AMHERST, Mass. — Northeastern rookie goaltender Chris Rawlings posted a 31 save shutout to backbone the Huskies to a 2-0 victory at Massachusetts on Friday evening at the Mullins Center.
To go on the road, and especially to UMass which has not been hospitable place for Northeastern, and get a victory is a great night for us, said head coach Greg Cronin. It was kind of a sloppy game, but we were fortunate to be on the good luck end of a sloppy game.
Cronin gave credit to his freshman netminder in securing the shutout, but also felt that it may have not been his best game.
I thought [Chris Rawlings] obviously played well, but I dont think he was as sharp as he usually is. A lot of pucks were hitting him and sliding into the paint, but he has not been doing that and it forced our defense to be a little tougher in that area. We were fortunate, because a lot of the pucks that did squirt through fell out of harms way.
The win for Northeastern (14-12-1 overall, 9-10-1 in Hockey East) is the third in a row and sixth in the last eight games for the Huskies. UMass (16-12-0, 11-10-0) dropped its fourth contest over its last five outings, as the offense has sputtered in the four setbacks with only three goals.
I told the guys after the game that I wasnt as disappointed with the effort as I was with the result, commented UMass coach Don Toot Cahoon. I thought we made a decent effort in terms of playing hard defensively and competing. We just were not sharp offensively, and that comes on the initial rush, on the cycle play and getting our offense down low, and the third piece is the special teams which are really struggling at this point.
Its pretty hard to get a handle on it and determine what the solutions are. We continue to work hard on it in practice. We try to stay positive with the guys, but its also very frustrating to score as little as weve scored over the last three games.
Senior defenseman David Strathman recorded what proved to be the game-winning goal on the power play at 7:59 of the first period, and freshman forward Robbie Vrolyk added an insurance marker in the third with his third goal of the season.
Strathman put home his fourth goal of the season from the point when he wristed Drew Ellements feed from the behind the goal line. Rawlings was also credited with an assist for helping start up the play in the Huskies zone.
Vrolyk netted his goal at the 14:59 mark of the third frame when he took the puck from his own blue line and skated into the Minutemen zone from the left, snapping a shot from the top of the face off circle that beat goaltender Dan Meyers glove side.
While UMass came up empty on the score sheet, the Minutemen certainly had their chances during a game that featured back-and-forth play from time-to-time. Justin Braun had one of the best looks of the first period for Massachusetts, as his power-play attempt from the left circle made it through both a defenseman and Rawlings but still skidded just wide of the far post.
Both netminders had some stellar saves throughout the contest to keep it close. Meyers denied a driving Alex Tuckerman at 8:10 of the second, then at 11:35 stopped a breakaway attempt by Steve Morra to keep it 1-0.
Moments later at the other end of the ice, Rawlings made a flurry of saves at 12:02 to keep his team in the lead.
It was the third shutout of the season for Rawlings, while Meyers made 16 saves for Massachusetts. The Huskies went 1-for-5 on the power play, while the once-potent Minuteman man-advantage unit continued to falter, going 0-for-3 in the game.
Cahoon hinted at who might be in goal for the Minutemen in the coming weeks following the game.
Watching the way [Paul Dainton and Meyers] competed in practice this past week, I thought they both competed pretty good. I thought, having Paul in the last couple of outings Id throw Danny in net tonight and Paul in tomorrow night.
If they play and battle like they have this past week in practice, it seems like a logical rotation. After the coming week, all bets are off.
The two teams reunite for the final meeting in the regular season series on Saturday evening at 7:15 p.m. at Matthews Arena in Boston.