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Somebody’s win streak had to end and it was Northeastern’s. Boston University had won four straight while the Huskies had taken their last three games and six-of-seven. As it turned out, though, this was no contest between a rock and a hard place.
Boston University decisively defeated Northeastern, 4-0, taking a 2-0 first period advantage and extending that by a goal each period. Sean Fields stopped 31 shots, including 13 in each of the last two periods, for his fourth career shutout and second this year. Brian Collins scored an even-strength and a power-play goal to lead the offense.
“It was one of our better games all year,” said BU coach Jack Parker. “We played real smart. We had good footspeed; we were chasing people down on the forecheck, but we weren’t staying there. We were backing each other up and making sure we didn’t get stuck in [deep]. I don’t think they had a three-on-two or a two-on-one break all night, which is real smart defense.”
The Terriers (12-6-2, 6-4-0 HEA) have now won five straight. With Maine and New Hampshire also winning on the evening, BU needed, and got, a win to remain in striking distance in the Hockey East standings.
“We’ve turned a few things around,” Parker said. “We’ve finally figured out who we are and what type of team we should be. We’re also staying out of the penalty box. This was a pretty physical game tonight, but we didn’t take any stupid penalties. That had killed us early in the year, being very undisciplined that way.
“And everybody seems happy in their roles on the team. Guys aren’t whining about not enough ice time; guys are happy to be playing as well as they are.”
For Northeastern (6-9-2, 1-7-1 HEA), a poor first period doomed its chances. Matthews Arena can be a difficult place for visitors to play, but the convincing way BU grabbed its 2-0 first-period lead took the crowd out of the game.
“We didn’t play worth a darn in the first period,” said NU coach Bruce Crowder. “We only had five shots. If it wasn’t for Keni Gibson it could have been four or five to zip. We didn’t deserve anything in the first period.
“I thought we got stronger as the game got along… but Sean Fields has it going. We outshot them [26-13] in the last two periods, but he played great. We couldn’t put anything past him.”
With the loss, the Huskies remain a distant eighth in Hockey East with six points separating them from Providence and Merrimack, which are tied for sixth place.
The Terriers opened the game by taking the first period in almost every category. By the first intermission, they owned a 2-0 lead and had outshot Northeastern, 13-5.
Jekabs Redlihs set up the first goal at 8:00, carrying the puck down along the left goal line and centering the puck to Brian Collins, who tipped it in off Keni Gibson’s skate. Frantisek Skladany almost doubled the lead four minutes later when his shot off a turnover hit the post. At 16:12 David VanderGulik tipped a Mark Mullen shot from the slot to make it a 2-0 game following several stretches of sustained BU pressure.
It was a lost period for Northeastern with the only positive being some strong physical play sparked by freshman Pat Noonan.
The second period included better pressure by the Huskies that led to a 13-8 shot advantage, but a deeper hole on the scoreboard. Collins scored a power-play goal on a rebound of his own shot at 13:40.
Just 1:55 into the third period, the Terriers iced the game on a Kenny Magowan deflection of a Bryan Miller wrister from the top of the right faceoff circle. When it rung off the top left pipe and in for a 4-0 BU lead, the Huskies’ death knell had been sounded.
On the power play with 3:58 remaining, Northeastern lifted Gibson for an extra skater to make it a six-on-four, but still could not snap Fields’ shutout.
The two teams complete their season’s series on Sunday night at Walter Brown Arena with BU looking for a sweep. The all-time record in the series now stands at 129-47-2 in BU’s favor. FOX Sports New England will telecast the game.