BOSTON — Chris Rawlings made 26 saves to lead the Northeastern University Huskies to a 3-0 shutout over the University of Massachusetts-Amherst Minutemen Friday night at Matthews Arena in front of a crowd of 2,690.
The shutout marks Rawlings’ third shutout in the past four games and his fourth overall this season.
“The team’s been playing good and they’ve been making my job a lot easier lately,” said Rawlings. “The whole team, especially the defense, has been playing a lot better.”
Northeastern managed to stay out of the penalty box in the first period and UMass picked up two two-minute minors. Danny Hobbs and Eric Filiou both picked up penalties for crosschecking and slashing, respectively, but both penalties were killed.
The Huskies outshot the Minutemen 13-8 in the first period and had a few good looks at goals. Tyler McNeely picked off the puck in the neutral zone and led a breakaway towards the net but UMass goalie Paul Dainton made a save. Jamie Oleksiak hit a rocket from the blue line but it ricocheted off the right post.
The Huskies were the first to score in the second period. Oleksiak found Braden Pimm between the circles. Pimm then skated towards Dainton, faked left and finagled the puck behind Dainton’s back to put NU up 1-0. The goal was Pimm’s fourth of the season and Oleksiak’s fifth assist.
From the midway point in the second period until the second intermission, the game took a physical turn. At 11:19, there was a double penalty called on both teams. Steve Silva and Conor Sheary each picked up slashing penalties, but Silva also got called for a 10-minute misconduct.
Just as the slashing penalties expired, Michael Pereira was sent off the ice for high-sticking, and after UMass returned to full strength, they earned a one-man advantage when Drew Daniels took a seat for roughing.
At 6:25 in the third period, Rob Dongara scored his fifth goal of the season. Dongara shot the puck from between the circles and found the back of the net after hitting Dainton’s leg. Oleksiak earned his second assist of the night and Brodie Reid picked up his 11th helper of the season.
The Huskies’ first two goals came from freshmen, and paired with the three rookie defensemen (Anthony Bitetto, Luke Eibler and Oleksiak), head coach Greg Cronin likes what he sees from the new guys.
“They’ve been getting better every week,” said Cronin. “I think Pimm, Dongara and Reid distinguish themselves a lot of nights and that’s what carried us through tonight. ”
UMass made a risky decision of pulling Dainton with 2:40 left in the third period. 23 seconds later, Tyler McNeely skated down the ice on a breakaway and scored an unassisted empty netter.
Less than a minute later, the Huskies almost had their fourth goal when Steve Quailer rebounded a shot from Garrett Vermeersch. After stopping the puck with his skate, Quailer gave it a quick tap past Dainton, but after reviewing the play the referees called the goal no good because of a high stick.
The lack of discipline carried over from the second period into the third as NU tallied four more penalties and UMass another five.
“Both teams are competing,” said UMass head coach Don “Toot” Cahoon. “I’ve been in a lot
more undisciplined games. It was chippy but that’s to be expected with two teams fighting for positions in the standings.”
The win keeps the two teams piggy-backed in the Hockey East standings with Northeastern on top of UMass in the number six spot. With the win, the Huskies find themselves one point behind the fourth place tie between Merrimack and the University of Maine. With a 3-0-1 record over the past four games, NU finds themselves gaining the momentum they were lacking at the beginning of the season.
“The second half of the season is huge especially the last three weekends,” said Rawlings. “It’s great to hit a momentum that we’ve been hitting lately. We dug ourselves into a little bit of a hole at the beginning of the season and we’ve worked hard, put everything aside, played for us and we’ve made our way back to .500 which is great.”
UMass will look to split the series with Northeastern tomorrow evening, Saturday January 30th on their home ice in Amherst.
The puck drops at 7 p.m.