The Northeastern Huskies were barely hanging on to their fifth-place spot coming into the last weekend of February. The difference between them and sixth-place Providence came down to a 0.03 margin in the Hockey East Power Index.
The Friars stole a game from the Huskies in Matthews Arena on Saturday, 4–2. The Huskies needed to bounce back with a win on Sunday to maintain their fifth-place spot entering the last week of the season.
Northeastern added some roster depth, as TJ Walsh returned from injury and Alex Mella made his 2021 debut.
Providence quickly established themselves on Northeastern’s end of the ice. Mella was whistled for hooking, giving Providence a chance on the power play. The Husky penalty killers were excellent in keeping the pressure out near the boards, and kept the Friars quiet for the duration of the penalty.
Neither team generated sustained offense, and the action went back and forth for most of the period. Providence goaltender Jaxson Stauber and Northeastern netminder Connor Murphy held fast, keeping the scoresheet blank at the end of the first period.
Neither carried their stellar play over to the second period. Just 30 seconds in, Northeastern senior captain Zach Solow pounced on a rebounding puck and buried it for his ninth goal of the season.
Seconds later, Providence drew even. Freshman and Penguins prospect Chase Yoder forced a turnover behind the Husky net, then connected with sophomore Patrick Moynihan, who fired a wrist shot past Murphy.
Minutes later, the Huskies received their first power play of the night. They boast a 28 percent power-play conversion rate — good for second best in the NCAA — and it showed tonight, as they quickly capitalized on the man advantage. Sophomore Aidan McDonough powered the puck home through Stauber’s glove side off of a quick feed from junior Jordan Harris. It was McDonough’s seventh goal (and ninth point) of the month.
“He’s a shooter,” Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan said, “and when he gets hot, he’s as good as there is.”
Northeastern got another chance on the man advantage after Moynihan was called for roughing. But the Friars’ penalty kill adjusted, and didn’t give the Huskies any room to breathe.
Shortly after the halfway point of the period, Solow struck again. Lovely stick handling and precise skating gave Solow a clear look, and he capitalized with his second goal of the game and his team’s third.
Providence didn’t respond immediately, and Northeastern had a couple more opportunities to score, but Stauber fought off everything the Huskies threw at him. In the dying moments of the period, sophomore and Lightning prospect Max Crozier charged towards the net and fired a shot at Murphy. The Huskies netminder made the initial save but couldn’t corral the puck, allowing Yoder to score off the rebound.
When the puck hit the ice for the third period, it was clear Providence had reset in the locker room. They immediately took over, pushing Northeastern deep into their own end. After three minutes of unrelenting pressure, the Friars scored again. Sophomore Parker Ford found senior captain Greg Printz behind Murphy, who fired a wraparound shot. Murphy again made the initial save, but failed to contain the puck; Printz was there to collect his own rebound and put it past the well-screened Murphy.
The tied score underscored the play on the ice, as neither team was giving an inch. Northeastern had their best scoring chances come on the power play late in the third, but they couldn’t find a fourth goal. The game headed into overtime tied 3–3.
Northeastern controlled possession of the puck well throughout the OT period; they just couldn’t get the puck past the Friars, who clogged up any potential shooting lanes. Anything that did get through was swallowed by Stauber.
Although the game officially ended as a 3–3 tie, there was still a shootout to come. Freshman Gunnarwolfe Fontaine opened up the tiebreaker with a snappy wrist shot past Stauber, giving the Huskies a 1–0 lead. Providence freshman and Rangers prospect Brett Berard couldn’t beat Murphy, and the story was the same for Solow on Stauber. Junior captain Tyce Thompson was next for the Friars, but he too failed to beat Murphy. McDonough was next for the Huskies, and he iced the shootout on a tight forehand to a backhand deke.
The Huskies finished the weekend ranked sixth in HEPI, a solid 2.4 points ahead of UMass Lowell but 0.9 behind Providence. Fifth place, and the first-round playoff bye that comes with it, is not necessarily out of reach, but the Huskies will need to perform well next weekend to have a shot.
“We need to have a good week of practice.” Madigan said. “We need to get ready for whoever our opponent is. You want to finish off the season on a strong note so you’re playing well heading into the playoffs.”