Heading into last weekend’s contest with then-No. 8 Boston College, No. 7 Boston University men’s hockey coach Jack Parker said a momentous two games for either the Terriers or Eagles could provide a big lift for the victors.
He also predicted a couple bad losses could be detrimental to a team’s will, and in the opening minutes of Wednesday night’s contest with Northeastern University, that’s exactly what appeared to happen to the Terriers.
Still, as they have seemingly all semester, the Terriers fought back, overcoming a 2-0 deficit and a late 4-4 tie to win 5-4 on sophomore Alex Chiasson’s game-winning goal.
Chiasson netted the clincher with 3:27 to play, rifling home a power-play goal from below the right faceoff circle – a one-time finish off a pass from freshman Charlie Coyle.
Chiasson added two assists in the game for a three-point night, which was matched by Coyle’s goal and two helpers.
“Finally, a power-play goal,” Chiasson said, alluding to BU’s weak 11.9 percent conversion rate heading into the game. “It was one of those games where I thought our line played pretty well.”
The Terriers fell into an early 2-0 hole when NU freshman Brodie Reid and sophomore Garrett Vermeersch netted back-to-back tallies early in the first period.
The Huskies jumped to an 11-1 shot advantage over that frame. The start was reminiscent to that of BU’s 9-5 loss to BC at Agganis Arena last Friday.
“We came out like we were the Belmont Bantams and they were the Montreal Canadiens,” Parker said. “We came out standing around watching them and they were dominating [sic] in every phase of the game.
“That first 12 minutes of the first period was scary bad for us.”
Unlike last Friday, when BC stretched the lead to 3-0 by the first intermission, the Terriers struck twice before the zambonis took the ice.
Coyle started the charge, turning a give-and-go with classmate Garrett Noonan into BU’s first tally. Coyle started the play skating from the right wing and dropped a pass to Noonan, who was trailing.
Noonan faked a slapper from the slot and slid the puck to Coyle along the right goal line. NU sophomore goalie Chris Rawlings was thrown off the scent by the fake and was nowhere near the puck as Coyle slid it into the net.
Then, with 3:35 left in the first, sophomore Ryan Santana netted the equalizer for his first collegiate goal.
The speedy winger wristed a shot off Rawlings’ pads, flew by a Northeastern defender and found his own rebound with enough time to deke to the right and beat Rawlings for the goal.
“It was nice to get the monkey off my back, so to speak,” Santana said. “Especially in a game like that, it’s nice to contribute on the score sheet.”
BU continued to roll in the second. Junior center Corey Trivino undressed Rawlings for BU’s third goal, turning a centering pass from freshman Sahir Gill into a forehand-to-backhand finish.
Forty-seven seconds later, freshman Matt Nieto netted his fifth goal of the year by tipping home a centering pass from Chiasson on the rush.
For Nieto, who fought off a Cody Ferreiro hooking penalty to net the tally, the goal was his third in three games and fourth in five.
The breakout is big for the freshman, who had struggled to chalk his name in the goal column early in the season despite big expectations.
“He was getting a lot of chances earlier,” Parker said. “I kept telling him, ‘Just keep going the way you’re going, and the puck is going to go in the net for you.’”
Shortly after Nieto’s tally, Northeastern coach Greg Cronin replaced Rawlings with freshman Clay Witt.
“For me, it was simple. They had four goals on about 13 shots,” Cronin said. “It’s not the goals so much as it was the way the puck was being managed. A lot of pucks came right back out into areas where guys could swipe at them.
“Like Santana’s goal, that rebound came right back, and he usually doesn’t do that.”
Northeastern snapped BU’s four-goal streak with a momentum-crushing finish to the second period. The Huskies reeled off the final 11 shots on goal in the frame, and a goal from freshman Braden Pimm cut the BU lead to 4-3 heading to the third.
The strong Husky play carried over into the final frame. The men in black attempted 24 shots to BU’s 12 in the third and held the Terriers to a single shot on goal through the first 14 and a half minutes of the frame.
Less than five minutes into the third, forward Wade MacLeod (8 shots) netted the equalizer with NU on a 5-on-3 advantage. The winger beat junior goalie Kieran Millan top shelf from just under the right faceoff dot.
“The best part about this game for me is the way we came back and went up 4-2,” Parker said. “The worst part about this game is how we played after we got up 4-2. We acted like everything was offset. We were playing on the wrong side of the puck and kind of let them get momentum back.
“Not only did they get the goal but they got momentum back possession-wise. [We] lost it all. Not only on the scoreboard, but in time of possession . . . We were very lucky to come out of this game with a W.”
Millan turned away 37 shots in the winning effort –– his 50th as a Terrier –– and despite allowing four goals, Parker referred to the goalie as his top star for the night.