BOSTON — After enduring the longest winless streak to open a season in school history, the Northeastern Huskies seem to have figured out a recipe for success: get a shutout from junior Keni Gibson and pot a few goals in the process.
NU won its second game in a row Saturday night, an impressive 4-0 romp over visiting Princeton. Gibson, who made 25 saves to shut out Vermont last Saturday, hasn’t been scored on in the last 128:54. The back-to-back shutouts are Northeastern’s first since the 1956-57 season, when the Huskies blanked Norwich and Middlebury in consecutive games.
Offensively, the contest was the first time Northeastern (2-9-2) scored four goals since Feb. 28 of last year. The Huntington Avenue Hounds had netted three goals only twice in the current campaign, and had been held under three in each of their last nine games. Jason Guerriero, Jon Awe, Tim Judy and Eric Ortlip all posted two points for NU.
“It was nice to get past two, wasn’t it?” NU coach Bruce Crowder said with a smirk. “I think everybody was excited about that.
“It was good to see us come back and play as hard as we played after getting our first win last week,” the eighth-year coach added. “What we’re seeing is extremely encouraging. It’s part of the learning process and the mental attitude of the players and their ability to fight through adversity. There’s no doubt we’ve had a lot of adversity in the first 13 games we’ve played.”
In what might be the understatement of the year, Princeton coach Len Quesnelle was none too pleased with his team’s performance.
“We had some guys that showed up and some guys that didn’t show up tonight. That’s unacceptable for this group,” he said. “Man for man we had some guys that made the plays we think they’re capable of making, and we had other guys that tried to go one-on-one and some guys that got outcompeted. This team won’t win hockey games with 50 percent of your lineup showing up and executing.”
The loss did little to ease the Tigers’ Saturday night woes. Princeton (4-9-0) is now 0-7 on Saturday and giving up an average of five goals a game.
“I’d like to say we were feeling pretty good after a Friday night win, but that didn’t happen because we didn’t play last night,” Quesnelle said. “I don’t know what the rationale is behind it on Saturday nights. We’ve talked about it, we’ve tried to address it as a staff, but there’s no secret to it. It’s a matter of showing up, competing and playing hockey.”
Northeastern held a 1-0 advantage after one period on the first of assistant captain Eric Ortlip’s two goals. The puck pinballed from Guerriero to Awe before landing on the senior’s stick in front of the Princeton crease. The St. Louis native then began his second career two-goal evening by sliding the puck along the ice to the right post.
At the 10:39 mark of the second period, Mike Morris dazzled the crowd with a spine-tingling assist to put NU up 2-0. When Morris received a pass at the left slot, almost everyone in the building, and most notably Tiger goalie Eric Leroux, figured the sophomore would uncork a shot. Morris, however, zipped a pass across the crease for fellow sophomore Steve Sanders to deposit into the vacated net.
Despite the frustrations of having only one goal this year, Morris didn’t hesitate to make the pass.
“At first I expected him to shoot it,” Guerriero said. “I wouldn’t say he’s in a slump, but he’s a goal-scorer. He can pick corners. I figured he would, but he’s got some of the best hockey sense out there. I never doubt the kid when he’s got the puck.
“Everybody wants to score, and when you’re not scoring it gets frustrating,” he added. “But, he sees the ice better than anybody out there. If he’s got the puck, he’s going to make a play.”
Junior Jared Mudryk finished NU’s two-goal second when he buried a breakaway over Leroux’s right shoulder with two minutes to play in the period.
In the third frame, Ortlip scooped the rebound of a shot by Awe at the right post for his fifth tally of the year.
Northeastern doesn’t play again until Dec. 28, against Colgate in the opening round of the RPI tournament.
“I think it’s a good time to have a break,” Guerriero said. “Of course you get the two wins and think ‘Why stop now?’ But, we leave on a positive note and we’ll come back on a positive note. We take that little break, and now we’ll be itching to come back. We’ve got two wins, we know what we can do and we’ll go from there.”
Princeton returns home Tuesday after a four-game road trip to play ECAC rival Harvard at 7 p.m.