Story by Khalin Kapoor
Photos by Sadie Parker
BOSTON — The Northeastern Huskies (9–7–2) fell to the Providence Friars (10–7–4) in the first half of a home-and-home series on Saturday evening at Matthews Arena.
Providence was reeling after a tough 8–1 loss the week before, but outclassed the Huskies throughout. It was a disappointing game for the Huskies, who were looking to build momentum after their shutout win last week against UMass Lowell. They were also looking to distance themselves from Providence, who started the day 0.02 points behind Northeastern in the Hockey East Power Index but ended it 1.79 points ahead.
“It wasn’t good enough,” Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan said. “We let them dictate the pace . . . and played their type of game.”
The first period was incredibly fast and physical right out of the gate, with both teams getting some quality offensive zone time and scoring chances. The back-and-forth continued until the 13-minute mark, when Providence winger Tyce Thompson took the puck off a deflection off of the side of the goal and whipped it into the net. It was an unfortunate sequence for Husky netminder Connor Murphy, who lost track of the puck after the deflection.
“You can’t give good teams like Providence goals like that and expect to win,” Madigan said.
Providence flexed their strength throughout the opening period, consistently winning key puck battles at the boards and laying some solid hits. They forced Northeastern to play their style of hockey, which denied the Huskies sustained offensive zone time.
Coming into this game, Northeastern’s power play conversion rate was ranked first in Hockey East and second in the country at 28 percent. Halfway through the first, Northeastern defenseman Jordan Harris sniped the puck right over Providence goalie Jaxson Stauber’s shoulder to tie the game at one.
Northeastern captain Zach Solow was credited for the assist, making him the 53rd Northeastern player to notch 100 points.
“I’m very happy for him,” Madigan said. “He’s going to go down as one of our better players in the history of this program.”
But the Friars struck back with a power play goal of their own when Jason O’Neill deflected a clearing attempt and chipped the puck over Murphy’s glove.
In the second period, the Friars looked better than the Huskies and spent most of their time controlling the puck in the neutral zone. Murphy made some incredible saves, even doing a full split to keep the score at 2–1.
The third period began a little better for the Huskies, who seemed better adjusted to the Friars’ style of play. But a bad turnover led to a two-on-two chance, and Jamie Engelbert beat Murphy five-hole to increase the Providence lead to 3–1.
“It was a bad turnover,” Madigan remarked. “They work hard . . . but we contributed to their three goals.”
With just over a minute left in the game, Northeastern forward Gunnarwolfe Fontaine cut the deficit with a screamer from the point, giving the Huskies a chance to tie the game before time expired.
Northeastern pulled Murphy to get an extra attacker, but a key turnover led to an easy open-net goal for Providence’s Matt Koopman to ice the game. The Friars killed off Northeastern’s top-ranked power play three times in the final period to secure the series opener. Northeastern will attempt to salvage a series split on Sunday.
“We need to respond better,” Madigan said. “We have to want it more than them.”