BOSTON — The Northeastern mascot had no problem hitting the net during Friday night’s contest between his Huskies and the Massachusetts-Lowell River Hawks. It was those other guys, the ones in the home locker room, who had all the difficulty.
“Paws” tossed a number of t-shirts into the protective netting behind the goal at Matthews Arena in a failed attempt to reach fans in the balcony during a first intermission promotion, while River Hawk goalie Chris Davidson pitched a 46-save gem that ended as a 1-1 tie.
“Well, I didn’t like the way Chris Davidson played,” Northeastern coach Bruce Crowder said. “He was the difference. He was out, he was aggressive, he played great.”
After taking a 1-0 lead in the first period, UML was on the wrong end of the second-period shot total, recording just three to NU’s 23.
“I would say that’s a well earned point by our team, i.e., our goaltender,” River Hawk coach Blaise MacDonald said. “Our second period was mistake-ridden. I give Northeastern credit for causing turnovers, and we also added to that with many, many unforced turnovers.
“Five minutes into the second period we’re playing fine, and the next thing you know we have one shift by one line that turned it over four times right to their defensemen and created a ton of great chances,” he added. “Our next line goes out and basically does the same thing. That is called sucking every ounce of life out of your team. And, when you’re young, there’s no place to turn – but to your goaltender.”
Davidson wasn’t fazed by the high shot total.
“The more shots I get, the better I feel,” said the extra-sweaty junior. “Especially when I’m on, the puck just looks like a beach ball out there. I was just doing my job. I’m a goalie, that’s what I’m supposed to be doing. The game of hockey and the position of goaltending are all about confidence. Every game you have like that is a confidence builder.”
Northeastern netminder Keni Gibson didn’t face the same volume of shots, but put on an equally spectacular show for the 1,674 attendees.
The Stittsville, Ont., native stopped a trio of chances within the first four minutes of the game that could’ve drastically changed matters.
Forty-seven seconds into the opening frame, Gibson (18 saves) shut the door on a Brad King breakaway. Moments later, he had the answer on a tough shot from the slot by freshman Jake Pence, and at the 2:30 mark of the game, he stoned freshman Jake Tejchma on a shot from just outside the Northeastern crease.
“Keni was out and aggressive and up and that’s what Keni has to be,” Crowder said. “He made some big saves early in the first period which could’ve made us play catch-up more, and with the way Davidson was playing, I’m not sure we could’ve gotten three or four.”
Lowell (8-17-4 overall, 5-8-2 Hockey East) came out firing in the first period, outshooting Northeastern 10-9. Rene Gauthier gave the visitors a 1-0 lead on his fourth goal of the year at 8:30 of the first. The 5-10, 177-pound freshman took a pass in the slot from Danny O’Brien on the power play and sliced it along the ice to the far post to beat Gibson.
Northeastern (7-13-5, 2-10-4) knotted the game with 1:32 left in the second period on sophomore Brian Swiniarski’s 11th goal of the season. Swiniarski, who was skating with junior Jason Guerriero and sophomore Mike Morris for the first time all season, took a feed from Guerriero in front and ripped a one-timer that trickled through Davidson’s pads.
“It deflected off one of our defenseman’s shinpads and just kind of snuck through my arm,” Davidson said. “I thought I had it, had I known it was behind me I probably could’ve sniped it, but I thought I had it. It was just one of those goals.”
Each team came close to ending the game in overtime. Lowell’s Ben Walter, in his first game back after missing four with an injury, fed defenseman Matt Collar at the left post 32 seconds into the extra period, but Gibson flashed a pad and play headed back the other way.
With 1:57 left in OT, Northeastern sophomore Mike Morris took a wrist shot from the right wing that bounded off Davidson’s pads and inches past Swiniarski’s stick while the sophomore had a crack at the UML net.
The game was the last in the season series between Lowell and Northeastern, with the River Hawks going 2-0-1.
“Northeastern is almost a mirror of us last season,” MacDonald said. “They’re a team that plays well and very hard, is well coached but they just kinda are almost there, but can’t get over the hump. I’m glad we’re done with them.”
Lowell will host Providence Sunday at 2 p.m., while Northeastern is off until the Beanpot consolation Monday, a 5 p.m. tilt with Harvard.