BOSTON — Saturday night at Conte Forum, the Boston College Eagles raised their 2012 National Championship banner to the rafters, and then preceded to remind the sold out crowd just how they earned it. After a road loss to Northeastern and a comeback 5-4 win against Massachusetts last night, BC returned to form with a 3-0 win over the Huskies in their home opener.
The Eagles struck early, with junior forward Kevin Hayes drawing first blood with a wrist shot from under the circle just over six minutes in. They wasted no time gaining a comfortable lead, and sophomore standout Johnny Gaudreau capitalized on a breakaway opportunity going five-hole on senior Chris Rawlings. The Northeastern defensemen hadn’t even caught up with Gaudreau by the time he was taking the shot.
Penalties plagued both teams throughout the three periods, but BC was able to outplay the Huskies despite several minutes in the box. When NU rookies freshman Cam Darcy and sophomore Dax Lauwers took penalties within seconds of each other to give the Eagles a 5-on-3 advantage, senior forward Steven Whitney capitalized almost immediately. At the point, he took a feed from Gaudreau and shot past Rawlings’ glove.
Despite renewed energy in the second period, the Huskies were unable to capitalize on any scoring chances and ultimately left Conte shut out by the Eagles.
What I saw
— Say what you will about Parker Milner, but his goaltending was extraordinary. The senior made 26 saves to shut out a surging Northeastern offense. He might have a solid defensive unit in front of him, but much of the work Saturday night was done by Milner himself. His glove save on a one-timer from senior Garrett Vermeersch is bound to make YouTube.
— Unlike the team that defeated the Eagles a week ago, Northeastern was entirely flat tonight. Granted, all of the electricity that filled Matthews Arena was certainly backing the Eagles tonight in their home opener, but what the Eagles gained in inspiration, the Huskies lost. From the first puck drop, Northeastern’s forwards seemed to be skating on their heels, fighting to keep up with the likes of Gaudreau, Whitney, and Hayes from the start – not a way to win hockey games.
What I thought
— It was odd to see Johnny Gaudreau not dominating ice time the last time the Eagles and Huskies met, a week ago at Matthews Arena. He and his linemates led the scoring charge tonight and last night against Massachusetts, and they’ll continue to do so. He showed his speed and skill tonight, especially with his eye for the puck when Pat Mullane passed to him through Northeastern defensemen leading to his breakaway goal. Gaudreau will be on Hobey Baker lists, and chances are he’ll only increase buzz surrounding his play as the season continues.
— Penalties were killer for Northeastern tonight. Jim Madigan has said he wants his team playing 5-on-5 hockey, and they certainly didn’t have the opportunity to do that tonight. With eight penalties and 24 penalty minutes, the Huskies spent too much time down a man. Whitney capitalized on Northeastern’s errors, scoring with a two-man advantage the second he had the chance. Northeastern’s penalties weren’t limited to its group of rookie players either, and more disciplined play from Husky veterans couldn’t hurt. Penatlies and special teams made a difference.
What they said
“They deserved to win. They were the better team, they took it to us from the opening faceoff. We didn’t match their emotional level. It was a great night for them and they certainly displayed it on the ice. They outplayed us, outcoached us, everything, they win.
We had a little momentum, it was never sustained, though. It was bits here and there and he [Milner] did a good job on the shots that were in front of him.”
— Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan
“We’ve been playing from behind, both at Northeastern on Saturday and at UMass. But you know, the beauty of our league is that the passion of the fan base is incredible. You go to Matthews and see the turnout and then go up to the Mullins Center and see that turnout and our own barn here, that fuels the team and it makes it hard to win on the road.”
— BC head coach Jerry York
“That first game, I felt like we were a little shaky out at Northeastern. I don’t think we played to our potential and we had a good week of practice last week. That first two periods last night at UMass Amherst we were still a little shaky, but going into that third period, in the locker room between the second and third periods our captains and our coaches talked to us and I think ever since then we’ve been playing our best.”
— Johnny Gaudreau
What else you should know
— Northeastern senior forward Steve Morra will be out for a significant amount of time according to Madigan after sustaining a lower body injury in Saturday night’s game.
— The Eagles and Huskies are currently tied for first place in Hockey East, each with 2-1-0 records after three games played.
— After the game, Jerry York joked about having Eagles of years past in the arena for the banner ceremony. “Johnny [Gaudreau] thought I played on the ’49 team. I told him I didn’t play on the ’49 team, God bless him,” York said.
— BC will play home-and-home against Mass.-Lowell next weekend, and Northeastern will do the same against New Hampshire.