ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Goaltender Brad Thiessen’s 45-save performance led Northeastern to a 3-2 victory Saturday night over Michigan and a split in the Huskies’ weekend series with the Wolverines at Yost Arena.
The freshman goaltender made several key glove saves in the second period, twice robbing Michigan left wing Kevin Porter, to keep the Wolverines off the scoreboard during the period in which his own teammates tallied twice to take a lead they never relinquished.
“This was my first win and it feels good to have it down here at Michigan,” said Thiessen. “They’re really good at cross-ice passes, so the key was being able to move across quickly side-to-side. Once we were able to weather the storm in the second period, we were able to control the play better in the third period.”
“He’s a unique goaltender because not only does he stop the puck effectively, he’s great at handling the puck,” said Northeastern coach Greg Cronin of his freshman goaltender. “He acts like a third defenseman back there when he handles pucks that are dumped in. You keep going to him because you see the talent there. When you have a guy that’s that athletic back there, it makes the game a lot easier for our defensemen.”
Unlike the previous night, Cronin was also pleased with his team’s performance after the tough Friday night overtime loss to the Wolverines.
“Tonight was a hard game to gauge because there were so many penalties,” said Cronin. “When you have to fight off 24-26 minutes against a team like that you’re almost in a desperation mode. The penalty kill was outstanding. We did a terrific job on that and I thought we did a great job of managing the puck when we were up a goal or two in the third period. It was a great win for us, for our school. The penalty killing revolves around the goaltender and he was outstanding tonight. Our challenge was to get after it right away instead of waiting five minutes like last night – don’t be the nail, be the hammer. I thought we established ourselves early tonight.”
Despite the Huskies’ better start, Michigan sophomore defenseman Jack Johnson got the Wolverines on the scoreboard first at 7:49 of the opening stanza. Taking a drop pass from T.J. Hensick at the right point, Johnson streaked in on Husky netminder Thiessen and whistled a shot toward the far corner of the net. Thiessen’s kick save rebounded back to Johnson who stuffed the puck into the empty side of the net from a step behind the goal line.
Thiessen out dueled Michigan goaltender Billy Sauer in the second period, fending off 20 Wolverine shots, while his teammates put together a pair of goals to carry a one-goal lead into the third period, 2-1.
“You have to give credit to the goalie, obviously,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “He made the saves he had to make.”
At 5:06 of the second period, Northeastern defenseman Andrew Linard fired a screened shot from the right point that Sauer kicked out, but freshman Randy Guzior banged the rebound home from Sauer’s doorstep to tie the game at 1-1.
Just over two minutes later, Northeastern converted a power play to take the lead. Husky center Jimmy Russo lifted a backhand past Sauer from the slot at 7:24 to put the Huskies on top by a goal, 2-1.
Special teams play dominated the second period with nine calls made in the period, including 19 minutes alone from a fracas at the 9:52 mark. Husky sophomore center Joe Vitale bowled over Sauer after breaking in on the Michigan goaltender, knocking him straight back into the Wolverine net after a scoring chance.
Johnson came to Sauer’s defense, throwing several punches and receiving a five minute fighting penalty along with a game disqualification. That disqualification, and the resulting one-game suspension, will keep the Michigan sophomore defender out of the first game of the Wolverine’s key series with rival Michigan State next Friday night.
“It was a hard hit on our goalie, and I know the nearest player would have done the same,” said Berenson of Johnson. “I couldn’t tell you if it should have been a disqualification, but it was a serious hit on our goalie and it was a serious retaliation. You’ve got to protect the goalie and we ended up coming out on the short end of that.”
Husky freshman Chad Costello increased the Northeastern lead to 3-1 midway through the final period converting a pass from Guzior.
Michigan gained hope again at 16:36 when Porter connected from the slot on one of the six shots he got off on Thiessen in the game.
The Porter goal awakened the Wolverine offense and Michigan stormed the Husky net for the final minute of play with David Rohlfs nearly tying the contest with just second remaining. Thiessen and the Huskies held on, though, for their second win of the season in six tries.
After playing their first six games at home, Michigan (4-2-0, 1-1-0 CCHA) finally hits the road next Friday for the opening game of a two-game series with Michigan State. Northeastern (2-3-1, 0-2-1 Hockey East) starts a two-game set with conference rival New Hampshire that same night.