PRINCETON, N.J. — The last time Princeton beat Northeastern, none of the current Tiger players were even born. Not since Jan. 25, 1975, has Princeton triumphed over the Huskies.
Maybe this task will have to wait another generation.
Princeton took an early 1-0 lead, but Northeastern scored once in the second and twice in the third to remain unbeaten in 15 games against the Tigers, 3-1 in front of 1,110 at Hobey Baker Memorial Rink. Northeastern (6-6-2, 2-4-1) completed a three-game sweep of the ECAC, having beaten Clarkson and St. Lawrence over the weekend.
“The win evens our record and puts us back in the right direction,” said Northeastern coach Bruce Crowder. “They took it to us pretty good the first 30 minutes of the hockey game, but the line of Ryan-Guerriero-Levesque was pretty much the difference tonight in the game.”
Leading scorer Mike Ryan made sure that Princeton’s first-period goal did not stand up. Picking the puck up along the right boards, he was allowed to walk scot-free to the front of the net for the goal with 1:41 left in the second period.
Having gotten the Tigers attention, he wasted no time putting Northeastern ahead in the third. Thirteen seconds into the final frame, the defense collapsed around Ryan behind the net and he hit wide-open freshman Jason Gerriero in front of the net for the easy bang-bang goal.
“There is no excuse giving up a goal in either the first two minutes of a period or the last two minutes of a period,” Princeton coach Len Quesnelle said. “The goals we gave up tonight, two of them were defensive breakdowns.”
Ryan now has 16 points on the season. After missing the first three games of the season with mono, Ryan has registered a point in all but one of the eleven other Northeastern contests. He now has a three game point scoring streak to accompany the career best seven-game streak he had to start the year.
“Ryan is a guy who two years ago was not sure if he could play at this level,” Crowder said. “But he his game has really come around and he has been there for us this year.”
Northeastern got stronger as the game wore on. After managing just six shots on goal in the first period, the Huskies sent 12 on backup Tiger goalie Nate Nomeland in the second and third periods. On the shift before Ryan’s goal in the second period , sophomore Ryan Dudgeon had the puck trickle to him on the doorstep only to tap it right back into Nomeland.
Willie Levesque rounded out the scoring beating Nomeland five-hole at 14:12 of the third.
“The first period was by far our best period,” said Princeton captain David Schneider. “We were all working hard. The second period we kind of relaxed bit and it was stupid mistakes again — young team. We have to be patient.
In this midweek nonconference game, both coaches took the opportunity to start their backups and both responded well. Nomeland made 27 stops for Princeton while freshman Keni Gibson saved 30 for Northeastern.
Princeton got on the board first when Schneider made a beautiful head man pass to senior David Del Monte. Schneider then took off for the front of the net and Del Monte waited until the last moment to slide it back to him for the tap-in at 18:31 of the first period.
Once again, however, the Tigers had difficulty finding the back of the net. Plenty of players on the team have the talent to generate chances, but few who can finish. One such player Quesnelle would love to step up is sophomore Chris Owen. The center from Westwood, Mass entered the contest without a goal, but swirled around the offensive zone through the first period. However, when the golden shot finally came to him — an open wrist shot midway through the frame — Owen fanned on it.
The goal totals have been abysmal. Only one player, junior George Parros has more than two goals. Only once this season, a 5-4 win over Vermont, have the Tigers scored more than two times in a game. Yale routed them, 6-1 at the Whale last Saturday.
“This has been the most difficult of my four years here,” Schneider said. “The worst thing about is that guys aren’t giving their best effort all the time, you saw that against Yale. It is frustrating.”
Princeton had chances late to make the game competitive. It received a 50-second two-man advantage with 2:32 left in the contest. Northeastern’s penalty kill, which hasn’t allowed a power-play goal in three games, was up to the task.
The Tiger attack did receive some good news when their only proven scoring threat, Brad Parson’s MRI came back negative this week. It was originally feared that he could miss a couple of months with a muscle tear, but now he is listed as day-to-day and a decision will be made Friday if he can play this weekend. Parsons is the only Tiger with more than 40 career points and more than 15 career goals.