BOSTON — It wasn’t the long sought-after win for the Northeastern Huskies on Friday night, but it was enough to make head coach Bruce Crowder somewhat satisfied.
“I’m really encouraged by this club,” said Crowder, whose club, after a 2-2 tie Friday night at home against Providence is now 0-5-2 – the longest winless streak for Northeastern in the 72-year history of the program. “I like the speed of this team. I like the attitude of this team. It’s just
that keeping all those things in mind we’re a team that hasn’t won a hockey game yet.”
What Crowder certainly liked on Friday night was the performance of his goaltender, Keni Gibson (25 saves). Northeastern entered Friday’s game with an abysmal team save percentage of .798. But Friday night, it was Gibson who not only play solid-allowing a goals on a breakaway and a well-placed roof shot-but also saved the day for the Huskies, stopping four shots in the overtime, all of them the grade ‘A’ variety.
“I think [this performance] was huge for [Gibson],” said Crowder. “It’s a situation where he needed to have one of those games and he gave up two goals on 27 shots.
“In this league if you don’t have goaltending, you’re going to struggle. You need one of those guys in that position to elevate their game so we can continue to be in games like this.”
All of this positive talk came despite the fact that Northeastern let slip a two-goal second period lead allowing the Friars to score twice in 3:06 to pull even entering the third period. That, on the other side of the coin, was a major position for Friars head coach Paul Pooley.
“I’m glad that we fought back from down 2-0 on the road,” said Pooley. “I said to Bruce [Crowder] after the game that there’s not a lot of difference between teams in this league. Anybody is going to give us a game in this league.”
That Northeastern certainly did, outshooting the Friars on the night, 34-27, despite PC’s efforts to swarm the net in the overtime. Much of the Friars’ success, like Northeastern’s, points back to goaltending. After resting last Saturday against Massachusetts, Providence’s Bobby Goepfert (32
saves) returned to the net and showed the brilliance Friar fans have come to expect from the sophomore.
Though Providence controlled the game territorially throughout most of the opening period, it was the Huskies that struck first at 14:12. A bouncing puck ended up finding the stick of a streaking Brian Swinarski who, barely onside, skated in untouched on Goepfert and backhanded a low shot along the ice and inside the far post for the 1-0 lead. The goal was sophomore Swinarski’s fifth of the young season, equaling his total from his rookie campaign.
The goal gave Northeastern plenty of momentum that translated to an offensive onslaught for the remaining five minutes of the first. Goepfert was called upon to make save after save and kept the deficit to one at the close of the period. Despite trailing at one point in shots, 7-1, Northeastern ended up with a 9-7 lead in shots through one.
The Huskies maintained the pressure early in the second and extended the lead at 6:19. Lining up on the right wing side for an offensive zone draw, Eric Ortlip cut across the faceoff circle and picked up the loose puck after Swinarski won the draw. Without a Friar to lay a stick on him, Ortlip fired a low shot that Goepfert kicked right back onto his stick to bury the rebound for a 2-0 lead.
Looking at the prospect of widening the deficit shorthanded midway through the period, the Friar penalty kill stepped up, holding the Huskies at bay. Immediately after, Jonathan Goodwin fed Peter Zingoni for a breakaway that the senior fired low along the ice, beating Gibson to pull Providence within a goal at 2-1.
“We didn’t get good dump-ins and we weren’t hitting [early in the game],” said Pooley. “We kind of had the magic wands going for 30 minutes.
“In the last ten minutes of the second period we started getting a little more involved and we were moving the puck quicker.”
Before the period was over, that quick puck movement paid dividends. Sophomore Torry Gajda cut through the slot when Chris Chaput fired a perfect pass that Gajda roofed over Gibson while falling to the ice. The tally came at 17:47, and it sent the game even entering the final 20 minutes.
The third period was back-and-forth hockey, but few stellar chances existed. It wasn’t until the overtime that each team looked to be comfortable taking risks.
For Providence it nearly paid off. With less than three minutes remaining, an Eric Lundberg shot through a tough screen squeaked through Gibson, but a Northeastern defender was able to clear the puck away before an oncoming Bill McCreary got a stick on it. And a minute later, freshman hopeful Colin McDonald had the game on his stick only to fan on a shot with the net open
at the left post.
Settling for a tie, Providence record moves to 5-2-2 (1-2-2 Hockey East), while the Huskies league record reaches 0-3-1. Each team will remain idle until next Friday when Northeastern travels to Maine for a single game and Providence hosts New Hampshire.