BOSTON — When two teams play a similar defensively-oriented style, the games tend to be low scoring affairs and generally pretty physical.
No. 15 Northeastern and UMass delivered just that Friday night. UMass opened the scoring in the first, but NU battled back for two unanswered goals to win the game 2-1 in front of 2,371 fans at Matthews Arena.
“It’s been said over and over again from my side of the ledger to their side, both teams are mirror images of themselves and closely matched.” UMass coach Don “Toot” Cahoon said.
“Another tight checking game that we’re very fortunate that we’re the winner of it,” said Northeastern coach Greg Cronin. “To me, it was typical of a UMass-Northeastern game where it was a fast-paced game, a lot of transitional opportunities. I think they had the better of the chances in the first period with the transitional game and I thought we improved as the game went on. Obviously we’re happy with the win. All these points are important down the stretch.”
UMass jumped out to a lead about halfway through the first period when Marc Concannon notched his first collegiate point in the form of a wrister past Brad Thiessen, who misplayed the shot to his left. Scott Crowder, son of former Northeastern coach Bruce Crowder (who led the Huskies from 1996-97 to 2004-05) collected the lone assist on the play.
“I watched it go straight in the net,” Thiessen said “I went down to glove it just like a regular shot and it went right by. Just one you’d like to have back, but it happens. I’d rather forget that one.”
It took Northeastern less than three minutes to net the tying goal when David Strathman walked into the slot and ripped a shot past Paul Dainton. UMass defender Brian Keane had to discard his broken stick earlier in the play, and Strathman side-stepped him and walked in uncontested to the slot.
“I faked the shot and walked in, I was looking to make a play back-door but there was no one there so I ended up shooting it and it went in” Strathman said.
The second period was a defensive battle until Kyle Kraemer scored his first of the season with 15 seconds on the clock, breaking a personal scoring slump that dated to February 28th, 2007.
“We were doing a trap in center ice, we got the puck turned over, Wade [MacLeod] hit [Joe] Vitale and then Vitale hit it to me,” Kraemer said. “It was kind of like a one-on-two and I just took the puck wide to my left and then I cut to the middle and used their defensemen as a screen and shot top shelf on the goalie. It’s been kind of rough; its been twenty-something games. Last year, I ended the year pretty well, pretty confident. I came back this year even more confident and kind of run into some bumps along the road. It’s been a long, long, long roller coaster.”
Both teams traded offensive chances in the third period, but both Paul Dainton and Brad Thiessen were up to the task. Dainton made 13 saves in the third, Thiessen six. At one point, it seemed as if UMass had scored the tying goal; however, referee Tim Benedetto whistled P.J. Fenton for interference much to the chagrin of both Fenton and UMass coach Don “Toot” Cahoon.
“I thought we scored the second goal,” Cahoon said. “It was a good goal, and he called interference on our guy. Thiessen is outside of the [crease] and their defensemen takes our guy into Thiessen, end of story.”
The two teams meet again Saturday night at the Mullins Center in Amherst at 7 p.m. With a Northeastern win and Maine loss, Northeastern can clinch a Hockey East playoff spot.