PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Those Hockey East coaches who picked Northeastern last in the league might want to change that assessment after Thursday night.
With just two juniors and one senior on the roster, the prediction might seem sensible. But that one senior is U.S. national team goaltender Chanda Gunn, and she is proving the coaches wrong so far.
Gunn made 46 saves — few of which came easy — to seal a 1-1 tie at Providence, the Hockey East favorites and the nation’s No. 4 team. The Huskies had just 15 shots themselves, but it proved enough to earn the point.
“I hate to say it, but that’s a typical night for her,” Woog said of Gunn. “She’s been doing that for us for the last three years. If we find a way to score a goal or two, we can steal a game.”
Gunn, a two-time Patty Kazmaier finalist, had a disappointing season a year ago with a Northeastern team that missed the Hockey East playoffs. Now she feels more prepared than ever.
Northeastern made mistakes that led to breakaways for Providence’s most distinguished players — Kelli Halcisak, Rush Zimmerman and Ashley Payton — but Gunn stoned them all. Her only blemish was a Zimmerman power play goal off a rebound in the first period. The Huskies countered that midway through the second period with an opportunistic goal by freshman Marie Desrosiers, now Northeastern’s top scorer.
The game’s most dramatic moment came in the final five seconds of the second period, when Halcisak claimed a loose puck at the blueline and charged Gunn with the clock ticking. Halcisak made one of the best moves of the night and skated right around Gunn. She appeared to have made a winning move and started to celebrate, but the puck trickled off the right post, off Gunn, and out of harm’s way as time expired.
Instead it was Gunn then pumping her stick with passion as the teams entered their locker rooms.
“I got really lucky on that one,” Gunn said. “I almost knocked it in my own net, because I had to push off backwards so hard, because she walked almost right around me, and I stuck my leg out and it went off the post, off my leg, and then across.”
Adding to the suspense, and ultimately Gunn’s sense of relief, was that she had no idea how much time was left on the clock.
“I was never so happy to see a referee in my life,” she said.
In the final minutes of regulation, including one power play, Providence peppered Gunn with screen shots, deflections, and one-timers, but to no avail. The best chance came with under 30 seconds left, when Zimmerman earned a clean breakaway. She made a nifty move across the mouth of the goal to try to stuff the puck to Gunn’s left side, but she found nothing but Gunn’s outstretched pads.
In the end, Providence coach Bob Deraney simply had to tip his cap to Gunn.
“What can you say, every day I’m always nervous when I play against her, because you never know if you might not get anything,” Deraney said.
Deraney feels the goaltenders are clearly better than the shooters right now.
“You got to have composure, you got to elevate it, you got to be more tenacious on rebounds,” he said. “It’s early. I think we’re founding out where we’re weak and how to be better down the road.”
Providence seemed in control of the game with a huge shot advantage and the game’s first goal at the 12:14 mark of the first period. On the successful power play, defenseman Meredith Roth set up Hilary Greaves for a deflection. Zimmerman put in the rebound for the score.
“There was a lot of traffic in front of the net,” Gunn said. “They’re big players and they’re always in front of the net, so it was tough.”
Desrosiers netted the equalizer at the 10:08 mark of the second period. The goal came on a shot from the left faceoff circle that caught Providence goaltender Jana Bugden off guard. The puck deflected awkwardly off Bugden’s pads into the net.
Bugden had faced only a handful of shots before allowing the goal. Northeastern pressured more for the game-winner once it was tied, but Bugden responded with an acrobatic performance in net. Bugden’s worst victim was Northeastern sophomore Cyndy Kenyon, who had one break stopped by Bugden’s left pad and shot wide on another.
“It could have gone either way, and they certainly had the shot advantage, but we’re a young team and we did what we needed to do,” Woog said.
Providence, though it could not deliver the home win it wanted, still had reason to be proud of its effort.
“One thing I’m happy with — we never got the bounces, but we just kept coming at them,” Deraney said.
Northeastern will build on the night’s positive energy and shun the fatalistic preseason prediction, as well as its disastrous second-to-last finish a year ago.
“We’ve definitely gotten off to a better start,” Gunn said. “Once you as a team start feeling that winning’s impossible, things definitely stop going your way. I feel good about that tie. These young kids, it makes them feel good. We definitely have a lot to build on.”