HAMILTON, N.Y. — Northeastern sure knows how to rebound. The Huskies banged home four rebound goals, including one with just four seconds remaining in overtime, to knock off Colgate 4-3 at Starr Rink.
Sophomore Bryan Cirullo, who had scored only once prior to Saturday’s contest, charged the Raider net in the waning seconds of the extra frame and potted the game-winner in front of a stunned road crowd.
“We caught them on their heels a little bit as we transitioned the puck,” said Cirullo. “Bryan Esner took the puck and used our whole mentality of getting shots to the net and hoping for rebounds. I just followed up the play and slid the puck in on the far side.”
The goal even surprised Northeastern (2-3-0, 0-0-0 Hockey East) head coach Bruce Crowder.
“To be honest with you, I was looking for a tie at that point,” he admitted. “I was surprised the net didn’t come off its moorings. It stayed on, and the rebound came right out to Cirullo.”
Colgate (4-1-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) head coach Don Vaughan, whose team never led throughout the contest, struggled to explain the collapse.
“It’s a tough loss, especially with four seconds left to go in overtime,” he said. “We preach a certain game, especially at that stage. It’s amazing to me that we told them that they can’t reach or wave at the puck, that they have to keep moving their feet to pressure the puck, and yet when the guys get out there they start playing to contain. We need to find a way to play grittier.”
Northeastern jumped out to an early 1-0 lead, its first of four one-goal leads on the night, on the power play when Jared Mudryk pounded a second effort past Colgate goalie Steve Silverthorn. The Huskies scored three times in the first two periods with the man advantage, each time using screens to force Silverthorn to surrender juicy rebounds.
“Our power play looked like the world in the second period,” said Crowder, who watched as Esner and Yale Lewis each scored with the extra attacker in the middle frame. “We moved it around nicely and got some goals.”
Lewis assisted on Esner’s tally as well, doubling the sophomore’s season point total to four. The Carbondale, Colo., native put together a strong night after losing his place from the Huskies’ top line.
“This was probably his best game of the year tonight,” said Crowder. “He started out strong against Michigan and then he dipped a little bit. But I took him off the first line and he maybe felt a little bit bad about that. He ended up competing, and that’s the biggest thing we need out of all of our guys.”
Colgate played catchup the entire night, getting a temporary game-tying goal from Marc Fulton and two from Jon Smyth. But the Raiders failed to keep the Northeastern power play off of the board, which kept the team chasing.
“We knew what they were going to do,” said Vaughan. “We worked on it. We just didn’t execute. We got lazy, at times. You can’t play lazy hockey and expect to win.”
The Raiders steadied their penalty kill in the third period. The home crowd came to life when Colgate killed off a five-minute major to defenseman Eric Main late in the period. The team proved unable to take advantage of the swell of energy, however.
“We thought we had a little momentum swing. But you have to give Northeastern credit. They kept their composure and they were able to finish it at the end. We needed 65 minutes tonight, and we only got 64 minutes and 56 seconds.”
Northeastern, loser of three straight entering the game, never gave up even as it appeared both teams would settle for a tie. The Huskies kept pressing and ended up with their second victory of the year.
“We were aware that time was running down,” said Cirullo. “In overtime you try to play within yourself, but there’s a little extra pressure to throw the puck at the net and do everything you can to crash and get the rebounds. That’s what we did, and it worked out for us.”
The victory gives Northeastern a surge heading towards a tough nonconference matchup with North Dakota next weekend.
“It’s fabulous to get a big win on the road this early in the season,” said Crowder. “Now we have to go back and play North Dakota next Saturday night. I’ve said all along that October was going to be a tough month for us and that we’d be better come November. We played better tonight than we did against RPI, and that’s the most important thing.”
Meanwhile, Colgate hopes to get back on track when it hosts Sacred Heart and Army next Friday and Saturday.