BOSTON — Every point in Hockey East this season is critical, and with a 3-0 win at home against Mass.-Lowell, the Huskies of Northeastern have clinched home ice in the first round of the Hockey East tournament. This is good news for Northeastern, because Matthews Arena has been a very difficult place to beat the Huskies.
Northeastern coach Greg Cronin knows how important every point can be.
“We are happy with the two points, get ready to play tomorrow night,” Cronin said. “You’ve heard me say this a million times; we just take it one game at a time. One practice at a time, one game at a time. We just have to control what we do as a group. We’ve got a pretty mature team, they know what’s at stake, and they know what they have to do to be successful.
“We want to win the league; we’ve got that goal, to win a championship. It was a good team effort. (Brad) Thiessen was terrific last weekend, he was good tonight. You can see he was on his game, spotting the rebounds and smothering pucks.”
“The better team clearly won tonight; I thought Northeastern came out in the very beginning of the game and played with a lot of intensity and determination, something we lacked.” said Lowell coach Blaise MacDonald. “When we did get some opportunities, the player of the year in Hockey East was there to stop them.
Thiessen was excited about clinching home ice in the tournament.
“It will be great. It’s great for the school to have this, and it’s something that we’ve been working towards the whole three years that I’ve been here. It’s been a gradual thing, and we were able to clinch that tonight. Hopefully we don’t stop there; we go for first place now.”
“You’ve got to give Northeastern credit; they came out and they outmatched us.” MacDonald said. “It was clearly the worst game we have played all year, but Northeastern had a lot to do with that. We’ve been playing really well. I like our team a lot. I think we can do some real special things. We’ve got to learn from these opportunities.”
Northeastern jumped on top 2-0 in the first period, a period that held multiple power play opportunities for both teams.
Freshman Husky Mike McLaughlin scored the first goal of the contest at 8:02 of the first period when he took a feed from Alex Tuckerman and snuck his quick wrist shot under the cross bar to beat Lowell goalie Nevin Hamilton. Tuckerman swooped around the net to Hamilton’s left and found McLaughlin posted up in the slot, and McLaughlin did the rest.
Just a couple minutes later Northeastern, used the man advantage to take a two goal lead. As McLaughlin carried the puck into the Lowell zone, he threw a pass into the slot that was tipped by Steve Silva and found its way through Hamilton’s pads.
Despite the River Hawks outshooting the Huskies 14-6 in the second period, Northeastern was the only team that managed a goal.
NU got on the board early in the second when junior defenseman Jim Driscoll put them up 3-0 at 3:08. Randy Guzior carried the puck hard through the neutral zone and into the Lowell zone, creating space down the middle of the ice. Driscoll filled the void, creating a three-on-two. Guzior fed the rushing defenseman and Driscoll snuck a wrist shot low blocker side, beating Hamilton.
Thiessen and the Northeastern penalty kill stood tall again in the second, as they efficiently killed off River Hawks’ power plays in the second frame.
“I thought we did a good job on the shorthand,” said Cronin after the game. “We did a good job blocking shots. Brad was obviously very good. He had a shutout, so I thought our penalty killing was very good.”
The third period was a neutral zone battle for much of the period , with UMass carrying the possession but finding very little space in the Northeastern zone to work with. Their best chance came on a power play with about eight minutes left, but once again, Thiessen was up to the task.
These two teams will meet again tomorrow night to finish up the weekend home-and-home series.