Huskies’ Scoring Spree Comes to an End as Friars Blank Northeastern

By Christian Skroce

The Northeastern men’s hockey team’s undefeated run to begin the season came to an end Sunday afternoon as they fell to the Providence Friars, 5–0, in Rhode Island.

After an impressive shootout win over the Friars at Matthews Arena on Saturday, Northeastern came out flat in the second game of the weekend. Jason O’Neill got the scoring going for Providence with just three minutes left in the first period. The Friars’ first goal was a tough one for the Huskies, as a scrum in front of the Northeastern net led to a deflection off the skate of Northeastern defensemen Jayden Struble.

Providence doubled their lead just minutes later, as prolific scorer Tyce Thompson coolly fired a shot into the top shelf off a feed from Davis Bunz. The goal, which game with two seconds left in the first period, was a back-breaking blow for Northeastern, as Providence went into the first intermission with all of the momentum.

The Friars did not look back, and expanded their advantage just 40 seconds into the second period. A nice finish from Parker Ford gave the Friars their second power-play goal and third overall.

Greg Printz and Craig Needham would add two more goals for Providence in the closing moments of the game. Printz’s goal came with an empty net, while Needham scored with 18 seconds remaining in the game, catching the Husky defenders off guard as they poured into the offensive zone.

It was a difficult game all around for Northeastern, as the forward group could not get anything going. The Huskies produced 28 shots on goal, but few were genuine opportunities in front of the Providence net. At times it felt like there was a Providence defender in front of every Northeastern shot. Northeastern will have many questions to ask of themselves.

While the smaller rink in Providence might have contributed to some of Northeastern’s offensive woes on Sunday, Northeastern Head Coach Jim Madigan made it clear that the team wasn’t looking for excuses.

“At the end of the day you have to go out and play hockey,” he said. “Our guys didn’t make enough plays chasing pucks and finding pockets of space in the offensive zone. It’s as simple as that.”

Northeastern’s biggest concern was their mistakes in even play and poor special teams. The Huskies committed five penalties, and Providence made good on two of the ensuing power plays. The special teams woes also affected NU on the offensive end, as the team failed to convert on all four power-play chances.

“Very seldom do we lose a special teams game,” Madigan said bluntly, “but we did so today.”

The one shining piece for the Huskies was goaltender Connor Murphy, who has made several important plays over the team’s first four games. Murphy’s best play of the day came in the first period, as the netminder pulled off an impressive post-to-post shift, preventing an easy backdoor opportunity for the Friars.

“I thought he played well tonight,” Madigan said of his veteran goaltender. “Little bit of bad luck with the first goal and he faced tough chances with them [Providence] on the power play throughout the game, but he’s be playing very well for us.”

Murphy has been key to Northeastern’s strong start to the season as a replacement for touted freshmen goalie Devon Levi, who is currently with Canada’s world juniors team.

Northeastern is scheduled to take on the Vermont in two games in Burlington next weekend. WRBB will have updates on the Huskies’ games against the Catamounts as the week progresses.

2020–21 Men’s Hockey East Preview: Providence Friars

Last season: 16–12–6 (10–11–3, t-seventh in Hockey East)

Head coach: Nate Leaman (11th season)

Preseason poll projected finish: Third

Departures: F Jerry Harding, F Jack Dugan, F Shane Kavanaugh, D Spenser Young, F Vimal Sukumaran, F Caleb Rule, G Jake Kucharski, G Michael Lackey

Additions: F Nick Poisson, F Chase Yoder, F Brett Berard, D Uula Ruikka, F Matt Tugnutt, G Jaxson Stauber, G Anton Martinsson

By Dale Desantis

The Friars are looking to rebound after a rollercoaster season in which they barely edged out New Hampshire to claim the last seed in the Hockey East playoffs. CCM All-American Jack Dugan, who signed a two-year entry-level deal with the Las Vegas Golden Knights, carried the Friars with a team-high 52 points, 42 of which were assists. Fellow sophomore Tyce Thompson also had a productive year, leading the team with 19 goals and earning a second team all-conference nod.

Outside of the conference, Providence was very strong, going 6–1–3 with a big-time tie against No. 2 Cornell and a win over No. 14 Clarkson. But the Friars failed to make an impression on an extremely competitive division. Teams like Maine, UMass Lowell, and Merrimack — usually deemed “easy outs” for a team of Providence’s caliber — all took games against the Friars.

In the all-Hockey-East 2020–21 season, the Friars look to fare better than they did last year. Last season the only statistic that the Friars led in was power-play goals (34). After losing firepower with Jack Dugan’s jump to the NHL, they are looking to replace a points machine on the power play.

