BOSTON — Northeastern and Providence were only separated by four points coming into this weekend’s two game series, but with a 3-0 shutout the Huskies extended their lead to six over Providence College Friars at Matthews Arena Friday night.
Brad Thieseen was the clear star of the game making 37 saves on the night-more than a couple at point blank. Special teams were also key as NU collected two power play goals and a short handed goal.
Before two minutes could even elapse there were three penalties called in the game, giving a precursor to the physical battle that was to come. It was a 4-on-3 situation when NU grabbed their first tally. Bryan Esner was working the points during the PC power-play.
After he deflected a pass he used his speed and went tearing down the ice beating PC defender Cody Wild in the foot race then deked goalie Tyler Sims to put the puck in the back of the net.
“That was huge, anytime you get a goal late in the period, any period, its a big boost, you feel good about yourself going into the locker room” NU head coach Greg Cronin said after the game.
On the flip side, PC head coach Tim Army was a little more displeased, “We didn’t get it done [on the 4 on 3], and worse case scenario we gave up a goal on it, which is more damaging then if they had a 4 on 3 and scored on it. I thought that was a turning point in the game.”
PC defender Cody Wild was whistled for a boarding call at 19:49 of the first. Without 11 seconds on the clock NU had little time to waste. Joe Vitale won the draw back to Steve Birnstill who took the shot on net.
After Sims made the first save, and with time ticking down, Joe Santilli found the puck at his stick, back handed a pass to Birnstill who took another shot on net. Once again Sims made the save but Ryan Ginand was there for NU to put the rebound home, scoring with 0.02 left on the clock.
“I think [giving up a goal with 0.02 seconds left] takes a lot of the wind out of your sails. I think its a huge advantage and momentum swing for the team that scores in those situations versus the team that gives that up. It’s very difficult to rebound from that.” Tim Army said.
Providence head coach Tim Army made a goalie chance for the second and third periods, brining Chris Mannix in for only his second ever game.
“I thought it was the right move at that point in time. I thought that Chris played really well in the last two periods.” Tim Army continued, “We did it earlier in the year versus BU when Chris went in and played real well. I was trying to wake our guys up a little, and say ‘We gotta find a way to compete harder in this situation’”.
Northeastern would strike again in the second when Kyle Kraemer set Joe Santilli up for an easy bang-home goal. The play all started with a great individual effort from the freshmen Kraemer. Kraemer kept the puck in at the point and quickly spun around and moved back towards the net.
As Kraemer deked his defender he saw Santilli to his left. With Mannix committed on the shot, Joe Santilli had no issue putting the picture perfect pass into the back of the net.
“I mean unbelievable pass, that was one of the best passes I have ever had given to me for a goal. I’ll take those all day.” senior Joe Santilli said after the game.
With Northeastern up by a trio going into the third they could focus a little bit more on defense. Even with Providence putting up a barrage of shots, the NU defense did a good job of driving them to the outside, giving PC shooters little space to work with.
Any shooter who was able to get through was then stonewalled by Brad Thieseen who made no mistakes and was in perfect position all night long. The game marks the freshmen’s fourth shutout of the season.
“I knew coming in that I was going to get a lot of rubber and be into the game right away,” freshmen netminder Brad Thieseen said, “It helps a lot to feel the rubber all the way though and not have stretches when your sitting back and not having to do much but your in the game the whole time.”
On the night NU’s Brad Thieseen made 37 saves. PC’s Tyler Sims made 5 and Chris Mannix made 15. NU’s power-play was 2-5 and PC continued to struggle a man up going 0-5.
With the win the Huskies move closer to a .500 record, they are now 12-14-4 (8-11-4) and have now won four times as many games as they did last season. Northeastern also helped to solidify themselves a playoff seed as they move eight points ahead of PC.
Northeastern can clinch the playoffs tomorrow with a win over Providence and a Merrimack win or a tie with UMass-Lowell who play against each other again tomorrow night.
Providence on the other hand has some catch-up to do with UMass-Lowell trailing by only one point for the eighth and final playoff seed. The two teams will meet again tomorrow night at Schneider Arena at 7 P.M.