The Boston University men’s hockey team (6-4-0, 4-3-0 Hockey East) hosted the Northeastern University Huskies (7-3-3, 6-3-2 HE) at Agganis Arena tonight for the first time in the 2022-2023 season. BU was shut out 2-0 in the highly anticipated contest after lacking a spark until the third period.
“Certainly wasn’t our best,” head coach Jay Pandolfo said post-game. “The first two periods we didn’t have any life –– outcompeted. I thought we pushed a little in the third, had a few chances around the net.”
The Huskies bounced back from a shaky weekend against Boston College with the gritty road win, fueled by their attention to detail in all three zones.
“I thought we played smart,” Northeastern head coach Jerry Keefe said post-game. “I thought we managed the game pretty well. We did a lot of little things.”
Junior forward Dylan Peterson –– the 2022 Beanpot MVP –– slotted back into the second line after sitting out for game one against UMass last weekend due to sickness. The rest of the lines and D-pairs remained the same and freshman Jeremy Wilmer returned from injury as the extra forward.
Pregame, Peterson bluntly said, “We don’t like them, they don’t like us.” Is there any better recipe for a Friday night college hockey game than that? The home crowd was buzzing from puck drop of the cross-town rivalry as were both teams in the hard-hitting first period.
The Huskies led with a tough forecheck and sustained some good zone time in the opening ten minutes. There was not much space out there for either side, requiring a quick, pucks-on-net mentality and no cute stuff.
It was an elite goaltender matchup with junior Devon Levi on one end and junior Drew Commesso on the other. No. 29 made 26 saves and was one of BU’s best guys on the ice for all three periods. The two were tested right away and made some important stops to maintain the blank sheet in the first 20 minutes.
BU was opportunistic with their chances, led by captain and senior defenseman Domenick Fensore who was active on the blue line and leaned on his offensive game in one of his best performances of the year. His partner, defenseman Ty Gallagher, also had an impressive night as he’s been showing more confidence in his sophomore campaign.
“Dom always competes, he’s always going to be good, he doesn’t have too many bad games,” Pandolfo said. “I thought he was skating really well tonight, but as a group, it’s tough to win when you don’t score.”
The Terriers were granted two power plays but could not capitalize on either, leaving the period with nine shots-on-goal. The high-intensity energy never wavered and carried the squads into the middle frame.
Senior forward Riley Hughes was sent to the box for elbowing 15 seconds into the period, putting BU on their third man-advantage where they couldn’t produce. In a game this tight, special teams can make all the difference –– that puck needs to find the back of the net. The Huskies blocked a total of 24 shots, a big reason why the Terriers struggled up a man.
“I think we have to do a better job of not getting too many shots blocked; they [Northeastern] did a good job, got to give them credit,” Pandolfo said. “We’ve got to find a way to get pucks to the net.”
Northeastern was given their turn on the power play following a boarding call on senior forward Ethan Phillips at 4:12. The Terriers’ PK got to work, killing off the minor and giving the scarlet and white a chance to beat the Huskies to the scoreboard. As the clock wound down, it was clear the night’s first tally would carry a major momentum swing.
The Huskies put their foot on the gas at the ten minute mark and Commesso stood tall between the pipes, providing stability on the backend that his group needed to get back on track. Senior forward Jay O’Brien and freshman forward Ryan Greene both came inches away from a late-period lamplighter but the score remained locked at 0-0 going into the third.
Scoreless after two against Northeastern…have you heard that one before?
Freshman forward Cam Lund broke the ice at 11:06 and gave Northeastern the game’s first advantage following his three-goal weekend against BC. Dished the puck by former-Terrier sophomore Braden Doyle, Lund skated right past three BU players, cut to the right side and snapped one top-shelf for the 1-0 lead. The Terriers completely let up coverage and it cost them in the little-room-for-error competition.
“I really like the way he’s playing right now,” Keefe said of Lund who was named the Hockey East rookie of the week last week. “Things are coming more natural to him, he knows how we want to play and what we’re expecting him to do out there.”
BU eagerly hunted for the equalizer, led by chances from senior forward Matt Brown and junior forward Luke Tuch, but they could find no puck luck. Sophomore center Justin Hryckowian netted an empty-net goal with 45 seconds remaining in regulation and secured the 2-0 Husky victory.
This one stings, no doubt. BU has got to put together a more complete 60 minutes tomorrow night at Matthews if they want to split the series. Jumping on second chances in front of Levi, finding more open lanes, and moving their feet –– not just their sticks –– will be important for the Terriers in the second game. Pandolfo’s group has yet to lose two straight, and will have to work on all the little things to keep that streak alive.
The Boston Hockey Blog will have live, on-the-ground coverage of tomorrow’s matchup so be sure to follow along on Twitter @BOShockeyblog and Instagram @boston.hockey.blog for further updates.
Keys to victory for tonight’s game:
1. Win the net-front battle. Northeastern won last night because they cleared out rebounds and prevented BU from getting second-chance opportunities. Guys like O’Brien, Peterson, and Tuch are at their best when they get to the dirty areas and make life miserable for the opposing goalie. Levi will make the first save almost every time. It’s going to take a rebound goal, a redirection, or a tic-tac-toe passing play to beat him.
2. Execute on special teams. Special teams are often the deciding factor in tight games like this. BU’s penalty kill gave them momentum in last night’s game. Their D did a great job clearing pucks out and Commesso’s rebound control was excellent. Northeastern’s power play gets a boost with McDonough’s return to the lineup tonight. BU needs Commesso to be their best penalty killer once again. On the power play, the veteran unit had some good looks last night. Fensore was one of the few Terriers who had some success getting shots through traffic. If the Terriers get some power play opportunities tonight, Pandolfo needs to send the vets over the boards first.
3. Lane Hutson. He has been great in bounce back games this year, especially the Terriers’ Saturday matchup against Lowell 3 weeks ago. He had arguably BU’s best chance of the game last night on a play where he drove the puck to the net late in the third period. Pandolfo said after last night’s game that making a fake and holding onto the puck for an extra second or 2 will help the Terriers get more shots through. No one on BU does this better than Lane Hutson. The Terriers need him to step up again tonight.
This should be another close game, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it be decided by one goal. Commesso will need to have another solid outing as well.