BOSTON -- Northeastern and Boston University have played some epic hockey games in recent years, and the two city rivals played another epic hockey game on Friday night at Agganis Arena.
Facing a 4-3 deficit after 40 minutes, the No. 10/11 Terriers rallied for two third-period goals and snatched a 5-4 win over the Huskies in their 225th all-time meeting.
Sophomore Brandon Hickey and senior Ahti Oksanen lit the lamp at 3:52 and 6:28, respectively, to give the Terriers a lead that sophomore goaltender Connor LaCouvee held up. making 19 saves in the final frame to preserve the come-from-behind victory.
"In the third period, we came out and got two key goals," BU head coach David Quinn said. "(Nine) penalties were a problem, but the way we battled and, obviously, our goalie stood tall in the last two minutes to allow us to earn two hard points, two really hard points."
In his first game action since having offseason knee surgery, senior captain Matt Grzelcyk made his presence known. The Charlestown, Mass., native defenseman got BU on the board first before handing off an assist to Oksanen on the game-winning goal.
At 10:01, Grzelcyk took a feed from freshman partner Charlie McAvoy and placed an accurate wrist shot high over NU freshman Ryan Ruck’s shoulder. The Terriers placed 16 shots on Ruck in the first period, but the Californian stood tall early on.
The BU captain took an interference penalty just 11 seconds into the game and his opening shift of the season, but Terrier freshman Jordan Greenway turned around for a late odd-man rush that the Huskies' freshman stopper read all the way.
Ruck also held the fort against Bobo Carpenter, driving hard through the middle of the ice and towards goal, at the end of NU’s second man advantage of the frame. Aside from early penalty, there was a lot to like about Grzelcyk's return.
"He means so much to us, and you can see it out there," Quinn said. "He’s a really talented player, he competes. We’re lucky to have him and we’re certainly ecstatic to have him back."
The second period was a much different story than the first as the Huskies poured in four of a combined six goals between the two teams and took a 4-3 lead.
BU doubled its lead at the 5:56 mark to take a 2-0 lead, however, as sophomore defenseman Brandon Fortunato finished freshman Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson’s back door pass with a goal into an open side of the net.
The Huskies jumped on the comeback trail and within a 2-1 score at 7:41 as Adam Gaudette placed a beautiful tip on Matt Benning’s hard point shot for his second collegiate goal. Next, Garret Cockerill tied the score at 13:50 after taking a feed from junior Dalen Hedges and sending a shot through traffic from the right side.
"I liked the way we came back in the second period, but we’ve got to learn to play 60 minutes," Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan said. "Right now, we’re not closing games out. … We have to develop a little more poise and composure to our game, and I thought that was the difference at times during the game."
Ryan Cloonan quickly put the Terriers back up by a goal at 14:24, forcing a turnover at the blue line and coasting in on Ruck for a breakaway. The goal was the fourth of the East Longmeadow, Mass., native's strong freshman season to date.
NU both tied the game and took a lead within the following minute, thanks to some inopportune bad defensive play from the hosts.
"I really didn’t like the way we reacted after we gave up a goal to make it 2-1," Quinn said. "That’s going to happen, and I thought our youth really showed. We lost focus, gave up two goals off neutral zone faceoffs and people just not paying attention."
Dylan Sikura netted a rebound goal with sophomore classmate Nolan Stevens’ help at 14:36 while freshman Eric Williams wound up for a shot in the right circle after Cockerill put one on initially at the 15:05 marker.
The Terriers showed third-period magic much like they did a year ago, coming back for their seventh win when trailing after two frames in the last two seasons.
Senior Danny O’Regan made a great rush up the wing to help set up Hickey’s game-tying goal off a jam effort at the crease in front of Ruck.
Grzelcyk showed off his keen puck sense on the winning goal, creating the play with a beautiful high-low pass to Oksanen at the goal line. The Finish native senior had all day to fire his third goal of the season into a yawning cage.
"That was a great play from him," Oksanen said. "There was a lane he found, and he made an unreal stick-to-stick pass. I just had a wide open net after that. It was an unreal play by Grizz."
LaCouvee faced a barrage in the waning minute of regulation as the Huskies held a two-man advantage with Ruck pulled from his net and Forsbacka Karlsson penalized for closing his hand on the puck in a scramble at the boards.
"That was a bit of a gong show there," LaCouvee said. "I was just trying to stay in front of the puck and just try to keep it out. The guys had been battling so hard all game, so I was just trying to help them out there. There were a lot of bodies in front. I was just trying to find the puck and make the save."
The crosstown rivals finish their home-and-home series at Matthews Arena on Saturday night.