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BU clinches top spot in Hockey East with big win at Northeastern

Boston University clinched its first Hockey East regular-season title since 2009, scoring four times in the first period en route to a 6-1 win at Northeastern's Matthews Arena on Saturday. Junior Ahti Oksanen's four-point night led the BU offense.

Boston University junior Ahti Oksanen had two goals and two assists in Saturday's 6-1 win at Northeastern.
Boston University junior Ahti Oksanen had two goals and two assists in Saturday's 6-1 win at Northeastern.
Matt Dewkett

BOSTON -- There were lots of reasons for Boston University fans to smile on Saturday night at Matthews Arena.

The Terriers scored four goals in the first period, Notre Dame beat Boston College to ensure BU would earn the top seed for the Hockey East playoffs and senior Anthony Moccia got to play the final three-plus minutes in goal.

BU's hot start was too much for Northeastern to overcome as it secured a split home-and-home weekend with the Huskies with a 6-1 win, its ninth in 11 league road games.

"To finish first in this league is never easy," BU head coach David Quinn said. "It's been a tough few weeks for us. We've actually played some good games in the process of trying to clinch (the regular-season title), but to respond the way we did tonight after last night says an awful lot about our group."

Junior Ahti Oksanen's two goals and two assists set a new career high, while junior captain Matt Grzelcyk and freshman Jack Eichel each posted three-point nights to help the Terriers to their 21st win of the season.

A night after Northeastern scored three goals in the first period and took out a lead, BU handed the feeling right back and then some. The Terriers scored the first three goals of the game, carrying a 4-1 lead into the opening intermission.

Eichel scored his first goal since Feb. 13, completing a coast-to-coast rush shorthanded with a shot that bounced past NU senior goaltender Clay Witt at the 8:04 mark.

With his season-ending effort, the North Chelmsford, Mass. native finishes as the first rookie to finish with two points per-game in Hockey East league play since New Hampshire's Jason Krog in 1998-99.

"It's a great line," Quinn said of Eichel, senior assistant captain Evan Rodrigues and junior Danny O'Regan. "They all have a work ethic to them and all have the ingredient you're going to need to have a great line. They've all got great skills, hockey intelligence and a great competitiveness to them."

Oksanen, who moved back to defense for the first time this season, doubled the lead at 11:34 as he fought for a puck down low and stuffed it in after Witt thought he had saved it between his pads from the top of the crease.

O'Regan reached the 100-point plateau for his career at 13:53, taking a backhanded, between-the-legs pass from Oksanen for an easy wrist shot into a yawning cage.

With the goal, the Sharks prospect from Needham, Mass. became the second Terrier to reach the century mark this year as senior assistant captain Evan Rodrigues achieved the feat in the 2008-09 national championship season.

"I just thought BU, early on, established their game," Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan said after serving his two-game league suspension. "They made us and put us in uncomfortable situations and we weren't able to establish any of our game early."

Sophomore Dalen Hedges spun in the slot and fired a perfect pass to junior Kevin Roy to lift the Huskies onto the scoreboard 15:45 into the first. Roy took the pass, cut down the wing and fired a perfect wrist shot past BU junior Matt O'Connor.

BU got the goal back at 16:11 as Grzelcyk scored for the eighth time in ten games, taking Rodrigues' feed for a hard shot from the high center slot.

The game came to close to a screeching halt in the second period, but the visitors extended their lead once more as Oksanen benefitted from a fortuitous bounce 18:19 into the middle period.

Eichel took a shot from the wing that sailed wide of the goal but the puck bounced off the wall behind the net. The puck shot right out to Witt's left side and onto the stick of Oksanen for the easy goal after playing the carom on a two-man advantage.

All told, the Terriers held a 14-7 shots advantage in the second and held a slighter edge in the final frame as they finished out the game with another Eichel goal.

BU's final marker, Eichel's 18th of the season, came at 18:22 as he took a pass from O'Regan and banked another shot off the Husky defense and past Witt on the power play. The Huskies were all but out but still took four penalties in the third period, which ultimately doomed any hopes of momentum late.

"More than anything in the third period, I'm just disappointed with our frustration and the amount of penalties we took," Madigan said, "and it's not like they're not good on the power play (3-for-7). I thought it was a little bit of selfish behavior in terms of our guys showing the frustration."

The smiles in Terrier Nation grew wider when Moccia, a Medford, Mass. native, made his third career appearance and finished the night off in goal.

"It's awesome," Quinn said. "He's a special person, I'll tell you that. I wish he had five more years."

BU will have an extra week to smile before hosting the lowest remaining seed in the Hockey East quarterfinals, while Northeastern will face Merrimack in a first-round, best-of-three series beginning Friday night at Matthews Arena.