Skip to content

No. 2 BU beats No. 19 Northeastern 4-2 in Hockey East men’s quarterfinal

The Huskies season came to a close Saturday despite two goals by team captain Justin Hryckowian.

The Huskies stormed back from a 3-0 deficit to create hope in the final period. Photo by Jim Pierce for Northeastern University

The Northeastern Huskies’ season ended with a hard-fought 4-2 loss Saturday at No. 2 Boston University in a quarterfinal of the Hockey East tournament.

A goal by team captain Justin Hryckowian at the close of the second period brought 19th-ranked Northeastern (17-16-3) within 3-1 going into the final period — while possibly creating a bit of PTSD for the Terriers, leaving them to wonder what they would need to do to finish off these Huskies.

After all, Northeastern had won its previous two meetings against BU, including the Huskies’ 4-3 overtime win last month in the Beanpot championship at TD Garden.

With 4:51 remaining, Hryckowian did indeed revive BU’s worst nightmares by way of his second goal of the game. Hryckowian was behind the goal line and pulled Northeastern within 3-2 via a trick shot off Mathieu Caron’s back right shoulder — a shot the goalie felt before he saw it.

But the Terriers responded 26 seconds later with a clinching goal by 17-year-old freshman Macklin Celebrini, their leading scorer and the likely No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft this summer. 

The victory advances the Terriers (25-8-2) to the Hockey East semifinal next weekend at TD Garden while evening their season series with Northeastern at two wins apiece.

It was an emotional and occasionally chippy game between the familiar rivals before a large afternoon crowd at Agganis Arena. 

Freshman goalie Cameron Whitehead made 28 saves for Northeastern.

The defeat concludes a noble effort by the Huskies to recover from an injury-ravaged start to the season. 

“Our start to the season in Hockey East was a disaster, quite frankly, and that put us in this situation,” Northeastern coach Jerry Keefe said. “To get to where we got to, it just showed the leadership and the pride and the type of team that we have. I thought we played well tonight.”

The highlight was the continuation of their Beanpot dominance as they won for the fifth time in the last six tournaments. While Keefe praised the leadership of Justin Hryckowian and others who drove Northeastern to its second-half surge, the coach couldn’t help but focus on the Huskies’ missed ambition to reach the NCAA tournament.

“Getting into the NCAA Tournament is our goal every single year — and it’s not going to change next year,” Keefe said. “So from that standpoint it’s disappointing. That was the ultimate goal and we thought we had a good enough team coming into the year to be playing in two weeks. Yeah, there’s factors, there’s reasons, but at the end of the day we didn’t get there and that’s disappointing for us.”

The Terriers may have thought they’d seized control when they scored their third goal in a span of little more than five minutes to take a 3-0 lead with 2:07 remaining in the second period.

BU’s three goals were scored by Quinn Hutson, Luke Tuch and Case McCarthy. 

But the Huskies quickly answered to give themselves hope. Hryckowian scored — assisted by brother Dylan Hryckowian and Alex Campbell — to leave Northeastern within striking distance, trailing 3-1 entering the final period.

BU was attacking from the start of the quarterfinal, outshooting the Huskies 7-1 in the first eight minutes while forcing a terrific fourth-minute save from Whitehead on a shot by Jack Harvey. Minutes later Dylan Hryckowian forced a similar effort from BU goalie Mathieu Caron. 

The Huskies neutralized the Terriers in the first period thanks to Whitehead’s 11 saves.

“He’s going to be one of the top goalies in college hockey,” Keefe said of Whitehead. “So we know that we have that coming back [next year] and that’s where it starts for us. He had a really good year for us and I’m proud of him.”

After a rough 7-12-2 start to the season that was heavily influenced by injuries, the Huskies regained their health to finish the season on a 10-4-1 since Jan. 26. Their rise to No. 19 in the Pairwise rankings was driven by an impressive 5-4 record overall this season against the top three teams in Hockey East — including top-ranked BC (1-1) and ninth-ranked Maine (2-1). 

It was those gritty performances against the best teams that had given the Huskies confidence of winning the nation’s toughest conference tournament — and seizing the automatic NCAA tournament bid that goes to its champion.

The Huskies opened the Hockey East tournament with a 4-0 win over Merrimack at Matthews Arena on Wednesday, with Whitehead’s fourth shutout equaling the Northeastern record for freshmen goaltenders.

“The hardest part is I think we’re a team that should be playing in a couple of weeks,” Keefe said of the upcoming NCAA tournament that will be held without his Huskies. “And that’s what is disappointing.”