BOSTON — Through two periods Friday night, bottom-dwelling Northeastern hung with No. 12 Maine, answering the visiting Black Bears shot for shot. The script, however, changed in the third.
Maine (16-9-0, 9-7-0 Hockey East) scored three unanswered goals in the third period to escape Matthews Arena with a 6-3 victory in front of 2,932 Husky faithful.
That’ll happen when you’re 1-17-5, as Northeastern now is.
“I think we were fortunate tonight to come out with a win,” said Black Bear coach Tim Whitehead. “The momentum shifted to us in the third period, but it certainly could have gone the other way. We’re just fortunate that we got the last swing in momentum.”
“That’s what we expected,” he later added. “Just from over the years, we know it’s going to be a battle every time we play them and this was exactly the same. Every time we scored, they bounced right back and again we were just fortunate.”
Fortunate, yes, but it doesn’t hurt to have the likes of senior captain Greg Moore, either. The hulking power forward scored twice, giving him a team-leading 18 goals on the season. Fourth-line winger Keith Johnson also scored twice for Maine.
Johnson scored the game’s first goal, swatting a loose puck in the NU crease past Husky netminder Adam Geragosian (29 saves).
Five minutes later, Northeastern answered.
Junior forward Yale Lewis raced for a loose puck in the Maine zone while freshman netminder Ben Bishop (18 saves) raced out of his crease to get it. Lewis reached it first, tapped it past the 6-7, 217-pound backstop and barely flicked it in before it rolled behind the net.
Four minutes before intermission, Moore buried his first goal of the game on a wrist shot to Geragosian’s left.
Less than a minute later, the Huskies clawed even again.
Sophomore Josh Robertson, playing his fourth-straight game after sitting out 13 as a healthy scratch, fed junior defenseman Brian Deeth in the slot, who paused before lacing a wrist shot over Bishop’s left
In the second period, Moore made it 3-2 when he gathed a pass from defenseman Steve Mullin at the right post, deked to his backhand and lifted the puck over Geragosian’s pad.
“He’s great, isn’t he?” Whitehead said. “He’s really an inspiration to the team. He just plays so hard. There have been several times this year where he’s almost looked like the Little League player in the World Series who’s 13 and everyone else is 12 and you’re like ‘Check the birth certificate.’”
Still, NU rallied again.
With a slew of Maine penalties late in the period, the Huskies enjoyed a man advantage (much of which was 5-on-3) for nearly four-straight minutes. The team finally slipped one past Bishop when a shot from senior Brian Swiniarski hit his chest, glanced off the crossbar and sat lifeless in the crease for freshman Dennis McCauley to swat home.
With the game even at 3-3 to start the third period, Johnson scored the winner two minutes in. Geragosian turned back a bid by senior winger John Hopson, but the rebound lay untouched in the crease for Johnson to pot for his fifth goal of the season.
“I thought Keith was great,” Whitehead said. “We’ve been looking for contributions from our entire team, all 20 guys, and Keith led the way. I thought he really showed a lot of heart and determination on loose pucks and he ended up getting rewarded with a couple goals.”
Four minutes later, senior defenseman Travis Wight made it 5-3 — the first two-goal lead of the game for the Black Bears — by tapping the rebound of a Moore shot into the vacant NU net. Later, with just 1:14 to play, senior center Jon Jankus padded the lead to three goals, placing a wrist shot over Geragosian’s glove.
It was yet another disappointing near-miss for the Huskies, now winless in their last 15 games.
“I thought we were terrible,” said coach Greg Cronin. “We were sloppy. We just looked awful. I thought we played pretty good in the last two games, we played well against Vermont. There was some pace, there was some rhythm to our game. Tonight, we were choppy. We were just totally disorganized.
“I thought we were horrible in the first two periods, you think you dodged a bullet and you try to build a little momentum into that and really their two goals were isolated plays. They didn’t generate too much the first ten minutes (of the third period). But again, they’re isolated plays, they’re a good team, they score on them.”
Maine will attempt to sweep the season series Saturday night at Matthews Arena, starting at 7 p.m.