Hockey East preview: No. 10 Northeastern hosts No. 7 Boston College

Hockey East rivals meet for the first time this season at Matthews Arena

It’s been a rough go of things for the Huskies against the Eagles. Boston College has been victorious in the last 11 contests between these teams. A consistently dominant team, the Eagles have had exceptional success against Northeastern.

Boston College continued their domination last year, sweeping the season series 5-0, outscoring NU 27-7 and blanking them once.

The Eagles won the 2016 Beanpot, by defeating the Huskies 7-0, and ended their season in the first round of the NCAA tournament with a 5-1 victory.

The two teams will meet for the first time this season on Sunday, and here’s what you need to know.

The Killer B’s

Owner of two shutouts this season, junior netminder Katie Burt has not allowed more than three goals since a 5-2 loss against Minnesota-Duluth. Her save percentage is currently at .914, which puts her at only sixth in the conference and 31st in the nation. Certainly not what you would expect from someone who dominated Hockey East play last season, but the offense has been performing so well Burt just has seen fewer shots. Out of her 12 starts, she has only seen more than 30 shots twice, and over 20 shots seven times. Interestingly, her save percentage tends to be better in games where she sees more shots — .922 against BU’s 36 shots on Nov. 4 being a recent example — so the enigma of Burt’s 2016-17 season will be explained better against NU.

On the flip side, sophomore goaltender Brittany Bugalski has been lights out all season. She has three shutouts on the year, but has yet to blank an opponent since a 19-save effort over Dartmouth on Oct. 21. The Boynton Beach, Fla., native has posted over 22 saves in each of her last six games, and only gave up over 3 goals once this season, in the opener against St. Lawrence. You may have even seen her immaculate cross-crease diving save against Maine. The point is, Bugalski has been a brick wall in net, and she will have to continue to do so for Northeastern to win on Sunday.

Top Dogs

Led by junior winger Denisa Křížová’s 21 points, Northeastern has quietly been building a highly consistent offense this season. Křížová is currently riding a 14-game point streak, and she has tallied at least one point in 27 of her last 30 games, dating back to last season. She is joined on the top line by McKenna Brand, whose 11 goals are good for a tie for second most in the nation. However, the senior winger Paige Savage is the Huskies’ active leading scorer against BC, with 9 points in 14 games against the Eagles.

On Friday against the University of Vermont, Northeastern showed some serious resilience with two goals late in the third period to tie the game and force a 3-3 draw. The difference between the Catamounts and Boston College is clear: one team has had issues defeating Northeastern for years, and one has the Huskies’ number.

High-Soaring High-Scoring Eagles

Where do you begin with the Eagles skaters? Luckily, the first player alphabetically is Andie Anastos, which is an excellent starting point. The senior forward has been all over the scoresheet this year but has recently sunk to fourth in scoring for her team. The reason has nothing to do with a dip in her own production, but rather the talent surrounding her has risen up to new levels.

Delaney Belinskas recorded her second career hat trick against New Hampshire and is tied with Brand for second most goals on the season nationally. McKenna Newkirk is even more dangerous, second on the team with 15 points — eight points over her last four games.

On the blue line, Toni Ann Miano and Grace Bizal have both been excelling, with 11 points a piece. Miano was named the Hockey East co-Defensive Player of the Week on Nov. 14 after recording three assists against UNH on Nov. 12.

The big news, however, is the return of Megan Keller, fresh off her gold medal-winning effort at the Four Nations Cup. She recorded three assists on Nov. 11, in her first game back, and holds down the defensive side of the game with tremendous skill. Her 10 points are tied for seventh on the team.

Finally, Caitrin Lonergan has been nothing short of immaculate. Second in the conference and 11th in the nation with 20 points, Lonergan finds her way on the scoresheet every time she steps on the ice.

Barbito’s Brutal Truth

Rivalries are only fun when there’s some back and forth. The folks from Chestnut Hill are likely relishing in their domination of Northeastern, but at Huntington people want to see a change of fortune.

There can be no hiccups, miscues, errant passes, or sloppiness for the Huskies if they want to defeat BC. This year’s Eagles team can roll four lines that can score and have the defense and goaltending to shut games out late. Bugalski will be tested and will need to keep her team in the game with brick-wall backstopping. Northeastern needs to maintain offensive zone pressure and make the Eagles work for the puck.

BC’s best strategy is to use their skillful offense to try and create odd-man rushes, something Northeastern has been susceptible to. They have the goal scoring talent, and if the opportunities arise they must be taken advantage of. Unlike NU, the Eagles have not played this weekend and will have eight full days of rest since their previous game.

The last time Northeastern defeated Boston College was March 9, 2013, a 4-1 victory in the WHEA semifinals. Several times a year the meeting of these two teams produces a tightly played game with explosive offense. It will be an uphill battle for Northeastern, but with how this team has come together over the past few weeks, this could be the year they finally defeat Boston College.

Northeastern will host Boston College on Sunday, Nov. 20, at 2 p.m. in Matthews Arena.