PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Mike McLaughlin has had quite a week for the Northeastern Huskies. He recorded his first goal of the year last Saturday in a loss to Vermont, and struck again twice tonight to lead the Huskys attack against Providence College in a 3-1 victory.
It feels great to be in the lineup, playing with such great players like Joe (Vitale) and Wade (MacLeod), they make it so much easier to play. They make the ice so much more open.
Head coach Greg Cronin seems to be pulling all the right strings.
He started to come along at the break in Minnesota, he was real visible and weve got a veteran team so hes got to fight for his ice, Cronin said. Last game he was terrific when we played Vermont in a loss, and he was terrific again tonight. Its been a real blessing that he has been able to stay with a positive attitude and come into a game like this and be one of the most visible guys on the ice.
Northeastern (17-5-2 overall, 13-3-1 in Hockey East) remains atop their conference for the time being as they defeated the Friars of Providence College (6-14-2, 3-10-2) in a defensive battle at Schneider Arena in front of 1,762 people.
It was a hard fought battle in tight spaces as recognized by coach Cronin.
It was one of those games where whoever makes a mistake, it could lead to losing the game for you.
Northeastern used the first period to gain a 2-1 advantage, although they were outshot 10-9. The Friars had three power-play opportunities but could not capitalize on any of them, as Northeastern goalie Brad Thiessen and the penalty kill unit was very effective.
The Huskies struck first at 7:45 in the first period when Mike McLaughlin took a feed from captain Joe Vitale who was behind the net and tucked it nicely inside the right post for his second goal of the year.
It was a great job by Wade on the wall, it was a great forecheck, and with his second effort passed it down to Joe. Joe just made a great pass over the defensemans stick to me and I just put it over his glove.
McLaughlin would not be done in this frame.
Providence evened the score about a minute later when senior Pierce Norton netted his sixth goal of the year. Norton took a feed from linemate Austin Mayer who was posted behind the Northeastern net, and snuck a quick wrist shot short side off Thiessens right pad.
With about five minutes left in the first, the Huskies jumped on top once again, and once again, it was McLaughlin who found the back of the net.
Defenseman Jim Driscoll pushed the puck up along the boards to Tyler McNeely who was fresh out of the box. The Huskies had numbers as they entered the attacking zone when McNeely threw a saucer pass across to McLaughlin who beat Alex Beaudry glove side underneath the cross bar.
Tyler came out of the box, and we went in on a two on one, and he made an unbelievable pass, and I just seemed to put it high, glove side, Cronin said.
Providence kept the pressure up the rest of the way but came up empty handed with late flurries.
The second period held nothing in the way of scoring as both teams squandered power-play opportunities. The second of which for Northeastern came late in the period, when Friar Goalie Alex Beaudry kept his team within striking distance. Beaudry has been hot of late, and flashed some glove on a sprawling save to keep the Huskies off the board in the second.
Northeasterns head coach Greg Cronin commented on the play from the opposing freshman goalie.
Hes a good goalie, hes not a big kid, but theres not a lot of net behind him when youre looking through the eyes of the puck. Obviously a catalyst to their resurgence here.
The Huskies had a slight advantage in the shot department, 10-9. Northeastern added an insurance goal late in the third on the power play. Ryan Ginand took a feed from Joe Vitale and circled around to the left of goalie Alex Beaudry. He fired a shot from just below the dot that bounced off of Beaudry and into the short side giving the Huskies the 3-1 lead.
The Friars tried to push back into the game as they pulled their goalie when awarded a power play with three minutes left. However, Thiessen and the Husky defense was up to the challenge, and they failed to put another tally on the board.
These teams will meet again tomorrow night at Matthews Arena in Boston.