BOSTON — Northeastern blew a 2-0 first period lead and watched Boston University score four consecutive goals, falling, 4-3, to the Terriers in the teams’ first meeting of the season. In front of a sold out Matthews Arena, the Huskies scored twice in the final 1 minute, 22 seconds of the first period, with goals from Alex Tuckerman and Ludwig Karlsson.
Karlsson added a second later in the game to cut BU’s lead to 4-3 with 3:07 remaining in regulation. The Terriers held on, though, shutting the Huskies down in the final few minutes. The win lifts BU into first place in Hockey East, two points ahead of second-place Boston College, which lost to Massachusetts Friday night, and three points clear of third-place Merrimack, which defeated Maine, 6-2. Northeastern falls to ninth place in the league, one point back of eighth-place New Hampshire and two points short of seventh-place UMass.
What I Saw
- Northeastern really struggled on the breakout in the final two periods. Pressuring the Huskies with one forward high in the zone and the other two waiting on the half-wall, BU prevented the Huskies from generating any offense outside of its transition game. In the first period, stoppages were sparse, as the teams traded chance after chance, with Kieran Millan and Chris Rawlings keeping both clubs scoreless until the Huskies struck in the final minutes. When the second period began, the Terriers began pressuring Northeastern more aggressively and essentially eliminated anything resembling an effective breakout. The second BU goal, which tied the game, 2-2, came after terrible decision-making by NU forward Justin Daniels, and relentless pressure from Ryan Santana caused a turnover and left Wade Megan open in the slot for an easy goal. The problems persisted on the power play, too, as the Huskies’ struggles continued. The one for five on the man advantage Friday lifted the Huskies to a robust 10.3 percent on the season.
- Steve Quailer had his worst game of the season. The junior has an “A” on his jersey, and he’s earned it most of the season. Friday, a series of selfish penalties and plainly stupid behavior were among two or three factors that led to the Huskies’ loss — their first since losing to UMass on Nov. 12. Thirty seconds after Sean Escobedo went off for roughing, an unnecessary pick play along the half-wall saw Quailer go off for interference. At the start of the third period, a slash in the neutral zone put BU on a power play, where Wade Megan extended the BU lead to 4-2. Quailer managed to make his night even worse with 4:29 left in regulation. After a Megan hook, Quailer’s mouth got him into trouble, and official Chris Federico sent the winger off on a 10-minute misconduct. As he sat in the box, Karlsson made it 4-3, but the Huskies couldn’t complete the comeback.
- The Northeastern power play seemed lost. The Huskies went on the man advantage five times and scored once, after pulling Rawlings already up a man. Karlsson converted on a shot from the high slot during the six on four. For the most part, though, the five NU skaters running the power play just got in each other’s way. None of them moved effectively without the puck, and it was common to see nothing more than Garrett Vermeersch and Anthony Bitetto standing at the blue line playing catch. Things turned ugly with 10:31 left in regulation, when BU freshman Alexx Privitera and redshirt freshman Yasin Cisse both went off on minors on the same play. Two full minutes of five on three, and the Huskies managed just one shot. Trailing 4-2 in a game against a conference opponent, that just isn’t good enough.
- Chris Rawlings was outstanding once again for the Huskies. All four BU goals were the result of strong play from the Terriers or terrible defending from the Huskies. The junior finished the game with 26 saves, with the four goals he allowed. His numbers for the season took a bit of a hit, with his save percentage falling to .928 and goals against ballooning to 2.41 — both still great numbers. At times in the past, the junior’s play has been a mystery for Northeastern. His talent alone will send him on runs, before some shot to his confidence reverses his course — and the Huskies’ in the process. That doesn’t look likely this season, as Rawlings has played more confidently than ever before. Despite Northeastern 7-0-1 run, which began with a 5-2 win at Providence on Nov. 18, they won just three league games in that time. Some have wondered if the run could be wasted entirely with a bad stretch now that Hockey East play has resumed. With Rawlings at his best, it’s not looking likely.
- The discipline and behavioral issues that were a problem for the Huskies in the past are back, and it was the ultimate reason they lost on Friday. The problems started before the game even began with Cody Ferriero and Braden Pimm both sitting the game out on a coach’s decision. NU coach Jim Madigan said after the game that the duo will be inactive on Saturday against Boston College at Fenway Park as well. For all intents and purposes, that’s a pair of two-game suspensions for two of the players most responsible for the Huskies’ success over their last eight games. Their third- and seventh-leading scorers on the season doing something to warrant their exclusion from a critical weekend. Quailer’s 16 penalty minutes only compounded the issues for the Huskies.
- Vinny Saponari won’t say it, but he wanted this one bad. Midway through the second period, he and freshman Adam Reid broke in on a two on one. Reid opted to shoot from the right circle instead of making the pass to Saponari skating in parallel to Reid. After Millan froze the puck, Saponari slammed his stick on the ice and headed straight back to the bench visibly upset. The junior turned and shouted in Reid’s direction, obviously displeased with his teammate. Saponari has received praise from Madigan throughout the season for his emotional maturity, something completely absent during the two seasons he spent as a Terrier. However, the momentary expression of his own frustration demonstrated just how much this game meant to him. He’ll get at least two more shots at his former club this season, as BU and NU meet on the final weekend of the season.
- Northeastern plays again Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. against Boston College in the final Frozen Fenway game of 2012. Saponari is the lone Husky player with experience in a collegiate outdoor game. He played in one as a member of BU two years ago, a 3-2 BU win over BC.
- With the loss, Northeastern falls to 17th in the PairWise, deadlocked with North Dakota. A win over Boston College Saturday would help the Huskies avoid wasting some of the capital they built during their eight-game unbeaten streak. It would also be huge in terms of conference play.
- The Huskies worse jerseys lined with pink on Friday night to support breast cancer awareness. Madigan’s wife Kim, a breast cancer survivor, was on the ice to participate in a ceremonial puckdrop.