BOSTON — Friday night’s show could have been called the Ex Factor.
Former Terriers player Vinny Saponari, who was booted off Boston University’s team at the end of his sophomore season, came back to haunt his old squad. The senior captain scored two goals, including the game-winner with 2:03 left to play, to lead Northeastern to a 6-5 win in front of 6,011 at Agganis Arena.
Saponari’s goal negated an exciting comeback for the Terriers, who trailed 5-2 before storming the Huskies with three goals in less than three minutes early in the third period.
“It’s always fun,” Saponari said of beating BU. “I have a lot of friends on the team still. Pretty close with everyone, so there’s always friendly banter back and forth. To get a game-winning goal in any game is fun, but against your friends and former team is always even funner.”
Freshman Kevin Roy added a goal and two assists for Northeastern. BU’s second line of Danny O’Regan, Evan Rodrigues and Matt Nieto combined for four goals and five assists in a losing effort.
“Obviously, I’m pleased with the two points,” Northeastern coach Jim Madigan said. “We played really well for two periods, then we lost our composure a little bit, obviously, for the first six minutes of the third, but I loved the way we rebounded afterwards once we got to the ten-minute mark.
“We settled down, got some good chances, and then the gentleman to my left [Saponari] saved the dramatics for the end – a great goal for us and a big two points.”
Meanwhile, BU coach Jack Parker saw his team give up six goals for the third in the last five games after enjoying a very consistent and satisfying first semester.
“Our team defense is something that has been sorely lacking since we came back from break and this was another example of it tonight,” Parker said. “We look like we’ve lost our confidence on the defensive side of playing without the puck and it showed up drastically tonight. This was almost a trying-not-to-make-a-mistake corps of defensemen tonight instead of trying to make good things happen.”
Parker has seen his team waver from overconfidence to under-confidence in recent weeks.
“We’re like an egomaniac with an inferiority complex: ‘Hey, we’re real good, we’re real good. Hey, I hope we’re good enough.’”
Northeastern took the lead early in the first period on a bizarre goal. Robbie Vrolyk’s shot caromed off of goalie Sean Maguire’s glove and went straight up in the air a good 15 feet before landing in the crease, where the goalie appeared to kick it in.
BU charged back with two power-play goals in just 27 seconds. On the stick side of Northeastern goalie Chris Rawlings, O’Regan slipped the puck across the crease to Nieto, who had three-fourths of the net to hit.
Then Cason Hohmann passed up a good chance to shoot from the right-wing circle in favor of passing to Garrett Noonan high in the left-wing circle and Noonan buried the wrist shot.
Northeastern responded with two goals in just 41 seconds late in the period, with Adam Reid and Roy doing the honors.
The second period was all Northeastern.
On a five-on-three power play, Braden Pimm knocked the puck in through a scrum in the crease at 8:03 and then Cody Ferriero made a highlight-reel move to slip the puck through a BU defender’s legs before jabbing it home at 16:21.
BU got it going in the third period, though.
In the opening minute, O’Regan stripped the puck from a Husky skater and passed to Rodrigues for the shot and score from 20 feet out. Then off of a faceoff, Noonan fired a shot off the crossbar and Rodrigues banged it home when it landed in the crease.
The Terriers tied it at 6:36 when several players took whacks at a loose puck in the crease before O’Regan knocked it in. BU had all the momentum, but Northeastern held firm and gradually began getting chances of their own.
Then Saponari clinched it.
“It kind of just got pokechecked right to me,” Saponari said. “From there, I was just taking it to the net and hoping for the best. I was able to jam it five-hole, I think, and I was pretty excited after that one.”
BU (12-8-0, 9-5-0 Hockey East) hosts a very hot Massachusetts-Lowell team tomorrow night, while Northeastern (7-10-2, 4-8-2) returns home for another tough game against a ranked team.
Madigan was asked about a rematch against BU coming up in the first round of the Beanpot in a few weeks, but would not discuss it.
“We’ll talk about the Beanpot in two weeks,” Madigan said. “We’ve got Boston College tomorrow night.”