Northeastern finally gets a win at BU
Win in season finale ends nine-game skid at Agganis Arena
Northeastern avenged a nine-game winless streak at Agganis Arena by besting No. 13 Boston University, 4-3, on Saturday night to close out the regular-season schedule.
With the triumph, the Huskies won themselves a return trip to Agganis Arena as the Terriers finished as the No. 3 seed for the playoffs. The upcoming Hockey East quarterfinal series with BU marks the first playoff series between the two institutions since the 1996-97 season.
Rookie Clay Witt keyed the Huskies victory with a career-best 41 saves in his third start for Northeastern. Witt, a Brandon, Fla. native, upped his career mark to 2-2-0 while BU netminder Kieran Millan made 30 saves in the loss.
Seniors blue liners Randy Guzior and Mike Hewkin found the back of the net for the Huskies while sophomore Drew Daniels and veteran Steve Silva also scored.
The Huskies put themselves in a hole early by taking two penalties right off the bat to start the contest. Rookie Anthony Bitetto (1:03) and senior Tyler McNeely (2:54) were seated for interference and holding, respectively, to give BU a quick two-man advantage.
Northeastern killed off Bitetto’s call but the Terriers struck on the second call at 4:08 on a tic-tac-toe play for the 1-0 lead. Sahir Gill discharged the puck from the far boards to Charlie Coyle in between the circles. Coyle faked a wrist shot and slid the puck back to Max Nicastro on the left dot for the one-timer, power-play goal.
NU continued to trot to the penalty box with two more after the goal, but the penalty-killing unit kept Boston University’s power play at bay. The Huskies finally earned their first power play at 12:29 after a Garrett Noonan elbow. Despite NU’s two-minute window going unaccounted for, Northeastern carried the momentum and scored at 15:44 in transition.
Garrett Vermeersch made a heads-up play in the neutral zone and induced the turnover on the near boards. Guzior flanked to his left and Vermeersch made a perfect pass between the circles and Guzior dunked the one-timer at 15:44 to tie it up, 1-1.
Steve Silva was assessed the Huskies’ fifth penalty of the first period and the Terriers took advantage for the second time at 17:13. Silva was sent away for interference at 16:44 and on BU’s first cycle, Chris Connolly accepted a pass from Coyle within the blue line and beat Witt on a slap shot. Witt made the initial stop, but the puck continued to trickle through the crease and eventually across the goal line to reclaim a 2-1 lead.
Northeastern was bestowed with four minutes of the extra man after Noonan was issued a game misconduct for contact to the head elbowing with a minute left in the first period. Wade MacLeod took a cross check at 1:04 to even it out to 4-on-4, but immediately after MacLeod exited the box, he nearly chipped in a pass from Silva on the near post. The puck sailed centimeters wide to keep the score at 2-1.
The Huskies snuffed out two power BU power plays and Rob Dongara nearly tallied a short-handed goal off a draw in Terriers’ territory, but Millan made a huge glove save around the 13:00-minute mark.
At 17:30, MacLeod and Coyle each took penalties at 17:30 to open up the sheet and the Huskies sewed it up at 18:50 on D. Daniels goal. Steve Quailer motored the puck out of NU’s end and tried to take it in himself, but the puck got kicked back to Justin Daniels. J. Daniels kicked it over to his brother in the low corner to set up a one-on-one situation. D. Daniels juked his defender between the legs and flicked a wrister past Muse on the post to cinch the score, 2-2.
Neither team mustered any scoring threats to start the third until Hewkin broke the stalemate at 6:29 on a wrist shot from a top the right circle. Junior Mike McLaughlin won a draw on BU’s left dot out to Hewkin on the point. Hewkin took a couple strides, flung the puck towards the net and bounced it off a BU defender to dupe Millan and give Northeastern the 3-2 advantage.
The Huskies made it a two-goal affair after McNeely linked up with Silva from the near boards just a minute later at 7:30 of the third. Bitetto broke up BU’s forecheck and knocked the puck over to McNeely waiting beside the right circle. McNeely threw the puck towards the cage and Silva zeroed in on the puck and poked it through Millan’s pads to grab the 4-2 lead.
Kevin Gilroy inched BU within a goal at 17:10 through a scrum in front of Witt. Corey Trivino and Matt Nieto threw their lumber around with a loose puck in front of the goalmouth, but Gilroy got the final touch on it as the disc trickled in the net to make it a one-goal affair with almost three minutes to go.
BU skipper Jack Parker pulled Millan with 1:30 left and the Terriers threw everything they had at Northeastern’s defense, but time expired and the Huskies skated away with the 4-3 triumph.
With the win, Northeastern returns to Commonwealth Ave. for a Hockey East quarterfinal showdown starting next weekend. The series will start on Friday, March 11th at 7 p.m., but there is a small chance the first game of the series could be moved up to Thursday evening pending results of the America East men’s basketball championship.
• Clay Witt earned his third career start at Agganis Arena on Friday and picked up his second victory since Jan. 8, 2011 (UMass Lowell) through a career-high 41 saves. Witt has played in both trips to Boston University this season, backing up Rawlings in the first trip on Dec. 8, 2010.
• Seniors Randy Guzior and Mike Hewkin both scored their first goals of the season in their final regular-season contest as Huskies. Hewkin and Guzior both overcame large scoring draughts. Hewkin curbed a 104-game scoreless spell while Guzior netted his first marker in 73 games. Before Saturday, Hewkin’s last goal came at Maine on Oct. 24, 2008 while Guzior’s last goal was at home against Boston College on March 6, 2009.
• Steve Silva has recorded a goal in his last two outings. It marks the second time in his career that he’s posted a goal in two consecutive games.
• Steve Quailer is on his third two-game point streak this season.
• Northeastern has amassed a .500 record against three nationally-ranked opponents over the last six games (#1 Boston College, #9 New Hampshire and #13 Boston University). The Huskies posted a 2-2-2 mark down the stretch against those three clubs.
• Northeastern will return to Agganis Arena for the quarterfinal round of the Hockey East playoffs starting next weekend. The last time the Huskies and Terriers met in the Hockey East playoffs was on March 7-8, 1997. BU won both games.