BOSTON – Boston University took over sole possession of first place in Hockey East with a 4-3 win over Northeastern at Matthews Arena on Friday night. It was BU’s fourth straight win in league play and its ninth victory in the last 11 games overall. The Terriers trailed 2-0 at the end of one, but responded with goals from Adam Clendening, Wade Megan and Evan Rodrigues in the middle frame. Megan added his second of the game and 10th of the season early in the third to make it 4-2, and BU (12-6-1, 10-4-1 HE) managed to hang on for the win. Kieran Millan made 31 saves.
What I saw
-Wade Megan continued to show why he belongs on the top line. He played on the third line for most of the first half, but got bumped up to the top unit following the departures of Corey Trivino and Charlie Coyle over break. He has three goals in three games since the promotion, and his 10 goals on the season are the most among players still on the team (Trivino had 13 before his dismissal). Megan’s two goals Friday night were both one-timers set up by nice plays from his teammates — Ryan Santana on the first and Alex Chiasson on the second — but they showcased his ability to finish when he gets the puck in scoring areas.
-Chiasson continued to be a revelation on faceoffs. Trivino and Coyle were BU’s top two faceoff men in the first half, and the Terriers lost 40 of 59 draws in their first game without those two, leaving plenty of questions about who was going to step up in the faceoff circle. Well, Chiasson has certainly done his part to answer those questions. He won 13 of the 19 draws he took Friday night after going 7-for-13 last Friday in his first game taking faceoffs full-time. Coach Jack Parker used Chiasson in every situation, including penalty kills and key defensive-zone draws late in the game. Simply put, Chiasson has quickly become BU’s most reliable faceoff man.
What I thought
-Clendening underwhelmed for Team USA at World Juniors, but he has been nothing short of great since returning to BU. His puck-moving, shot selection and defensive-zone play have all been the best they’ve ever been during his time as a Terrier. His goal Friday night was Example A of what can happen when he’s poised on the blue line. Clendening got the puck at the right point, started moving to his left, then quickly shifted back to his right — faking out a Northeastern forward in the process — and fired a shot through traffic and into the top right corner.
-Alexx Privitera looks like a completely different player than he did in the first half. It’s pretty common for freshman defensemen to struggle during their first semester as they try to adjust to the speed of the college game, and Privitera has clearly adjusted. He picked up an assist on Rodrigues’ goal Friday night, and he also broke up a number of Northeastern rushes and did a good job making clean breakout passes. Parker attributed Privitera’s improved play to him gaining confidence, moving his feet more and making quicker decisions.
What they said
“I loved the way we reacted in the second period. I thought we came out and played hard. We were still a little tentative for a little while, but then when we got the first goal, it kind of loosened things up. To get four goals on [Chris] Rawlings, with how hard they play in front of him, I thought we really worked hard for our goals.” -Parker
The Terriers have now scored four goals in back-to-back games, and they’ve done it against two of the best goalies in the country — Merrimack’s Joe Cannata last Friday and then Rawlings this Friday. It would be silly to say the Terriers don’t miss Trivino and Coyle, but they’ve proven — perhaps most importantly to themselves — that they can score without them. They’ve done it by forechecking hard and going to the net for tips and rebounds, something they didn’t do consistently at the start of the season. If they can do that consistently the rest of the way, a special season is still within reach.
What else you should know
-BU is now third in the PairWise Rankings as of the time this post was published.
-Matt Nieto was slow to get up after a blindside hit to the head that earned Josh Manson a five-minute major and game misconduct. Nieto stayed in the game, and Parker said he would be checked out again tomorrow.
-Clendening won an offensive-zone faceoff in the third period while BU was killing a 5-on-3. It was just the second faceoff he’s taken during his college career, and the first one he’s won.
-The Terriers return to action Saturday night when they visit Harvard in out-of-conference action.