BOSTON -- When watching a team with as much talent as Boston University, do not blink.
The fourth-ranked Terriers and rival Northeastern played to a goaltender’s battle for more than a period Saturday night at Agganis Arena, but things changed in an instant midway through the second period.
Freshmen Patrick Harper and Kieffer Bellows scored goals 36 seconds apart as BU cruised to a 3-0 win in the series finale with its crosstown rival, taking three of four Hockey East points on the weekend after opening with a 4-4 tie.
For BU head coach David Quinn, Saturday night was a case of really good players making really good plays.
“We’ve got some talented players for sure, and when you have opportunities they have the ability to capitalize on them,” Quinn said. “I thought we were opportunistic, made a couple really nice plays and it ends up in the back of the net and suddenly the tone of the game changes.”
Thanks to four power-play opportunities, NU held a decided 13-6 shot advantage in the first period. However, freshman goaltender Jake Oettinger stopped each one he faced to keep the game scoreless through 20 minutes.
All of the game’s scoring came in the second period, with Harper breaking the ice just three seconds past the midway point. The three-goal outburst was already BU’s third in seven games.
Harper’s goal developed off a play that put BU’s elite-level skill on full display as sophomore Jordan Greenway strode down the left wing and sent the puck to the slot for Clayton Keller, whose one-touch pass hit Harper’s stick perfectly for the easy finish.
“We weathered the storm in the first,” Quinn said. “Again, I thought our penalty kill was very good, and obviously a big part of that is your goalie. We did a lot of good things in the second period to get a 3-0 lead. … I’m happy with the outcome and the progress we made from (Friday) night.”
Bellows doubled BU’s lead with his third goal of the season at the 10:35 mark, beating Northeastern sophomore goaltender Ryan Ruck to the ultimate rebound on a scramble in front. Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and defenseman Charlie McAvoy tallied assists on Bellows’ goal, which was finished at the right post.
Harper added his second goal of the night and fourth of the season 17:05 into the middle frame as his entire line once again got in on the action. Greenway started the play with a cross-ice feed to Keller, but Harper patient was on the doorstep in waiting for a rebound on Keller’s one-timer.
The third period again favored the Huskies, but Oettinger stopped all 24 shots he faced while seeing the majority of the action in BU’s third consecutive shutout at home. Oettinger only played the majority because of a skate malfunction, during which time ― a span of 4:12 in the third period ― senior Connor LaCouvee made three stops.
“They can strike fast, and they did,” Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan said. “When we got down by two, we just didn’t have enough push in that second period. In the third, I thought we competed, but they were just faster than we were tonight. They’re a better hockey club than we are right now.”
Penalties have been the talk of college hockey, but special teams did not dictate the flow of this game after the first period.
All three of BU’s goals came in even man-power situations as the teams combined to go scoreless on seven power plays. Quinn was happy with the effort after his team’s penalty kill allowed two goals in a game for the first time all season Friday, and believes the awaited adjustment to the NCAA’s new standard of play rules is coming to end.
“The players are adapting, but we seem to be adapting a lot slower than other people,” Quinn said. “The referees are adapting too, and I think they’re starting to iron out what the penalties are. You’re seeing the games being called with a little bit more reason.”
Staying out of the penalty box is a key, but 5-on-5 play brings out BU’s skill at a whole new level.
“We’re a quick, skilled team,” Bellows said. “When we’re not taking penalties, when we’re 5-on-5, we’re a very dangerous team. You could see that as soon as we started the second period without any penalties, that’s where we did most of our damage.”