PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Coming into Friday’s game against Providence, Northeastern coach Bruce Crowder made it known that any players on his team who wanted to look ahead to the Beanpot would win a seat in the stands for Monday. Stressing energy, tenacity, and hard work, the Huskies cruised past the Friars by a 3-1 score at Schneider Arena.
“I think it’s the time of the year for us,” said Crowder. “We’ve got a huge game on Monday and a lot of people will be watching. The kids want to play well, especially in the game beforehand. It’s an easy game to prepare for — if they don’t focus they won’t play on Monday.”
Northeastern dominated from the first drop until the last, scoring on the first shift and never looking back. Jason Guerriero was the lucky recipient of a bouncing puck in the slot and managed to slide the rubber past a confused Bobby Goepfert for the first of three gritty Husky tallies.
“We just didn’t have the same jump we had on Tuesday night or last weekend,” said Providence coach Paul Pooley. “There are no easy games in this league and Northeastern deserves credit for having a great game plan and executing it. They were hungry, they won all the one-on-one battles, and that’s what it all comes down to.”
As soon as it appeared that Providence had escaped a horrific start, Jared Mudryk skated in on a partial breakaway just a minute into the second period. Although he was stoned by Goepfert, the clearing attempt ricocheted off a Providence skate and found its way through the freshman netminder. The score put Northeastern up 2-0 for the third time in three games against the Friars this season.
If the ship was taking on water after the Guerriero score, it started going under with the Mudryk tally.
A listless Providence offense was constantly aggravated by an intense Northeastern defense. When the Friars did manage to gain the offensive zone, goaltender Mike Gilhooly had an answer; he sparkled in net for the Huskies, stopping 23 of 24 on the evening.
“Sure, the decision to start Mike looks like a great one after the fact, but there were a couple of reasons why we started him tonight: one was a hunch, two was another great week in practice.”
Goepfert, who had previously seemed unbeatable, did not have the magic. Before the midway point in the second period, Northeastern capitalized on a frustration penalty called on PC’s Jason Bloomingburg. Eric Ortlip, the night’s first star, tipped a shot that fluttered past Goepfert. The puck seemed to hang in the air for seconds, but the goalie just couldn’t manage to get a piece of it.
The Friars, desperate to stem the tide, called a timeout after the score and senior Nolan Schaefer was given the goaltending duties for the remainder of the game. He played strong for Providence, stopping all 12 shots he faced.
“I pulled Bobby because we needed a change; it wasn’t Bobby’s fault. It’s unfortunate when you have to pull your goalie to get the team going,” said Pooley.
In an attempt to feed off of the little momentum the Friars had, Pooley pulled Schaefer with seven minutes to play in the third for a 6-on-3 power-play opportunity, but Providence just couldn’t swim upstream this time. Gilhooly was able to withstand the first, second, and third shots.
Devin Rask’s power-play goal cut the lead to 3-1 with more than a period left to play, but the marker at 15:27 would prove to be the lone tally for a Friar squad that was outhustled and just plain beaten in every part of the game.
Northeastern’s performance turned the tables on Providence, giving the Friars a dose of the medicine that they used to frustrate BC last weekend. The Huskies clogged the middle of the ice and refused to let Providence gain the zone with any type of speed. When the Friars possessed the puck, few quality scoring chances could be generated inside the circles. A combination of a little puck luck and terrific execution left the Huskies light-years ahead of their counterparts.
“Now I know what it felt like to be Boston College last weekend,” said Pooley. “They got an early score against us and frustrated us; we just couldn’t seem to get anything going. We had chances, but we’ve got to regroup and get ready for tomorrow night.”
The game against the Friars should be excellent preparation for Northeastern. Providence shed light on how to play against Boston College — Monday’s opponent for the Huskies. Providence has also beaten BU this season, the reigning Beanpot champion. The Friars will look to regain the form they’ve had against these top teams Saturday night against a UMass squad that was dismantled by the Eagles on Friday.
In a statement that brings a New York Football Giants’ coach to mind, Pooley asserted, “There’s absolutely no question that we are going to have to match UMass’ hunger tomorrow night. We will match that intensity.”