Men’s Hockey: BC sweep ends Huskies’ season

Men’s Hockey: BC sweep ends Huskies’ season

By Matt Nielsen

The season ended Friday for the men’s hockey team (13-18-5, 9-13-5 Hockey East) at the hands of rival Boston College (24-11-1, 18-8-1 HE) in the quarterfinals of the Hockey East Conference Championship tournament.

After posting a conference-best 10-win improvement over last year’s record (3-24-7), the Huskies ran into a buzz saw last week at Conte Forum, as BC dominated Northeastern on consecutive nights, winning 3-0 and 7-1.

Northeastern secured the seventh seed and the match-up against BC with a 4-2 win over Boston University Feb. 28.

The Huskies went to Chestnut Hill Thursday feeling confident in their chances after recording a 1-1-1 record against BC this season, including a win in their last meeting, Jan. 5 at Matthews Arena. But it was a different BC team the Huskies faced, which had won 10 of its last 12 games, including six in a row.

“They’re going to be a heck of a team for years to come,” said NU head coach Greg Cronin. “And if they can get their D healthy they’re going to make a run.”

The BC defense came into the series hurt, shifting senior forward Brian Boyle to defenseman, a position he played this season in special teams situations.

“Brian’s a big part of our line,” said sophomore forward Brock Bradford. “But he’s a team player and that’s why he’s the captain. He did a great job back on D for us.”

After long layoffs, both squads looked lethargic for most of the first period Thursday, and neither could find the back of the net until 18:21. Boyle intercepted the puck and passed ahead to sophomore forward Nathan Gerbe. Gerbe and Bradford rushed the net 2-on-1, and Gerbe fed Bradford in front for his 13th goal of the season.

Shortly after the start of the second period, BC junior defenseman Mike Brennan got a game misconduct for hitting from behind, and the Huskies began a five-minute power play.

“If you get a five-minute power play and you don’t score, your chances of winning a hockey game, and particularly a playoff game, slip,” Cronin said.

The Huskies were slow to get their offense set up, and only began to cycle the puck in BC ice after almost three minutes. NU had a few opportunities, but junior goaltender Cory Schneider was unbeatable, and the power play produced nothing.

The Eagles struck again six minutes into the second period when freshman forward Ben Smith, playing in Boyle’s place on the front line, capitalized on a rebound in front of NU freshman goalie Brad Thiessen and scored his seventh goal of the year, making the score 2-0.

“It was a playoff game that featured a number of things that helped us win,” said BC head coach Jerry York. “Cory was rock solid in goal. The ability to get out of a five-minute major without giving up a goal was another and Brian Boyle’s ability to go back and play defense. Those were all keys for our club tonight.”

Halfway through the third period Bradford scored his second goal of the night, making it 3-0 and icing the game.

Thiessen saved 26 of 29 shots faced, but gave up uncharacteristic rebounds in front of the net.

“I don’t blame him, though,” Cronin said. “There must have been 10 odd-man rushes. He played well- it could have been 6-0.”

Schneider recorded his fifth shutout of the season and the 14th of his career, breaking BC’s career record held by Scott Clemmensen (1997-2001). He stopped all 25 shots faced.

The next night the Huskies jumped out to an early lead. Two minutes in, sophomore forward Ryan Ginand intercepted the puck in BC ice, deked Schneider and beat him stick-side for his sixth goal of the season. It would be the last Husky goal of the season, and 10 minutes later the floodgates opened.

At 12:42, BC senior forward Joe Rooney scored his 12th goal of the season. Then the Eagles, who have performed well all year on the power play, really got going.

In the 20 minutes that followed, BC got two power play goals from sophomore forward Ben Ferriero, as well as one each from Bradford and Boyle, increasing their lead to 5-1.

“After going down 1-0, we really responded,” York said after Friday’s game. “Our power play was firing on all eight cylinders. As bad as our power play was last night [1-6], it was that good tonight [4-6].”

Junior forward Dan Bertrum scored the Eagles’ sixth goal of the contest at 13:49 in the second period, and for the first time all year, Thiessen was removed from net in favor of senior goalie Adam Geragosian.

“Tonight was an aberration,” Cronin said of Thiessen’s play. “He just looked off. It was a bad night for the pitcher, you know. He was serving up home run balls.”

Despite Friday’s game, Cronin was quick to point out Thiessen’s contributions throughout the season.

“Who’s kidding who? He was the backbone of our team this year,” Cronin said. “We had a stretch where we were giving up fewer than two goals a game for about 10 games. He was also the reason we were No. 2 in the country in penalty-killing at one point.”

Thiessen finished the year as the Huskies’ all-time single-season leader in save percentage, at .921. He also finished with the second best single-season goals-against-average (GAA) in Husky history, at 2.48. Only Kenny Gibson in 2004-05 had a better GAA, when he allowed 2.46 per game.

BC freshman forward Matt Lombardi scored again in the second to make the score 7-1, the eventual final score. Boston College advanced to the semifinal round of the tournament, which will be played Friday night at TD Banknorth Garden against BU.

Northeastern, however, ended its rebuilding season on a rough note, but one bright spot came yesterday, as it was announced senior forward Brian Esner was signed to an AHL tryout contract by the Peoria Rivermen.

Though the first-round losses were tough, Cronin said he is encouraged by the improvements his team made this season.

“I wanted to get to 15 wins this season, and people thought I was loopy,” he said. “We got to 13, from three last season. What happened was that we developed an identity, based on goaltending and penalty killing. The challenge now is to improve on what we did this year, and find a way to improve our power play. We have to find ways to supplement this year’s freshman class with quality defensemen.”

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