By: Josh Brown
BOSTON- Entering a rare Thursday night matchup, both Northeastern and Vermont were reeling, losers of four straight and desperately looking for a win to get back on track.
Behind two first period goals, and a game-winner by Dan Senkbeil with under seven minutes remaining, Vermont did just that, defeating Northeastern 3-2 to win the team’s first Hockey East game of the season.
“It’s two teams that were scrambling for some wins,” said Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon. “We just went through 5 games that were extremely difficult, and exposed us on a lot of our weaknesses as well as our strengths, and helped us prepare for Hockey East play for this next stretch.”
“They’re (Northeastern) sitting there saying the same thing. They played some great teams and had some excellent play but not the results, so I think it was two teams pretty emotional trying to win a hockey game, so it certainly was a physical battle. We expected that, and certainly Northeastern didn’t disappoint. I thought they played hard.”
At the 13:46 mark of the period, Senkbeil, a senior forward with just 2 career goals in 76 games, fired a shot on net that hit the shoulder of Huskies net-minder Ryan Ruck and bounced into the back of the net.
“I had to calm the bench down,” said Sneddon. “It was actually good that they reviewed it because the guys were so pumped up for him. He doesn’t necessarily get a lot of minutes but he gives it his all every day, certainly every game, and it’s always nice to see those guys get rewarded and get a little bit of the limelight because they don’t often get called into the press room or have their name written in the newspaper articles. He was our big hero tonight, which was nice to see.”
Vermont (2-4-0, 1-0-0) received stellar goaltending by junior Mike Santaguida (21 saves), especially down the stretch where he was challenged with shots from all angles on a Northeastern (1-5-0, 0-1-0) team who are now losers of five straight.
Ryan Ruck started in net for Northeastern, and after giving up two first period goals, settled down saving 18 of the 21 shots he faced on the night, including 14 in the final two frames.
As Northeastern fans have been all too accustomed to early on this season, the Huskies dominated time of possession in the opening frame, but it was Vermont who reaped the benefits.
Most frustrating for Northeastern was an early 5-on-3 man advantage where the Huskies failed to throw much at Santaguida, and were held off the scoreboard, much attributed to a Vermont defense that jumped on pucks to clear into the Huskies defensive zone.
At the 12:30 mark in the first period, Anthony Petruzzelli lit the lamp to give the Catamounts a 1-0 lead.
Skating along the wall, Tom Forgione thread a pass to Petruzzelli in the slot, who was able to beat Ruck five-hole, silencing the Matthews Arena crowd.
With confidence oozing out of the Catamounts skates, they were able to get their second of the period at the 17:56 mark, giving Sneddon’s squad a two-goal advantage heading into the locker room.
After pouncing on a turnover in the Northeastern defensive zone, Jarrid Privitera’s initial shot on net was cleaned up by Ruck. Crashing the net, Mario Puskarich found the puck on his stick and sent it back over to Privitera in front of the net who potted his fourth of the season.
“It’s huge,” said Huskies coach Jim Madigan on the need to get out to a better start. “We worked on it all this week in practice about good starts. We did a lot of things in practice to create that tempo and energy.”
“The one thing is in the last three games, we’ve given up a goal in the first 3 minutes and multiple goals. This (game) we gave up a goal at 12:38 on a turnover defensively and then we gave up another one at 17:58 late in the period on a turnover, one of our senior defensemen was going to bank a puck off the back of the net. I don’t know when we taught that in practice, but he must be working on it on his own after practice. There’s two turnovers and two goals. They were opportunistic.”
Both teams were shutout in the middle frame, but it was Vermont who was handed a five-minute man advantage after Huskies defenseman Matt Benning was whistled for a high-sticking 13:28 into the period.
A Huskies penalty kill unit, which is sitting at just over 80% for the season, was able to keep Vermont largely out of their own offensive zone, having no problem clearing pucks down to Santaguida’s side of the ice.
The first six minutes of the third period belonged to the Huskies, courtesy of a five-minute power play of their own, after Ori Abramson was whistled for boarding.
Taking a pass from Eric Williams in the Huskies offensive zone, sophomore Dylan Sikura, skating towards the far goal line, fired an off-angle shot that caught Santaguida by surprise and cut the Vermont lead to one.
Continuing a relentless attack on the five-on-three, it took the Huskies just 2:01 to knot the score up.
Kevin Roy, skating along the blue line, got around a defender before dishing a pass to Stevens in the slot, who was able to beat Santaguida over his right shoulder.
Both teams would get another shot on the power play throughout the middle of the period, but it was Senkbeil’s even strength goal that proved to be the difference.
“This is the fifth time in a row where I can capsulize all 5 losses,” said Madigan, “us not defending at the net, giving up poor goals and not scoring, not being hungry enough at the offensive net. Discipline was good tonight, and our effort isn’t consistent with a team that had lost (five) in a row.”
“There was not enough desperation, sense of urgency for 60 minutes. It was there for a good part of it, but when you’re trying to get out of a tailspin, you need it to be for 60 minutes and it wasn’t there.”
This article can also be found on USCHO