Every college hockey coach will tell you that nothing is won in October. However, that doesn’t mean that Northeastern was anything less than pleased to beat defending national champion Boston College, the No. 1-ranked team in the country, Saturday night at Matthews Arena.
The Eagles won 19 straight games to end their magical campaign last year and brought a lot of enthusiasm and high expectations into this one.
But Northeastern (2-0-0) kept its strong start going as it captured the 3-1 victory on homecoming weekend.
NU coach Jim Madigan said when he heard the school band playing Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” which was the theme when the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Detroit Red Wings to win the Stanley Cup in 2009, when Madigan was a Pittsburgh scout, he thought something special could happen.
“I’m a little bit superstitious and when I heard the song, I actually thought it was a pretty good feeling going into the game,’’ said Madigan. “I thought our kids really played well from the beginning of the game to the end of the game.
“We’ve got a long way to go. It’s a nice victory, there’s no doubt. One of our focuses this year was to have a good start and focus in on the first 10 games of the year. Our club, the last couple of years, has gotten off to some slow starts and it’s hampered [them at the end of the year]. We’ll just continue looking at Game 3 which happens to again be against Boston College.’’
As they showed on Wednesday night, the Huskies were prepared right out of the gate. Against Merrimack, they jumped out to a 3-0 lead. Against the Eagles, they took a 2-0 lead in the first 8 minutes, 6 seconds and were ahead, 2-1, after 20 minutes.
NU took advantage of a fortuitous bounce on its first tally. At 5:03, the puck bounced off the skate of BC freshman defenseman Colin Sullivan and right to freshman left wing Ryan Belonger, who potted his first goal, against senior netminder Parker Milner (26 saves).
The second goal was the second in two games for freshman left wing Kevin Roy. Junior right wing Cody Ferriero, who was deep in the right circle, threw a centering pass in front for Roy, who rapped it past Milner for the 2-0 lead.
BC answered at 14:55, just nine seconds into its first power play. With sophomore defenseman Dan Cornell off for charging, senior right wing Steven Whitney beat senior netminder Chris Rawlings (31 saves) from the right circle for his 30th career goal and first of the year.
NU outshot BC, 12-8, in the scoreless second period and had three power plays in the frame but couldn’t convert. BC had one man-advantage opportunity but didn’t cash in.
The Huskies built on their lead with a very unlikely goal at 3:42 of the third. Freshman defenseman Colton Saucerman, who had an assist in the opener, scored his first when he golfed a shot from just outside the right side of the blue line. The high knuckler fooled Milner and found an opening to give NU a two-goal lead.
For a good portion of the third, particularly in the middle, the Huskies pinned the Eagles in their own end, grinding time off the clock and putting pressure on the young BC defense.
For BC coach Jerry York, it was a way to evaluate where his team is with just one game in the books.
“Northeastern was a little sharper than us in different areas,’’ said York. “Our inability to score more goals was a direct reflection on how well Rawlings played in goal. We needed more people in front to screen and deflect pucks. We just did not get that over the course of the night. I thought our breakouts weren’t sharp and crisp either. They forechecked very well and hemmed us in for different parts of the game, which ultimately leads to victory when you can’t get the puck out of your zone.’’
Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at email@example.com