BOSTON — Northeastern bounced back from an ugly 9-2 Saturday loss at Vermont with a 3-1 win over Providence, keyed by goals from defensemen David Strathman and Jake Newton.
Tyler McNeely iced the game with an empty-net goal with 18 seconds left after picking the pocket of a Friar at the point. Goaltender Chris Rawlings, who’d also been looking for a bounce-back performance, stopped 23-of-24 shots for the win.
Ironically, the Beanpot may have played a role in the Huskies getting back on track.
“If you can get two points out of a trip to Vermont, it’s a pretty good trip,” NU coach Greg Cronin said. “But the ugliness in the Saturday night game [made you] worry about the psychology of the team.
“But yesterday there were about 1200 kids in the stands because we were selling Beanpot tickets and it was a different atmosphere for practice. There was a lot of jump so if there was any hangover, I could tell after practice it was over.”
The two teams entered the contest jockeying for playoff position with each other, Northeastern in eighth place two points ahead of the Friars but giving up three games in hand. With the win, the Huskies leapfrog Vermont and Boston University into sixth place, albeit while conceeding several games in hand to both teams.
“[This game] showed the character in our locker room,” Strathman said. “It showed that we want to be in the playoffs and a chance to fight for the league championship. The regular season [title] is out of shot now but the tournament is where it’s at. We were desperate for two points and that’s what we got.”
On the down side, the injury-plagued Huskies may have suffered another significant loss. With 8:37 left in the third, defenseman Drew Muench suffered a serious-looking knee injury and had to be helped off the ice, supported by two teammates, and into the locker room.
Providence (9-11-1, 4-9-1 HEA) had entered the matchup on a high note, breaking a six-game losing streak with back-to-back wins on the weekend over Boston University and Maine. The Friars, however, could not sustain that momentum and remain in ninth place with an even larger gap to close now.
“It was huge,” PC coach Tim Army said. “We played it like it was a playoff game. We’re trying to make our way up the standings so these were two very valuable points. They got them and we didn’t.
“There’s nothing we can do about it. We’ve got to regroup and reload for New Hampshire this weekend.”
In the game’s early going, Northeastern enjoyed a modest territorial advantage but no major scoring chances. Those opportunities went to the Friars. Near the end of their first power play midway through the period, Tim Schaller couldn’t cash in from the doorstep. A little more than a minute later, Kyle MacKinnon and Matt Bergland took off on a two-on-one after a bad pinch by a Huskies defenseman, but similarly couldn’t take advantage.
At 11:18 however, Strathman did, on a slap shot from the left point that caromed off iron and into the net. It was the senior’s third goal of the season.
With little more than a minute left in the period, Providence tied it 1-1 on a delayed Huskies’ penalty. Mark Fayne got the puck to Ian O’Connor in front, where the junior backhanded it in.
Early in the second, Bergland almost gave Providence its first lead, but his shot from low in the slot rang off the crossbar. From that point on, second-period chances were tough to come by for the Friars, as they were outshot 13-3.
Four of those Northeastern shots came on two power plays, one of which gave the Huskies the lead they would not relinquish. Newton, a freshman defenseman who had assisted on the first goal, fired a slap shot from the point through a McNeely screen and into the top of the net.
Providence generated 11 shots on goal in the third period but couldn’t slip the equalizer past Rawlings.