October 14, 2012 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Their First Taste

Northeastern Freshmen Shine in First Rivalry Game

by Jill Saftel/CHN Reporter

BOSTON — About one year ago, on Oct. 23, 2011, Boston College came to Matthews Arena for an early season Hockey East matchup against Northeastern. The game went to overtime, the arena was electric, and the student section made it hard for anyone to hear their own thoughts. That night, the Eagles downed the Huskies with a last-minute overtime goal from Bill Arnold. That team would go on to win 19 consecutive games starting in January and culminating with the program's third national championship in the last five years.

Old habits die hard, but a fresh crop of Husky freshmen made sure history didn't repeat itself Saturday night in front of a sold-out crowd.

A trio of Northeastern freshmen tallied goals in upsetting one of the nation's best college hockey teams. Forward Ryan Belonger scored his first collegiate goal, swatting at a shot from Cam Darcy, also a freshman, that landed right in front of the net to beat BC goaltender Parker Milner.

Waiting at the left corner of the crease, Kevin Roy notched his second collegiate goal taking a beauty of a pass from junior forward Cody Ferriero that made it cleanly across the crease to find Roy's stick.

Defenseman Colton Saucerman made his mark late in the game, taking a shot from behind the blue line that found itself in the back of the Eagles' net, joining Belonger in grabbing their first collegiate goals against the current champions.

Darcy had two assists on the night, putting all four freshmen on the score sheet in their second collegiate appearance. On the surface, it might look like these four are the difference for Northeastern, the one thing that truly makes this team different from the one that played one year ago and lost. And while the newest Huskies are a talented bunch, it's the balance of veteran talent and young enthusiasm that are shaping Northeastern this year and it will be that mix that defines their success, or lack thereof, in the coming months.

"I like our freshman class," Madigan said. "I like our blend of players. I like our leadership with Chris [Rawlings], Vinny Saponari, Cody Ferriero, Drew Ellement and Robbie Vrolyk, Ludwig Karlsson, and I could go on. It's a good mixture. Those upperclassmen are helping the freshmen with the adjustment and the transition. And our freshmen are picking things up pretty quickly. They're learning fast.

"In this league, you need contributions from freshmen if you're going to be successful. The team we just played, they've got freshmen who were very successful last year. We need the same thing"

A little bit of luck graced the Huskies, as well. Chris Rawlings made 31 saves, bailing his team out on several occasions. The puck on Saucerman's goal seemed to go directly from his stick to the back of the net, with its path almost unfathomable.

"Goals can be flukey. It took a funny dip," Rawlings said of Saucerman's goal. "It took a funny changeup almost, but hey, those things happen. Good things happen when you put the puck on net and it worked out for us."

For the Eagles, this loss is an anomaly. They're 13-5 in season-openers under Jerry York, where you'd have to go back more than a decade to find a season in which Northeastern opened a season 2-0.

While the Eagles were playing in, and winning, the Hockey East Tournament, watching Selection Sunday coverage to see which city they'd head to for the NCAA Regionals, and traveling to Tampa, Fla., to compete in the Frozen Four, Northeastern had long packed up their hockey gear. If the Eagles were the pinnacle of postseason success, the Huskies were the epitome of disappointment, missing the Hockey East Tournament for the second time in three years by a single point.

"We needed more people in front to screen and deflect pucks," Jerry York said. "We just did not get that during the course of the night. I thought our breakouts weren't sharp and crisp.

"There wasn't a lot of ice out there tonight. They took away a lot of ice from us. We like to score more than one goal. It's hard to win a 1-0 game."

That doesn't sound like the Boston College team that four separate championships in the second half of the season, and the truth is, Boston College is not the same team it was when the NCAA Champions were crowned. They are arguably just as good, returning dynamic scorers Johnny Gaudreau, Steven Whitney, Pat Mullane, and Bill Arnold in front of Millner.

But the losses are there, too. Chris Kreider left for the NHL and found himself in the middle of a playoff run with New York Rangers. Barry Almeida graduated, as did captain Tommy Cross. None of these losses make BC a vastly different team. At the end of the day, the Eagles are still reigning college hockey champions, and the Huskies are still a team that missed the postseason by a single point. A valuable pair of Hockey East points were up for grabs Saturday, the loss in no way sets the tone for BC's season.

There is some levity mixed with the business of league play, and that's the fact that four eager, talented freshmen felt the energy of playing in a full arena against the nation's best competition.

"It's an amazing experience," Darcy, of South Boston, said. "My whole life, I've always dreamed of playing college hockey in Boston. I always grew up watching Northeastern, BU and BC. Now to be at Northeastern and beat a team like BC, especially when they're No. 1, it's almost a dream come true.

"I've never been in a college rink that's been as loud as it was tonight, ever."

No one will have to wait long to see if Saturday's win was a product of luck, an outcome of already having a Hockey East contest under their belt and a full house on home ice for Northeastern. The cross-town rivals will play again just one week after Northeastern's 3-1 win, this time on the Eagles' ice.  

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