The Friars will look to capitalize on a strong freshman class that includes two draft picks: Brett Berard (134th to the New York Rangers) and Chase Yoder (170th to the Pittsburgh Penguins). Tyce Thompson will also look to have an even bigger 2021 as one of Hockey East’s premier scoring threats.

Bottom Line: With about two dozen returning players and a couple of NHL draft picks joining the squad, the Friars have a chance to jump a couple of spots over their 2019–20 finish. But they’ll need to tighten up their play against Hockey East middlers and significantly develop multiple forwards to make that jump.

Men’s Hockey Falls to No. 10 Providence

Photo by Sarah Olender

By Matt Neiser

After a blazing 4–1–0 start to the season, the No. 14 Northeastern men’s hockey team has been reeling a bit lately. Their next four games saw them go 0–3–1, including a 1–1 tie against Merrimack — the team Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan picked to finish last in Hockey East in the preseason coaches poll — that culminated in a heart-to-heart team meeting, per Mike McMahon of College Hockey News.

With the No. 10 Providence Friars waiting Friday in the first game of a home-and-home set, the Huskies looked to build on a dominating win over Merrimack the day of the meeting. But they faltered again, falling 3–2 to the Friars at Schneider Arena Friday night.

The Friars controlled the first period, especially early on. Providence recorded eight of the first nine shots on net, including the first six. Thankfully for Northeastern, goaltender Craig Pantano stood tall in net, racking up 17 saves and keeping the home team off the board. The Merrimack grad transfer has singlehandedly kept the Huskies in multiple games this season.

Though Providence provided much of the offense, Northeastern wasn’t without chances in the first frame. Freshman Aidan McDonough, fresh off his first career two-goal game against Merrimack, had a pair of early shots saved by Providence’s Michael Lackey. Matt DeMelis threaded a pass through to Zach Solow later in the period, but the junior couldn’t put the puck home. The Huskies had a few other half-chances — mostly off of Friar turnovers — but the 17–7 Providence shot advantage tells the tale of first-period domination.

At the end of a penalty kill early in the second period, Northeastern had their best chance of the evening on a Matt Filipe breakaway. The senior broke ahead of the pack with the puck, but was denied by Lackey as he tried to slip the shot between the netminder’s legs.

Providence broke the deadlock with about four minutes to go in the second frame. Albin Nilsson found his way behind the Husky defense before playing a pass out in front from behind the net. The pass found Jamie Engelbert waiting in the crease, and the freshman wasted no time slotting a shot past Pantano to give the Friars a 1–0 lead.

Six minutes into the third period, Tyler Madden evened things up with his team-leading seventh goal of the season. Though Madden scored the goal, it was Filipe who made the play happen. Skating into the Friar zone on the left side, the senior assistant captain shook off two separate hits along the boards as he got the puck to McDonough behind the net. McDonough backhanded it out in front of the net, hitting a streaking Madden for the one-time finish.

The game stayed deadlocked until Providence retook the lead with six and a half minutes to play. Northeastern had a chance on the other end but couldn’t put it away, leading to a Providence rush and a Spenser Young shot from the point. The shot was redirected by Tyce Thompson in the slot, causing the puck to take flight and arc perfectly over Pantano’s head into the net.

Between the officials’ initial review and Madigan’s offsides zone entry challenge, the goal was questioned for five minutes. It stood.

The Friars struck again less than two minutes later with what would prove the decider, though it was less a Providence goal than a Husky own goal. Providence junior Jason O’Neill skated in close to Pantano, who attempted to swat the puck away with his stick. He succeeded in swatting it . . . straight into O’Neill’s body, which caused it to ricochet past Pantano into the net.

A slashing penalty on Providence with 90 seconds to go in regulation gave the Huskies some hope, and defenseman Jordan Harris capitalized with a shot from the point that deflected off a skate and past Lackey to make it a one-goal game with 42 seconds remaining. Northeastern didn’t generate another chance. The Friars won, 3–2.

Northeastern played well at times, but Providence boasts one of the best offenses in college hockey. Coming into the night, the Friars led the nation in goals and assists.

The Huskies forced turnovers and generated chances off of them. They flexed their penalty kill muscles with a three-for-three night on the man disadvantage. But the red and black lacked Providence’s offensive polish and it showed in the time of possession and quality of chances generated.

These teams rematch on Saturday at Matthews Arena. Christian Skroce and Matt Neiser will be on the call, with puck drop scheduled for 8 PM.

These teams rematch on Saturday at Matthews Arena. Christian Skroce and Matt Neiser will be on the call, with puck drop scheduled for 8 PM.