Chesnut Hill, Mass. -- Northeastern's offense has carried it all season. Through their first six games, one of the most potent scoring teams in the country carried the Huskies to a 5-1 start.
But on Friday night, in Conte Forum, the team lined up across from them was unlike their first three opponents.
Boston College was able to hold Northeastern's top guns in check, and defeated the visiting Huskies 4-2 in the first Hockey East game of the season for either squad.
"The opponent pushes you beyond your limits sometime, and they're a very good team," said Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan. "They're a good team. They're well-coached, they're fast, and for us, when they're applying pressure, it pushes you at of your comfort zone."
The no. 8 Eagles threw their weight around all night, playing a physical brand of hockey and denying Northeastern time and space on the puck.
"You have to have a combination of speed and skill, but also be physical," said Boston College head coach Jerry York. "To play defense you have to be physical. It's early in the season, but we're trying to develop that equal balance.
"We want to be quick and fast and make plays, but we want to defend well, and part of defending is being very physical."
It was Northeastern that broke through first, withstanding some of that physical play to find that back of the net. Nathan Ferriero won a puck battle in the corner, and Dalen Hedges made a centering feed to Ryan Belonger, who slipped the puck through Thatcher Demko.
It looked like the Huskies would get out of the first period with a lead, but the Eagles drew even on a power play goal with only 31.4 seconds remaining. Kevin Hayes made a power move to the net before stuffing home the puck on the backhand and evening the score.
"I caught the [defense] flat-footed and took them wide," said Hayes. "Coach has been hopping on me to be more of a power forward and not be so finesse out there.
"I just drove to the net, and I was lucky enough that the goalie came back inside, and I put it in."
His coach said the goal kick-started the momentum for the Eagles.
"Hayes, with that power move in the first period really kind of got our whole bench and our whole team very excited on how hard and well he played," said York.
Boston College took its first lead of the night on another power play, only this time it was Northeastern's. Playing a man down, Johnny Gaudreau sped up the ice with the puck on a 2-on-1, and fired a shot under the arm of Clay Witt to make it 2-1 Eagles.
"The shorthanded goal was a key part of it," York said. "They're on the power play in a 1-1 game, and Johnny made a great play there."
Hayes would be instrumental in BC's third goal as well. Making a similar move down the same wing, Hayes created a great scoring chance that was turned aside by Witt. With the rebound still in midair, freshman Ryan Fitzgerald swooped in and batted the puck in for the eventual game-winner.
"He's coming along pretty well," York said of his freshman. "It's a big adjustment for all the young kids to come in and play at this level.
"I see some improvement every day in practice. They need games now to even develop further."
The two teams, who have been top five offenses all season, had two of their lower scoring games. A big part of that was the goaltenders-Demko and Witt-who may not have faced a season-high in shots (20 and 29 respectively) made many above-average stops to keep the score low.
"Demko was outstanding throughout the course of the game," Yok said. "Not a lot of saves, but 10 bell saves over the course of this particular game.
On the other end of the ice, the four goals marked the fewest in a Boston College win this season (with the fourth coming with the net empty from Gaudreau).
"He's given us good goaltending; he's given us timely goaltending, and he gave us a chance to win here tonight," Madigan said.
With a shorter league schedule this year, York noted how crucial it is to pick up points when playing conference opponents.
"They're just different," said York of Hockey East games. "We've played Michigan, we've played Wisconsin, we've played RPI, and some really good quality opponents, but the feeling when you get inside your league and play a Hockey East game, it's raised up this year; the intensity, because there's only 20 games.
With 20 games, you're working with a small criteria, and it just seems to ratchet up the intensity level and the importance of each and every game."