BOSTON — Remember three months ago, when preseason Hockey East cellar pick Northeastern stunned favorite Providence with a 1-1 tie? Sunday, Northeastern finished the turnabout.
The Huskies (9-5-6, 3-3-2 Hockey East) were outshot 15-2 in the first period. They trailed 1-0 for almost half the game. They led for less than three minutes. Yet they were ahead 2-1 over the Friars (7-10-2, 3-2-1) when it counted: at the end.
Northeastern goaltender Chanda Gunn was visibly emotional when the final buzzer sounded, and the benches poured out in celebration to mob her. It was the kind of celebration that hadn’t been seen from the Matthews Arena home side in a while.
“I haven’t even processed it yet that we won this game, that we were ever down 1-0,” said a shell-shocked yet exuberant Gunn after making 35 saves in the victory.
The Huskies trailed 1-0 from six minutes into the second period until 13:22 of the third period, when freshman Amy Goodney’s one-timer in front found the right corner of the net. Goodney had been left unmarked a few yards from the net, and sophomore Theresa Ella found her from deep along the left boards.
“Now they have all the momentum, and they’re believing that they can get it done,” said Providence coach Bob Deraney in recapping another game that slipped away.
Northeastern got it done with just under three minutes remaining. Husky sophomore Rachel Bertram fired a slapshot, initially stopped by Providence goaltender Jana Bugden. Goodney made the heads-up play to send the rebound back to top-scoring sophomore Cyndy Kenyon for a quick putback. Bugden dived backwards to stop the puck and it seemed she had it at first, put it trickled in for the eventual game-winner.
“Chanda Gunn and our defense keeps us in game, and we’re a good third-period team,” said Northeastern coach Joy Woog. “I was telling them when we were down 1-0, we’re still in this game and we’re where we want to be.”
The win snapped a string of close games for Northeastern that had ended in ties. The Huskies had tied No. 10 Ohio State and twice tied No. 4 Wisconsin. The win was the Huskies’ first in conference over a team other than last-place Boston College. Gunn, personally, was not looking forward to another overtime, and she was grateful her teammates came through.
For the Friars, it was another agonizing defeat. In six of their last seven losses, the game was tied at some point in the final 10 minutes. The exception was Wednesday’s 8-6 loss to No. 2 Dartmouth, in which they cut a 6-2 third-period deficit to 6-5 in the final minutes.
“We’re just not getting the breaks,” Deraney said.
The Friars outshot Northeastern 36-19. Providence has maintained a strong territorial advantage in almost all of its games, with Dartmouth and No. 3 Harvard being the exceptions. Yet the Friars often end up with nothing to show for it.
“It’s not just a matter of who makes the mistakes that wins, it’s a matter of who takes advantage of those mistakes, and we’re not doing that right now,” Deraney said.
The only time Providence did take advantage was at the sixth minute of the second period. In the final seconds of a power play, Rush Zimmerman circled behind the net and threw the puck in front. It bounced off Gunn’s pads and onto the doorstep, from where freshman Sonny Watrous one-timed it into the right side of the net. Gunn and two Northeastern defenders had packed the left side.
When Providence outshot Northeastern 15-2 in the first period, most of the shots came from the outside or under pressure within Gunn’s sights. Providence got its best chances when senior defenseman Kelli Halcisak carried the puck into the offensive zone, but the Huskies never let any of her shots off uncontested.
Northeastern only carried the puck into the Providence zone sparingly during the period. Woog admitted that the period looked too much like a drill, where Northeastern was just retrieving the puck and firing it back into the neutral zone. The Huskies came back strong in the first minutes of the second period with more shots than the had the entire first period.
The Huskies’ best chance of the first period came off a turnover that set Northeastern freshman Crystal Rochon alone in front of the net, but Bugden prevented her from getting a clean shot.
Rochon was responsible for another great chance early in the third period when she stole the puck at the defensive blue line and went the other way, but she dislodged the net on the breakaway when trying to take her shot.
Ashley Payton had the Friars’ best chance to take a two-goal lead when she was set free on a breakaway from the offensive blue line, but Gunn stopped Payton low to her glove side.
Northeastern next plays UConn, a strong defensive team like itself. Providence plays a home-and-home against No. 8 UNH. The Friars took three of four from UNH last year in winning the first women’s Hockey East title.
Deraney notes that schedule doesn’t get any easier. After this weekend, Providence will have played seven of its last 10 games against ranked teams.
“We’re a scary team for people to play, because they’re going to wonder when we’re finally going to break out,” Deraney said.