BOSTON — Coming into tonight’s match-up between the No. 13 Northeastern Huskies and the No. 15 Massachusetts Minutemen both teams were riding losing streaks. By virtue of a 1-0 shutout win, the Huskies ended theirs.
Playing in front of a rowdy home crowd 3,570 strong at Matthews Arena, Northeastern prevailed in one of the most physical games of the season. Their lone tally got past Paul Dainton early in the middle frame.
“Hard fought game, tough game, lot of crap going on out there so both teams fought through it. Thiessen was great, I thought Dainton was great too,” UMass coach Don “Toot” Cahoon said after the game.
Coach Cronin echoed similar sentiments: “I think it was an exciting game despite the fact that there was only one goal scored.”
As soon as the puck dropped in the first period anyone could quickly tell it was going to be a physical affair with lots of hard hits, including quite a few after the whistle scrums.
Northeastern also had a goal disallowed during the first period by video replay. Ryan Ginand seemed to knock the puck to the ice with his hand; the question became did it cross the goal line before he got his stick to it. The officials spent a good five minutes analyzing the tape before deciding that the puck had crossed the goal line before his stick touched it, therefore disallowing the goal.
Northeastern opened the second hard and fast and finally found the back of the net on another goal that needed video replay. Wade MacLeod took a shot on the power play from the high slot that took a weird bounce over Dainton and started floating towards the net when Randy Guzior knocked it out of mid air to the back of the net.
The question for the officials: was his stick over the cross bar? Another lengthy video conference proved no, it was not, and the goal was allowed to stand. It turned out to be all the Huskies needed.
“Well the goalie came out and challenged MacLeod and he had a good shot and it just came up in the air and out of mid-air I was going towards the net and just whacked it right under the cross bar as I was getting hit from behind and it went in,” Randy Guzior said after the game.
Northeastern locked down in the third period and much of the play seemed to take place in neutral ice with neither team getting a distinct advantage. The best two chances for UMass came late in the third period.
With a little over five minutes to go Joe Vitale took a tripping penalty. Then 1:11 later Wade MacLeod was whistled for a tripping call as well giving UMass the 5-on-3 advantage. The Northeastern penalty kill struggled last weekend versus Providence allowing five power-play strikes. Tonight, however, Brad Thiessen and the rest of the NU defense shut the door and rarely let UMass get a quality offensive chance.
After killing the two tripping calls NU seemed to be out of the woods. During the final minute UMass pulled the goalie to give them the man advantage with the empty net then Drew Muench took a penalty with 31 seconds on the clock.
With the face-off coming deep in the Northeastern zone, UMass seemed poised to strike however the Huskies won the ensuing draw and cleared the puck, effectively running the clock out.
“Penalty killing was terrific all night,” said Cronin. “We talked about it [last week at practice], we went over video, we walked through some things, and I think there was a little more clarity on what they are supposed to do. It’s a good thing to get straightened out for the Beanpot.”
“I think tonight was probably our best defensive effort of the year. We played really solid on D. That was kind of what we needed to get back to, focus on our defensive end and things go from there,” Northeastern goalie Brad Thiessen said about his second shutout of the season.
The Huskies escaped with a one goal shutout win over the Minutemen to end their three game slide. UMass, meanwhile, is still looking for their first win since December 30. Brad Thiessen made 22 saves for the shutout and Paul Dainton stopped 24.
The NU power play was 1-3 while UMass went scoreless in six tries.
Next up for Northeastern (12-8-3, 9-7-2 HEA) is the first round of the Beanpot where they take on Harvard on Monday at 5 p.m. Tonight was a television game as well and captain Joe Vitale thinks that helped.
“Its good to get the feel for the play stopping, it’s a very, very slow gamebeing a player is seems like every five minutes it seems like youre sitting on the bench waiting, waiting, waiting but by the second or third period you get used to it.”
UMass (9-9-6, 4-8-5 HEA) hosts Maine at the Mullins Center at 7 p.m. Saturday night.