BOSTON, Mass. - Northeastern and #1 Boston College deviated from the trend of their last two games as the Huskies punched their ticket to the 2011 Hockey East playoffs in a low-scoring 2-1 victory on Saturday night in front of a soldout crowd of 4,666 strong at Matthews Arena.
The victory over the Eagles marks the first win over the No. 1 ranked team in the country since the Huskies ousted Boston College in the season opener on Oct. 18, 2008 as Joe Vitale scored the game winner, 4-3. The triumph marked the first win over BC in five installments as the Huskies are now over .500 in Hockey East action for the first time this season (9-8-6).
Coach Sebastien Laplante was behind NU's bench for the second-straight game and earned his first-ever collegiate victory on Saturday night.
Despite getting outshot 37-21, the Huskies used great defense to edge the top-ranked team in the NCAA. Rookies Brodie Reid and Braden Pimm were the goal scorers for Northeastern while sophomore netminder Chris Rawlings regained his compsure and stopped 36-of-37 shots to up his overall record to 10-10-7. BC backstopper Joh Muse made 19 saves in the losing effort.
Boston College channeled the first formidable threat at about the 4:30 mark of the first period. Chris Kreider forced a turnover near the red line and made a nifty drop pass to Jimmy Hayes all alone between the circles, but Rawlings stood his territory to deny the wrister.
Northeastern turned right around and crafted an identical play as Reid triggered the play from the neutral zone. Reid sought out Mike McLaughlin down the right side, but Muse had the angle and thwarted NU's opportunity.
Sophomore Justin Daniels' boarding call at 12:18 gave the Eagles their first extra-man advantage of the night, but the Huskies' penalty kill pinched off any lanes to the net. Northeastern nearly turned it into a goal once the penalty elapsed after Rob Dongara carted it out of BC's zone, but his pass to Pimm sailed just wide.
Northeastern earned its first power play to close out the first on a BC too many men call at 17:57, but the Eagles' penalty kill mimicked the Huskies ways to settle the first 20 minutes as a scoreless frame.
Both teams played keep away throughout the majority of the second period, but a great pass from rookie Luke Eibler to Reid in the neutral zone set up the first scoring play of the contest for Northeastern. Freshman Anthony Bitetto pitchforked the puck around NU's net over to Eibler in the corner. Eibler honed in on Reid all by himself on the red line and the rookie wheeled it towards Muse and stuffed it under his right pad for to draw first blood at 13:05, 1-0.
Late in the second, Rawlings lost his stick in a scuffle in front of the net and the Eagles looked eager to pounce on NU's defenseless netminder, but the Huskies defense stepped up to the task and shunned BC's advances to close out the second stanza.
The Huskies were granted a keen opportunity to start the third after Kreider took a seat for hooking just 51 ticks into the period, but Steve Quailer's power play goal bid was denied by Muse on the doorstep for NU's best chance.
Northeastern sustained its pressure and was able to generate another tally at 7:38 of the third. Senior Mike Hewkin tried to cross into BC territory with a pass, but an Eagle defenseman picked it off. Luckily for the Huskies, he turned it right back over to Pimm atop the right circle and rookie immediately buried a low wrister to Muse's blocker side to double Northeastern's buffer, 2-0.
A Hewkin hooking call went by the wayside at 10:41 but the Eagles upset Northeastern's shutout bid at 17:49. Brian Dumoulin initiated the play deep in Eagles' territory out to Brian Gibbons in the neutral zone. Gibbons relayed it to Cam Atkinson who broke free and picked the top-right corner with a quick strike from the left dot to put a shake into NU's lead.
Boston College mounted pressure late and attempted to pull off another late tally, but Northeastern's defense held true to knock off the Eagles in regulation.
The Huskies will make their first and only trip during the regular season to Durham, N.H. on Friday, Feb. 25 to take on New Hampshire at the Whittemore Center. Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Games Notes - Brodie Reid is on a three-game point streak and has accounted for five points within that stretch (3-2-5). Anthony Bitetto is on a two-game tear with three points (1-2-3).
- Braden Pimm tallied his first goal in five games since netting one against Massachusetts on Jan. 28, 2011.
- Northeastern is over .500 in league play for the first time this season (9-8-6) and are now 11-12-7 overall.
- With tonight's victory, Northeastern is now guaranteed a spot in the eight-team Hockey East Tournament starting on March 11.
- Sebastien Laplante earned his first collegiate victory in Saturday's 2-1 win over the Eagles.
- Tonight's capacity crowd of 4,666 marks the second sellout at Matthews Arena this season. The first sellout also came against Boston College on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2010.