Northeastern Wins Hockey East Championship

A three goal flurry in the first eleven minutes of the first period was all the offense Northeastern would need, as the Huskies held off a resilient Boston College Eagles team en route to a 3-2 victory, and the program’s first Hockey East Championship since 2016. Brandon Hawkins tallied three points, including the game winning goal on arguably the best powerplay possession of the year, and Cayden Primeau, who would be named the tournament MVP, made 38 saves to backbone the team to victory.

The game started as well as any Huskies fan could have hoped, as some extended zone time led to a Hawkins pass chipping off Woll at the corner of the cage out to Matt Filipe in the slot, who one-timed the puck over Woll’s shoulder and into the corner of the net. Not three minutes later, a Hawkins slap shot was not caught cleanly by Woll, and the puck found its way to the slot. Hawkins corralled it, finished a spin-o-rama move in the slot to get it on his forehand, and rifled it past Woll inside the post to double the Huskies’ lead.

The third goal came on quite possibly the best-run powerplay the Huskies had all season. They maintained the puck in the BC zone for the full two minutes, not letting BC clear the puck fully down the ice one time. Multiple Huskies got excellent opportunities to score, but it would be Hawkins again who lit the lamp, a devastating one-timed slap shot just as the penalty was about to expire. If Woll saw the puck, it wasn’t until it was already behind him.

All first period, the Huskies outskated, out-worked, and out-played the Eagles. Every board battle was won by NU, every loose neutral zone puck found its way onto the Huskies’ sticks, and any remotely dangerous chance was felled by Primeau. The Huskies and their fans felt really good going into the second period.

Possibly a little too good, as the three goal lead would be cut to a single goal within two minutes of play once the second period started. In both instances, the Huskies were on the penalty kill, both as the result of Jeremy Davies minor penalties. The first was a questionable cross-checking that got called with literally 1.8 seconds on the clock, and the second an unfortunate tripping penalty. Davies would go on to add a third minor later in the game, but no other damage would come on the scoreboard.

As we mentioned in our preview of the BU game, discipline would be a crucial aspect of the weekend, and that proved true- all three goals the Huskies gave up this weekend were the result of penalties. The one against BU was scored mere seconds after the Huskies killed off the powerplay. While it’s an easy trope to repeat, as the teams get more and more skilled later in the season, the Huskies can ill-afford to take penalties, let alone ones where their best defenseman is off the ice. To their credit, the Huskies did kill off their final penalty kill in the mid-second off of the third Davies minor.

Even when the score was within a goal during the third period, it never truly felt that Boston College was on the verge of tying the game and taking the trophy out of the Huskies’ grips. The Huskies did an excellent job limiting shots to above the slot and around the perimeter of the ice, and any time the Eagles did get a close look on net, Primeau slammed the door shut, including in the final five seconds on a laser shot from Oliver Wahlstrom. While the final shots read 40-26 in favor of Boston College, score effects and quality of the shots played a big role in that tally. Especially considering the Huskies just put up 44 shots and allowed only 30 against BU the night before, as well as controlled the pace for the whole game against a team more talented than this Eagles one, I am not particularly concerned with the final shot totals on Saturday’s game.

A total of five Huskies were placed on the All-Tournament team: Davies, Ryan Shea, Hawkins, Zach Solow, and Primeau. David Cotton of BC was the lone non-Husky on the team.

The Huskies will play in the Providence regional of the NCAA Tournament, with games on Saturday March 30 and the regional final will be March 31. As the #6 overall seed, they drew a matchup against the #11 seed Cornell, from the ECAC. Minnesota-Mankato is the top seed in the region, 3rd overall, and Providence College is the 4th seed in the region, barely making it into the tournament since BC lost. Having Providence play essentially a home game as a 4-seed is not something I agree with, but considering I’m not on the committee, doesn’t do much good to gripe about it.

We will have a preview of Cornell this week.

In a side note, we want to wish BC forward Logan Hutsko a strong, quick recovery. Hutsko had a scary fall at the start of the third period on Saturday that led to him being stretchered off the ice. The play was nobody’s fault, just an unfortunate set of circumstances, and Hutsko was seen moving his extremities while on the ice. He has since been released from Mass General Hospital, and reports are his CT and MRI scans are clean. Hutsko has previous serious injuries, including a concussion this year and a fractured neck that nearly left him paralyzed in 2015. We wish him well in his recovery, and if he chooses to continue playing, look forward to seeing him on the ice next season.

As always, go Huskies!