BOSTON — The fine line between winning and losing was on prime display as Northeastern took a two-goal first period lead despite being thoroughly outplayed and rode it to a 4-1 win over Clarkson. Two empty net Husky goals scored in the final minute provided a deceptive margin in an otherwise evenly played contest.
“It’s a strange game right now in college hockey,” said Northeastern coach Bruce Crowder. “Anybody can beat anybody else on any given night. You’ve got to clutch and claw for everything you can get.”
The opening period proved decisive. Clarkson (4-5-1, 3-0-0 ECAC) dominated play, outattempting the Huskies, 20-10, and outshooting them, 10-4. Northeastern (4-6-2, 2-4-1 HEA), however, went into the locker room with a 2-0 lead thanks to nice assists by junior Mike Ryan on goals by Jason Guerriero and Chris Lynch.
After the period, Crowder said to his team at high decibel levels, “We played awful. Don’t fool yourselves. We’re not doing the things we should do. We’re getting beat to loose pucks. They’re showing that they want it more and we’ve still got turkey in our ears.”
The Huskies rebounded territorially, especially in the third period, but needed solid goaltending for 60 minutes from freshman Keni Gibson, making only his second start due to back problems.
“The guys made it easy on me,” said Gibson. “I got a couple shots on me early to wake me up, but most of the shots were from the blue line. It was the perfect kind of game to get back. I didn’t get peppered too much, but I had enough shots to keep me awake.”
Added Crowder, “He wasn’t spectacular, but sometimes that’s the sign of a good goalie: when he’s just steady and gets the job done.”
Both teams came into the contest having lost their last two, but for different reasons. Northeastern had surrendered 13 goals while Clarkson had scored only one.
With Gibson allowing only a tipped shot from the point to get past him, the Golden Knights’ scoring woes now amount to just two goals in the last three games.
“We expended a lot of energy, but got very little results,” said Clarkson coach Mark Morris. “It’s very frustrating on our part…. We had plenty of opportunities to win this game. Goals are really hard to come by right now.”
Some of Clarkson’s wounds were self-inflicted as assistant captain Kevin O’Flaherty took a costly and unnecessary penalty with 3:40 remaining in a 2-1 game.
“You can’t be doing that when goals are hard to come by,” said Morris. “It’s tough to win from the penalty box and we’ve been doing a lot of time in the box. That’s got to change if we’re going to get things going in the right direction.”
The Huskies opened the scoring on the power play at 10:46. An earlier man advantage had been very ineffective, but this time quality chances came in bunches. Eric Ortlip and Jaron Herriman tipped shots wide and Ortlip shot wide again on a rebound before Guerriero got his second of the year. From a position between the two points, Ryan spotted Guerriero to the right side of the net, and fired deliberately off net, allowing the freshman to deflect it home.
“Jay gave a quick yell and he only yells when he knows he’s open and he knows I can get it to him,” said Ryan. “Fortunately, he had enough coordination to tip that in.”
Exactly four minutes later, Ryan set up the second goal, cutting over the blue line and through the Clarkson defense before dishing it off to Lynch with one man left to beat. Lynch skated unfettered to the goal, deked Mike Walsh and beat him short side.
The rest of the period belonged to Gibson, who was solid throughout, especially during a Golden Knight power-play flurry in the final minute. In that stretch he was also aided once by a goaltender’s best friend, the pipes, but nonetheless kept Clarkson off the board.
At 7:23 of the second period, the Golden Knights made it 2-1 on Matt Poapst’s deflection in front of a Ken Scuderi shot from the left point. For the Clarkson captain — a second-team All-ECAC selection last season — it was his second goal in 10 games this year.
Tristan Lush had an excellent shot at tying the game at 16:30 on a partial break in on Gibson, but Lush was harassed by a defender and Gibson made the save.
Northeastern could have gained an important insurance goal soon after on a power play resulting from an obvious running of the goaltender by Clarkson’s Jay Latulippe. However, the Husky power play failed to generate much until a Jaron Herriman tip near the end.
Another Clarkson penalty just eight seconds from the second-period buzzer allowed Northeastern to go into the locker room with not only a one-goal lead, but also the momentum of opening the third on the man advantage.
The Huskies did not score on the power play, but went on to seize play in the third period, during which they could have widened the lead several times if not for strong saves by Walsh, also a second-team All-ECAC selection last year.
With Walsh pulled with about 1:15 remaining, Ryan got an empty-netter at 19:08 on a shot just outside the offensive blue line. Lynch put another one in the vacated net on a rink-long backhander at 19:50.
The game marked the first of two officiated this weekend by WCHA standout referee Mike Schmitt as part of a cross-pollination agreement between the western league and Hockey East. Schmitt, who presided over the NCAA championship games in 1998 (Michigan – Boston College) and 2001 (North Dakota – BC), will also referee the Cornell – Boston University game on
Northeastern hosts the ECAC’s other North Country team, St. Lawrence, on Saturday while Clarkson travels to Providence.