Sami Zagha/WRBB Sports

BOSTON — The top-15 matchup between Northeastern and Providence lived up to its billing on Saturday, as the Friars handed the Huskies a hard-fought 2-1 loss.

This game marked not only Northeastern’s first defeat of the season, but also their first loss in Hockey East, while on the other side Providence secured its first Hockey East win.

“It was a good college hockey game tonight,” said head coach Jerry Keefe after the game. “Credit Providence, I thought they played a really smart road game. I liked our team’s battle, I liked the effort.”

Northeastern started off the first period sluggish, as the offense struggled to match the speed and physicality of Providence early on.

“I didn’t think we broke pucks out great tonight,” Keefe said, which was very apparent throughout the first period of play. The Huskies however did pick it up over the course of the game. 

Just as the Huskies offense started to emerge, Providence forward Riley Duran, who’s had a hot start to his sophomore season, put the Friars on the board 11:29 into the first period of play. Friars’ standout winger Brett Berard carried the puck in transition through the neutral zone and behind the left side of the net of junior goaltender Devon Levi. With speed, Berard tried wrapping the puck to the opposite side but Levi managed to get his pad across. Off the rebound created from Berard’s attempt, Duran was in front to knock the puck past Levi. 

Throughout the first frame, Providence flew up and down the ice and played a very physical game. This caused some scrappy moments between the two teams, much of which  carried over into the second. 

Only 4:26 into the second period, the emotions of the first period came into play. Freshman defender Hunter McDonald received a five minute major and a game misconduct for hitting from behind, leaving Northeastern down a defender for the rest of the game. Sophomore forward Matt Choupani took McDonald’s place in the box to serve the penalty. 

Keefe overall thought the penalty kill was strong throughout the course of the game. 

“I thought our guys sold out for each other and had some huge blocks,” he said. “I thought momentum wise that was really going to be a lift for us.”

After successfully killing the first 4:35 of the major penalty, Providence senior forward Patrick Moynihan buried a tap in goal with 25 seconds left on the kill. Providence worked the puck behind the net from junior forward Nick Poisson to Berard. Berard carried the puck around the right side of the net and shot a pass across the crease to an open Moynihan on the back door, who put it in for a 2-0 Providence lead. That was Moynihan’s third power play goal in as many games this season for the Friars. 

Not long after the goal by Providence, Northeastern got their first opportunity on the power play. Friars senior defender Cam McDonald took a two minute minor for holding 12:55 into the second. The Huskies did not let the opportunity go to waste.

Northeastern worked the puck down low on the advantage to the sticks of both sophomore forward Jack Hughes or junior forward Sam Colangelo. This dragged the Providence defense down toward the goal line, giving Northeastern an opportunity to capitalize. Colangelo received the puck down by the left goalline, and ripped a pass over to the opposite faceoff dot where senior forward Aidan McDonough is notoriously stationed. McDonough quickly sent a pass over to Fontaine who had worked his way into the high slot from the blue line, and Fontaine buried the puck 13:28 into the second. 

The Huskies played a solid third period front to back, but still came up short in the end. Northeastern had a power play opportunity 7:11 into the third but could not convert on the chance. The Huskies had difficulty pulling Levi off the ice in the wynding minutes of the game, as Northeastern struggled to possess the puck. With 1:03 left in the game, Levi was sent off for the extra attacker, and Northeastern generated one decent look for McDonough that was saved. 

Levi managed to save 49 of the 51 shots he faced on Saturday. Providence freshman goaltender Philip Svedebäck stopped 30 of the 31 shots he saw on the other end of the ice. 

Keefe praised Levi’s effort after the game — but said the Friars’ eye-popping shot total didn’t tell the full story of the game.

“I’d have to look at the scoring chances, how many of those 49 were quality,” Keefe said. “But [Levi] played really well. [Providence] had some good quality [shots, but] I wouldn’t get too caught up in the shot totals, I didn’t think that defined the game at all. I’d like to see our 5 on 5 because I thought we out chanced them in 5 on 5.”

Amongst the Huskies’ positive takeaways from the game was the power play, which seemed a lot cleaner tonight in comparison to their last three games. Also, as Keefe said the team played well once they got into the offensive zone and defensively against a high powered offense didn’t give much up. The big thing for Northeastern to work on is transition and turnovers for the Huskies which Keefe mentioned would be a focus before the Huskies face Boston College on Tuesday.

The Huskies return to Matthews Arena for their first matchup of the year against Boston College on Tuesday. WRBB will have coverage of the game with Matty Wasserman, Mike Puzzanghera, and Zach Lyons on the call with puck drop scheduled for 7 p.m.