COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Behind strong goaltending by Chris Rawlings and timely offense, the No. 20 Northeastern Huskies knocked off the Colorado College Tigers, 4-3, to earn a split on the weekend.
Northeastern didn’t wait long to get on the board. McNeely took a pass from David Strathman, and as he hit the top of the circle he let a snap shot fly that beat Tigers’ goaltender Tyler O’Brien high stick side at 3:44.
“I thought we played our game the first period,” said Huskies’ coach Greg Cronin. “We had a really good identity. I thought we made some high percentage plays with the lead.”
CC got on the board at the 9:01 mark when Tigers’ captain Mike Testwuide took a pass from Mike Boivin as he came out of the left corner towards the slot and slid the puck along the ice glove side past Rawlings.
However, the Huskies quickly regained the lead on a soft goal when Robbie Vrolyk stuffed a rebound of a Chris Donovan shot under O’Brien’s pads a 10:42.
“The first period killed us,” said Tigers’ coach Scott Owens. “We weren’t moving our feet. They came out extremely hard, and I think Tyler was shaky in the first period.”
Northeastern built the lead to two on a power-play goal when Garrett Vermeersch let a shot go from just inside the blue line near the center of the ice that beat O’Brien glove side. O’Brien looked like he never saw it.
O’Brien kept the lead to two when he made a great blocker save on a tip-in try by Steve Silva from the slot.
The Tigers had a couple of chances late to get a goal back, most notably on a wild scrum in the Huskies’ crease at the 18:58 mark that had all the players diving on top of each other trying to knock in a semi-loose puck, but Rawlings managed to cover it up.
Tigers’ coach Scott Owens must have had a talk with his players at the intermission, because they came out much stronger in the second period and dominated the period, getting a lot of scoring opportunities and keeping the Huskies bottled up their zone. At times, Northeastern went a minute without being able to clear.
On a late power play, Northeastern’s Wade MacLeod had a golden short-handed chance, finding himself alone in the slot, but he couldn’t lift it past O’Brien, and Strathman lifted the rebound right into O’Brien’s pads.
“He shot it into him; it was like three point blank shots in five seconds,” said Cronin. “That’s a bad omen. It could have been 4-1 instead of 3-2, but that’s hockey.”
That loomed large, because just seconds later, Andreas Vlassopoulos picked up the puck behind the goal and fed a pass to Testwuide in front, and Testwuide beat Rawlings five-hole at the 18:35 mark.
However, the Tigers barely had time to celebrate before the Huskies answered. Jim Driscoll had the puck on the left boards and fed Donovan streaking down the right side, and Donovan beat O’Brien with a quick wrist shot high at 19:04.
“That was really critical,” said Cronin. “I think we took three straight penalties and the momentum was clearly on CC’s side. To come into the third with a 4-2 lead instead of a 3-2 lead, it’s a totally different perspective. A lot of credit has to go to our goalie; he was the star of the game.”
“That fourth goal was a killer. You work 15 minutes to get that goal to make it 3-2, and we were buzzing, and there’s excitement on the bench, and to give one up with 55 seconds to go, that’s a killer. Those break your back.”
The Tigers continued their strong play in the third, and Tyler Johnson pulled them to within one at 9:34 when he banged home a rebound of a Nate Prosser shot from the left side of the slot.
“I thought we did a lot of good things and generated a lot of shots,” said Owens. “I thought we were wearing them down.”
Buoyed by the goal, the Tigers launched an all out assault. Prosser had a good chance coming down from the left point, but his shot went wide. When the Tigers got a shot on goal, Rawlings made the stop.
“Tonight he played well,” said Cronin. “I could tell before the game he was relaxed and confident. He’s a young goalie; he’s a freshman and it’s a process with goalies. There’s a total adjustment that needs to be made.”
Any hope of a tying goal was obliterated by an elbowing penalty to Joe Marciano at 18:59.
“I thought we came out in the third and competed pretty well,” said Owens. “I think we continue to take too many penalties. It’s a result of getting ourselves into a bad position. Defensively, I thought we were fine. We just have to get ourselves further along in the season and get in shape.”