By: Dave Souza
BOSTON — When Northeastern captain Nolan Stevens walked off the team bus at Agganis Arena on Saturday afternoon, he had a simple message for the rest of his fellow Huskies: this is a business trip. The senior’s focused demeanor translated to success on the ice, as a three-goal performance from Stevens propelled No. 15 Northeastern past No. 12 Boston University, 4-1.
“Northeastern’s just a better hockey team than we are right now,” BU Coach Dave Quinn said. “Our inability to decide when to play defense and when to play offense is really a problem for us […] our number one problem tonight was defending or lack thereof. It was really disappointing.”
The pinnacle of the Terriers’ defensive lapses came within the final second of the first period. Stevens struck for his first of the night in the dying moments of the opening frame, picking up a loose puck in front of the Northeastern bench and racing in alone on BU’s Jake Oettinger. The senior tucked a backhand shot through Oettinger’s five-hole with one-tenth of a second remaining to give the Huskies (5-2-1, 3-0-0 HE) a 2-0 lead after one.
“That sequence of events at the end of the first period really just summarizes where we’re at mentally,” Quinn said. “We were going to be fortunate to get out of [the first period] 1-0, because of our lack of awareness around our net [and] how soft we’ve become.”
Northeastern’s first strike of the night came on a one-timer from Bobby Hampton just over the halfway point in the first. The freshman slammed home a feed from Grant Jozefek from the low slot before Oettinger could slide over from the near post.
And while Jordan Greenway slotted a back-door, power-play goal to halve the deficit two minutes into the second period, the comeback was soon squashed thanks to Stevens.
The senior found twine twice in the middle frame, restoring the Huskies’ two-goal lead just seven minutes after Greenway’s tally. Parked in the middle of the slot, Stevens cleaned up a rebound from Oettinger, rifling a quick wrister with just over 10 minutes to go in the period. He would complete the hat trick nine minutes later, tipping a Ryan Shea shot past Oettinger’s blocker side to push the Northeastern lead to three.
“He brings a lot of elements to our lineup: it’s skill, the ability to make a play, and a good stick and a shooter,” said NU Coach Jim Madigan. “He also plays a 200-foot game, so there’s skill, there’s compete, there’s grind and there’s a lot different elements that make him up as a player. His composition is just not one dimensional.”
The Terriers (4-5-1, 2-2-1 HE) appeared to mount another comeback, with Brady Tkachuk poking home the first goal of his collegiate career less than a minute after Stevens’ second. However, the tally was waved off as the officials declared that the puck had been sufficiently covered before Tkachuk jammed it out of Ryan Ruck’s glove.
Ruck (14 saves), who needed attention from the trainer after making contact with Patrick Harper in the first, was injured again in the scrum with Tkachuk. The junior had to be taken out of the game and was replaced by freshman Cayden Primeau, who made 19 saves without allowing a goal.
For BU, the loss is their second in three recent Hockey East contests. But, the Terriers will get another crack at Northeastern when they travel to Matthews Arena on Friday night. For Coach Dave Quinn, he’ll look for his team to be stronger defensively and mentally.
“You got to be tough enough to shake it off and go play. You’ve created the hole so you’ve got to keep playing,” Quinn said.
“Both their goals in the second period we had a guy near them, but that’s not covering them. You can’t be near somebody; you’ve got actually cover them.”