jersey returned with a shove into the boards. The chippy nature of the game played into Northeastern’s size advantage. The Huskies’ neutral zone play and backchecking disrupted several BC breakouts and seemed to frustrate the Eagles forwards.
“The forechecked very well,” York said. “If you can’t get the puck out of your own zone, you’re not going to score many goals.”
Speaking to the consistency over the span of all three periods, Northeastern coach Jim Madigan was pleased that there was no letdown or spate of penalties taken during the game.
“I thought our kids played really well from the beginning of the game to the end,” Madigan said. “I thought we managed situations really well. There was a poise and composure that our team demonstrated.”
Boston College plays Massachusetts on Friday, then hosts Northeastern in a rematch next Saturday at Conte Forum.