The Boston University men’s hockey team overcame Northeastern University 6-3 at Agganis Arena on Saturday night to conclude their slate of competitive fixtures in 2019.
“Through the ups and downs of the first half, ending with a win was really important for us tonight,” said BU junior forward Patrick Harper.
Harper got the Terriers (6-6-5, 4-3-4 Hockey East) on the board 7:13 into the game, streaking through the heart of the Northeastern (10-5-2, 6-4-1 Hockey East) defense and flipping one past graduate goaltender Craig Pantano.
Working with freshman defenseman Case McCarthy to assist the score, freshman forward Trevor Zegras earned his tenth helper as a Terrier.
“He’s a special player,” Harper said about Zegras. “It’s easy to play with him.”
Northeastern broke through early in the second when junior forward Zach Solow and senior forward John Picking both scored from close range within the first 45 seconds of the period.
“We just didn’t have any coverage out front,” said BU head coach Albie O’Connell. “I think they scored a couple easy goals, to be honest with you.”
Sophomore forward Jack DeBoer responded for BU 40 seconds later, connecting from the left circle for his first score of the season. Junior forward David Farrance and senior forward Gabe Chabot had the last touches before DeBoer found the back of the net.
The Huskies were not done just yet, regaining the lead a minute and a half later when freshman forward Aiden McDonough converted a second-chance effort on the power play.
Undeterred, the Terriers leveled again when Zegras picked a Husky pocket and slid a pass to Harper, who buried his second of the game and the fifth goal in 4:17 to start the second.
“He’s gotta be one of the best players in the country,” said O’Connell of his assistant captain. “He’s taken his game to another level.”
On the other bench, Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan was frustrated with his team’s performance all night.
“I thought our manager did a good job, and our equipment manager did a good job … but not much after that.”
Freshman forward Robert Mastrosimone put the Terriers on top with 6:10 left in the frame off of a rebound created by senior forward Patrick Curry, with a secondary assist credited to freshman forward Ethan Phillips.
The lead was doubled less than two minutes later on an individual effort by freshman defenseman Dom Fensore, forcing a turnover in the NU end and sniping one top-right from the slot.
“We were just really sloppy with the puck,” said Madigan. “You can’t play shinny hockey, and that’s what we did.”It was Zegras again who set up the Fensore strike, making for his first three-assist night with BU.
“He was electric tonight,” said O’Connell, who also noted, “he does some interesting things on the ice. I think he put the puck between his legs and shot it three times tonight.”
Holding a two-goal lead into the third period, BU fended off four third-period Northeastern power plays, thanks in part to the play of graduate goaltender Sam Tucker, who made 37 saves in the game.
“We’ve been … really starting to find our identity in the defensive zone,” the netminder said.
In Harper’s mind, the defensive game plan was a bit simpler.
“We just let the brick wall take care of it,” he said, in reference to Tucker.
Defending the third of the four penalties, sophomore forward Matt Quercia made it six with an empty-netter, stealing the puck and sending it in from his own blue line with 2:21 to play.
Victorious against Northeastern for the first time in 13 months, BU’s six goals were the most scored in a meeting with the Huskies since February 28, 2015.
“It was a good team win,” said O’Connell. “I’m happy for the guys, they put in a great effort.”
The win brought BU within a point of Northeastern, who went into the game atop Hockey East but fell to a three-way tie for second with the loss to BU. On 12 points in 11 conference games, the Terriers sit two points shy of the new leaders: the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.
“They were two huge league points,” Coach O’Connell said.
With 17 games in the books, BU will now go three weeks before their next contest.
“We don’t play a game for a long time, so we finished on a good note,” said O’Connell.
BU will be back in action at the end of the month as they host Concordia for an exhibition match at Walter Brown Arena on December 29.