Huskies fail to ice it
NU must wait for BU result
For 20 weeks, Northeastern enjoyed its place at the top of the Hockey East standings. Last night, the Huskies had an opportunity to clinch their first regular-season conference title.
Instead, fourth-ranked NU (23-9-4, 18-6-3) lost to Boston College, 4-1, in front of 7,884 at Conte Forum. The loss places the Huskies' destiny in the hands of rival Boston University, which hosts Providence this afternoon at Agganis Arena. A win by the Terriers means BU earns the No. 1 seed and will play No. 8 seed Maine in the next weekend's conference tournament quarterfinals. It would also mean NU would host No. 7 UMass, which has beaten the Huskies twice in three meetings this season. A tie by BU would mean cochampions, but the Terriers would get the No. 1 seed, having one win and two ties against the Huskies this season. BC (16-13-5, 11-11-5) will be the No. 6 seed and face No. 3 New Hampshire.
"It stinks," said NU coach Greg Cronin, when asked what it's like to have to wait to see what BU does. "To go from start to finish in first place and to play like we did tonight . . . there were so many penalties, there was no flow to the game. All the credit goes to [BC]. They played a desperate game. Judging by their intensity and execution, they played like a team that was trying to win a championship and we played like a team stuck in sixth place."
The Huskies started OK, dodging a bullet in the opening period when junior right wing Chris Donovan was assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct for hitting from behind at 2:33, giving the Eagles a five-minute power play. However, NU's excellent penalty killing (which is ranked No. 2 in the conference and No. 8 in the nation) prevailed. The Huskies even created a scoring chance while shorthanded, with freshman left wing Steve Quailer teeing up a shot from the left circle.
NU took the lead at 9:12 of the period during a two-man advantage. Just four seconds into the five-on-three, junior defenseman David Strathman blasted a one-timer from the left circle that blew past BC netminder John Muse (24 saves). The rest of the goals belonged to the Eagles, with the first two coming on power plays.
With Steve Silva off for hooking, freshman center Cam Atkinson flipped a shot over junior goalie Brad Thiessen at 13:02, tying the game.
The Eagles went ahead to stay early in the second on the first of three goals during the middle frame. With Jim Driscoll in the box for interference, senior captain Brock Bradford took a pass from Tim Kunes and one-timed a shot from the top of the left circle for his 23d goal of the season and 51st of his career.
BC made it 4-1 with a pair of tallies less than two minutes apart. At 13:31, freshman right wing Jimmy Hayes beat Thiessen with a backhander from just outside the right post. It was Hayes's first goal since Nov. 22. Senior right wing Benn Ferriero potted his first goal in eight games when he scored on a power play at 14:57.
NU had a chance to climb back into it in the third when BC defenseman Nick Petrecki was given a five-minute major and game misconduct for hitting Wade MacLeod from behind, but the Huskies couldn't capitalize.
For Bradford, it was important to end the regular season on a high note.
"Not only to win but the way we played for a full 60 minutes," said Bradford. "It's one of our best games of the year and you want to be playing your best hockey at this time. We really competed and battled hard."
Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at email@example.com.