BOSTON — For 40 minutes, St. Lawrence goaltender Jeremy Symington held Northeastern at bay while his team was outshot 15-3 in the first period and then 16-3 in the second. After two, the teams stood deadlocked, 1-1.
In the third period, however, Symington proved mortal. Both teams suddenly found the offensive touch with NU sophomore Mike Ryan’s first collegiate hat trick proving decisive. After tying the game at 12:10 with a “knucklepuck” from outside the blue line, Ryan scored the game-winner with less than four minutes remaining to give Northeastern (1-0) a 4-3 win over St. Lawrence (0-1).
For a while, though, the game appeared to be a rerun of the many times last year when the Huskies would do everything but score.
“We just kept working at it,” said NU coach Bruce Crowder. “Our guys could have gotten frustrated [after outshooting them 31-6 after two periods], but hopefully this is a sign of good things to come this year.
“Sometimes you need to get a lucky goal once in a while. That’s kind of what happened: Mike Ryan’s blooper from center ice.”
Crowder then added with a grin, “One of those a game would be nice.”
Northeastern put itself into a position to win in part by winning the physical battles along the boards.
“I looked at their lineup before the game,” said Crowder, “and I came back and [said], ‘Boy this is a big team!’ But I thought our kids handled themselves pretty well. I thought we were a little overmatched in size, but our kids have pretty big hearts and that can make up for a lot.”
St. Lawrence opened the third period on the power play and made it 2-1 on a feed by Erik Anderson across the goalmouth to Alan Fyfe, who put it into the empty net.
Barely more than a minute later, Ryan got his first goal on the power play to even the score. Mike Jozefowicz shot from the point, Graig Mischler put the rebound on net and Ryan then put away Mischler’s rebound.
At 9:40, John Peterman committed a slash and then took a terrible second penalty for a hit from behind after the whistle. Northeastern killed most of the first infraction splendidly, but the Saints took a 3-2 lead by capitalizing shortly into the second. Jim Lorentz dropped down from the point into the slot and used his two teammates screening in front to beat NU netminder Mike Gilhooly top shelf.
Having controlled much of the play, Northeastern seemed prone to a letdown borne of frustration. Instead, Ryan’s “knucklepuck” evened the score just 22 seconds after Lorentz’s tally.
“It kept rolling on me as I was skating up the ice so I figured I’d give it a whirl and shot on net,” said Ryan. “I didn’t even see it, but I just saw the goaltender turning around. He didn’t have a very good expression on his face, so I knew it was a goal.”
Symington soon redeemed himself with a big save on a Trevor Reschny breakaway, one of many such stops on the night.
At 16:37, however, Ryan got the game-winner off a scramble in front to send a boisterous crowd of 3,811 home happy.
The St. Lawrence penalty kill dominated the first period, keeping Northeastern off the board during its eight minutes on the power play — including a five-minute major just 28 seconds into the game — while also adding a shorthanded goal for a 1-0 lead. The Saints led the ECAC in penalty-killing percentage for both of the last two years and were giving evidence that they stand a good chance of making it three in a row.
The final strains of the national anthem had hardly stopped echoing when referee Tim Benedetto whistled SLU’s Mike Muir for a five-minute hitting from behind major and game misconduct. Nonplussed, the SLU penalty-killing unit held Northeastern without a single scoring chance of significance during the stretch, consistently clearing the puck before it could set up.
And when the Huskies went on the power play for a second time at 9:23, St. Lawrence did more than just shut them out. Jack O’Brien forced a turnover at the blue line and took off two on one. Holding the puck until he was 18 feet out, he then ripped a shot far side past Gilhooly.
With Benedetto calling a tight game, both teams had their share of power play time, but neither could capitalize. In the closing five minutes of the period, Symington played exceptionally well, stopping two breakaways and numerous shots from in close.
He was even better in the second, making one unbelievable stop on Ryan midway through the period. Down and out after making two straight saves, he reached up and made a blind steal of what looked to be a sure tying goal.
Northeastern finally got the equalizer shortly after a power play ended, however. Mischler worked the puck behind the net and got it to freshman Scott Selig, who scored his first collegiate goal.