By: Dan McLoone
The Northeastern hockey team bent but did not break defensively at Matthews Arena on Friday night, outlasting three unanswered third period goals by Providence to notch their first Hockey East win of the season, 5-4.
Senior captain John Stevens returned to the ice for the Huskies after missing four games, and Ryan Ruck started between the pipes after five days after Jake Theut posted a 22-save shutout against Notre Dame.
“Having 18 back in the lineup also gives you another very good player but a leader and our captain and an experienced guy in the locker room,” said head coach Jim Madigan. “Now we can spread our lines out a little bit and we’ve got 8 and 9 together and we got a little bit more depth there, and that showed there tonight if you look at the scoresheet.”
In what was an uncharacteristically high-scoring game against a Friars squad that entered the weekend allowing just 2.25 goals per game, the offense did not come early. The squads skated to a scoreless first period, extending the Northeastern scoreless streak to five periods, a run that began in the second period against Notre Dame last Friday.
Jeremy Davies broke the scoring drought for the Huskies 11 minutes into the second period, collecting his own rebound after a Hawkey save and wrapping around the net to give Northeastern a 1-0 lead. They doubled the lead three minutes later as Patrick Schule netted his first goal of the year, collecting a loose puck in front of the net and sending it home.
Zach-Aston Reese scored his 100th career point with the Northeastern hockey program with 1:50 left in the second period, collecting an Adam Gaudette centering pass from behind the net and firing it home on the power play. The goal moved Aston-Reese into 47th place on the Northeastern all-time scoring list.
“This leagues a tough league to score goals, score points, and 100 points for me reflects…your production and how good a player you are,” said Madigan. “It’s a testament to him of what he’s accomplished and in just over three years.”
The Friars got one back with 56 seconds left in the second period, as junior defenseman Jake Walman scored for the second straight game to cut the lead to 3-1.
Northeastern came out firing in the third period, as a great string of passes during a 4-on-3 power play led to Dylan Sikura slotting home his fifth goal of the season just 1:33 into the frame. Aston-Reese netted his second goal of the game just over two minutes later, sending a soft shot through Hawkey’s legs to give the Huskies a 5-1 lead.
“We had some real good offensive zone possession time,” said Madigan. “We had all five guys involved in the offense. I thought our forecheck was going. I thought through the neutral zone we had real good speed to the puck. We were transitioning pucks quickly in the defensive zone.”
Holding onto a four-goal game with 14 minutes to play, Northeastern got a little sloppy and complacent. Brian Pinho trimmed the lead to three at the 6:59 mark of the third period, sending a shot from the slot past Ruck.
The Huskies proceeded to try and weather a storm of penalties, as Garret Cockerill, Garrett Cecere, Stevens and Ryan Shea all got sent to the box over a span of three and a half minutes of play. The Friars capitalized with 11:07 to go, as Anthony Florentino fired a shot from the blue line over Ruck’s far shoulder to cut the lead to 5-3.
Trailing by two with two minutes to play, the Friars chose to pull Hawkey in search of their fourth goal. The decision paid off immediately, as Josh Wilkins scored from the blue line with 1:52 to play to trim the lead to one. The Huskies played on their heels defensively for the rest of the game, but did not give up the game-tying goal, as Ruck made several big saves to preserve the win.
“Our lack of discipline allowed them to get back in the game on a power play…and then we got on our heels, so it’s a learning experience,” said Madigan. “When we’re hanging on like that, that’s not how we want to win. Our kids see that, so they know going through that experience the last four or five minutes [that] we’ve got to be better and not put ourselves in that situation in the future.”
The win moves Northeastern to 4-4-4 overall and 1-3-2 in Hockey East. The Huskies will square off with the Friars again on Saturday night at Schneider Arena, with puck drop scheduled for 7 p.m. Full coverage of the game will be provided on WRBB.
Josh Brown contributed to this article.