By Tim Healey/DFP Staff
In the opening act of its first back-to-back games of 2012, the No. 6 Boston University men’s hockey team downed Northeastern University 4-3 Friday night at Matthews Arena.
In a game that was more than just a game for some involved – Northeastern (8-8-3, 4-8-2 Hockey East) forward Vinny Saponari faced off against his former team for the first time since being dismissed from the Terriers (12-6-1, 10-4-1 Hockey East) in May 2010 – Northeastern drew first blood with a pair of goals 1:05 apart.
At 18:38 in the first, forward Alex Tuckerman found the back of the net after BU could not clear the puck out of its defensive zone, leading to Tuckerman beating senior goaltender Kieran Millan high.
Moments later, senior captain Chris Connolly’s attempted clear ended up on Northeastern forward Ludwig Karlsson’s stick high in the slot. The Stockholm, Sweden native promptly beat Millan high again for the quick 2-0 lead at 19:33.
“I was wondering how my team would react after that because we played pretty hard,” said coach Jack Parker. “We don’t like to give up goals the last three minutes of a period. And I liked the way we reacted in the second period. I thought we played hard. We were still a little tentative for a little while, then when we got the first goal it [got better.]”
The Terriers gave the Huskies a bit of their own medicine, tying the game up in similar fashion about halfway through the second period with a pair of close goals.
The goal that “loosened things up” for the Terriers, according to Parker, came courtesy of sophomore defenseman Adam Clendening at 8:23 on a shot from the blue line that snuck by everybody, including Northeastern goaltender Chris Rawlings.
Junior forward Wade Megan followed suit, knotting things up at two apiece at 9:20. In a play that Parker noted as one of the most impressive all night, junior forward Ryan Santana forced a turnover in the offensive zone and sent a centering pass to Megan, who knocked it in from the doorstep.
After sophomore forward Matt Nieto was upended by Northeastern defenseman Josh Manson – leading to four separate BU-Northeastern skirmishes and a game misconduct for Manson – BU capitalized on its five-minute power play with a goal from freshman forward Evan Rodrigues. The rookie tipped in a shot from classmate Alexx Privitera at 11:51 for the 3-2 BU lead and his first goal as a Terrier.
“He’s been playing really well, he’s been getting opportunities,” Parker said. “He likes the fact that he’s moved up. When those guys [Corey Trivino and Charlie Coyle] left he gets a chance to play on the power play, he gets a chance to play on the second line.”
Megan followed up his game-tying goal in the second period with the eventual game-winner at 1:52 in the third. He struck, this time with BU on the mad-advantage, for his team-high fifth power-play goal of the season after junior assistant captain Alex Chiasson set him up with a pass.
In the biggest non-goal moment of the game the Terriers fended off Northeastern’s two-man advantage for 1:55 halfway through the third. The threat ended when Northeastern assistant captain Steve Quailer took a slashing penalty.
“The three guys who were out there at any moment on that 5-on-3 did a real good job of staying in shooting lanes, denying shots, and making them take another pass and then another pass,” Parker said.
Tuckerman made the Terriers hold their collective breath when he made it 4-3 at 16:53 with the Huskies on the power play, but the Terriers buckled down to hold Northeastern scoreless the rest of the way.
Millan finished the game with 30 saves as BU re-took sole possession of first place in the conference.
“It’s great,” Megan said of the current standings. “Hockey East is so competitive. Hockey East games are must-wins, all of them. It’s great to be in first. Hopefully we can keep those other teams behind us.”