BOSTON – For the first time in 28 years, the Northeastern men’s hockey team advanced to the Hockey East championship game after topping Boston College Saturday morning at the TD Garden.
That’s right, Saturday morning.
Originally scheduled for an 8 PM start on Friday night, both teams had to wait until nearly 11 PM to get underway, after the semi-final game between Lowell and Providence dragged on for over five hours.
“I think tonight is the last night of midnight service on the T,” said NU head coach Jim Madigan. “So if any of you guys need a lift home, you can come on our bus and we’ll get you back.”
Northeastern will now square off against UMass Lowell for the Hockey East crown Saturday night at the TD Garden.
All five goals for the Huskies came from different scorers, and the team had 11 players record a point.
The Eagles got the scoring started, as freshman Miles Wood scored just 15 seconds into the game. The goal was the second-fastest goal scored in Hockey East championship history.
Despite the early miscue by freshman goalie Ryan Ruck, the Huskies, who have now won 12-consecutive games, were relentless the entire game.
“Ryan was a little nervous,” said Madigan, “then I thought we settled into the game.”
Zach Aston-Reese and Adam Gaudette both scored to give NU a 2-1 lead heading into the first intermission.
Gaudette’s goal was a back-breaker for the Eagles. Dylan Sikura fed Mike McMurtry in the slot, who slid the puck backdoor to Gaudette, who back-handed the puck passed BC goalie and Hockey East co-player of the year Thatcher Demko with less than a second remaining in the period.
“I thought we battled back, but that was a tough goal for us to give up there,” said BC head coach Jerry York.
The Eagles, always talented, kept the pressure on throughout the game, but Northeastern used goals from Nolan Stevens, Eric Williams, and Lincoln Griffin to maintain the lead. Demko made a number of highlight reel saves to keep BC in the game, but two penalties on the Eagles in the game’s final minutes allowed the Huskies to run out the clock.
For the game, Wood scored twice for BC, in addition to goals from Alex Tuch and Colin White. Demko finished the game with 27 saves.
After a slow start to the season, the Huskies are unbeaten in their last 13 contests, and have risen to 14 in the USCHO polls. Though an at-large bid is still a possibility, a win Saturday night would automatically put Northeastern in the national tournament for the first time time since 2009.
Madigan didn’t attempt to hide his interest in out-of-town scenarios that could affect his team’s fate.
“I’m keenly aware, and the players are too,” said Madigan. “We just don’t talk about it.”
Saturday’s game is scheduled for a 7 PM start time, and much will be on the line for both teams.
“This is the SEC of football, if we can win a Hockey East championship, that’s a great accomplishment,” said Madigan.
“If we can win it, that takes care of the national tournament.”