By Emma Sullivan
PROVIDENCE – It was a night for special teams Friday as the Northeastern Huskies took on the Providence College Friars at Schneider Arena. Held up by the Huskies’ penalty kill and yet another shutout from goaltender Devon Levi, the Huskies cruised to a 2-0 win for their 12th victory of the year.
The first part of the game was all Friars, with Providence controlling the puck for most of it. The Friars managed to get off 14 shots before the Huskies were able to get one after over seven minutes of play. The Huskies were able to turn it around slightly and gain some momentum back, but neither team was able to break the ice.
With 7:22 left in the first period, the first penalty was called, this one going against the Huskies. The team’s leading goal scorer, forward Aidan McDonough, was assessed a five minute major and tossed from the game for a hit to the head on Friars’ forward Matt Koopman. This was McDonough’s second game misconduct this year alone. The last was for a kneeing penalty against Harvard University in the beginning of November. Northeastern was able to keep Providence off the board during the five minute power play thanks to great plays from the defense and Levi, as the already dominant penalty kill continued their strong performance this season.
With just under a minute left in the period, forward Alex Mella stole the puck from the Friars in the neutral zone and passed it just up the ice to forward Gunnarwolfe Fontaine. Fontaine then took the puck directly to the net on a breakaway and slid it just to the right of Providence goalie Jaxson Stauber to get the Huskies on the board. It was Fontaine’s third goal and Mella’s second assist of the year.
“The first goal was big just to get the lead,” said Huskies’ head coach Jerry Keefe, post game. “A great play on the goal” from Fontaine and Mella gave the Huskies that advantage.
After Fonataine’s goal, the first period came to a quiet end with the Huskies taking a 1-0 lead into the locker room.
Northeastern continued to show some moments of offense to start the second period. However at just under two minutes in, forward Steven Agriogianis was called for a tripping penalty sending the Huskies back to the penalty kill. Providence had a few strong looks on the power play, including one in the dying seconds that they were just unable to connect on in front of Levi’s crease to create a scoring opportunity.
With 9:26 left in the second period, Providence forward Riley Duran received a call for holding, giving the Huskies their first power-play opportunity of the game. Northeastern’s power play, which has struggled this season, was held to just one shot on goal during the man advantage. Three minutes after the holding penalty expired, both Huskies forward Jakov Novak and Friars forward Brett Berard received roughing penalties after a scrum in front of Stauber’s net. The Huskies looked stronger during the ensuing two minutes, but were again unable to get anything past Stauber.
After the four-on-four came to an end, Northeastern showed more control offensively for most of the waning minutes in the period. Providence had a few shots in the last minute that required Levi to make some strong saves, but the Huskies were able to hold on to a 1-0 lead.
The Huskies opened the third period and continued to play the same way the last two periods had gone. Some great opportunities for Northeastern were blocked by the Friars, and in turn the Huskies were able to break up the chances Providence generated. The fourth penalty, a slashing call against Friar defenseman Cam McDonald, was called at 14:17 left in regulation. The Huskies did not have a single shot, let alone a shot on goal, during the power play.
Three more penalties would be called before the end of the game. First Huskies forward Michael Outzen was called for embellishment after being taken down by Friars defenseman Max Crozier who himself was called for interference. Neither team was able to convert on the resulting four-on-four. Then, with three minutes left, Huskies defenseman Julian Kislin tripped up a Friars player along the boards and headed for the penalty box, creating a dangerous situation for Northeastern and their one goal lead.
Providence opted to pull their goalie as time on the power play was coming to an end, allowing the Huskies to capitalize on a break out of the zone after Novak broke up a pass from the Friars. He carried the puck down ice before passing it off to forward Matt Choupani who sealed the game for the Huskies. The goal was Choupani’s fourth of the year and his second this week after his game winner versus Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute last Sunday. Novak’s assist was his first of the season.
“Everyone in our lineup bought in today,” Keefe said of his team’s play. “I thought Devon was really good, thought our d-core was really good in front of him, limited second chances. That’s a tough team to play against. Forwards did a good job coming back. Just happy with the win.”
The final score of 2-0 was in large part thanks to the performance of Levi, who continues his outstanding in the Huskies goal. Levi was able to make some huge stops, including one to keep the Friars from the scoreboard with 4:05 left to play.
This shutout is Levi’s sixth of the season, which gives him sole possession of the all time leaderboard in Northeastern history for shutouts in a single year. There are still 18 games left in the season to play.
Keefe knows that the Huskies’ next game will not be an easy task to get another win.
“You know Providence is going to come out really hard: they’re a good team,” he said. “We’re going to have to be better tomorrow night.”
The Huskies and Friars will complete the season series against Providence tomorrow in Matthews Arena at 7 p.m. Mike Puzzanghera, Rae Deer, and Khalin Kapoor will have the call.