BOSTON — It is too soon to predict whether Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan will usher in an era of elusive success against New Hampshire.
But Madigan’s inaugural appearance against the Wildcats – a 4-0 victory over No. 15 UNH Friday night – could not have been scripted more perfectly. Northeastern notched its first win of the season, its first triumph over the Wildcats since 2008, and its first shutout of UNH in over 50 years.
“I’ll have the memory, but we needed to get the win,” Madigan said. “(Going) 1-1-1 in the league is more important than Jim Madigan getting a win. I’m thrilled for our team because we competed hard.”
With the memory of last week’s disheartening 6-3 loss to Maine not far from mind, UNH’s early pressure had the Huskies back on their heels in the first five minutes of the opening frame. Northeastern bent, but did not break, turning the tide with a three-minute offensive onslaught – with contributions from three of its four lines – that effectively decided the game in its favor.
“It happened very quickly tonight in the first period,” Wildcats head coach Dick Umile said. “Turnovers and a couple of bad passes on our part right to them and bang, before you know it, we’re down three-zip.”
The Huskies made their first shot on goal count when rubber met net at 6:29. Northeastern center Braden Pimm, whose late-game heroics netted the Huskies a 3-3 tie in the season opener over Massachusetts, tucked a long pass from linemate Steve Quailer past the left skate of UNH netminder Matt DiGirolamo.
Sloppy defense deep in the Wildcats’ zone allowed Northeastern to double its lead just over a minute later. Adam Reid outworked a UNH defender behind the net and backhanded a pass to Zak Stone at the center of the crease. Stone captured his first collegiate goal at 7:46 by sliding a shot between DiGirolamo’s pads and the post.
Not to be outdone, the Huskies’ top line got in to the scoring action midway through the first period. Ludwig Karlsson’s initial shot from the crease was turned away by the Wildcat defense, but the rebound danced out to Josh Manson at the right point. Manson fired a laser on net that Justin Daniels tipped past DiGirolamo at 9:21 to give NU the three-goal advantage.
“The flurry of three goals in the first period gave us some of the offense that we’ve had during the course of the year,” Madigan said. “It gave us a chance to believe in what we’ve been trying to work on in the last three days of practice.”
After a quiet middle frame, the only Northeastern line that had not yet scored jumped in to the fray almost halfway through the third period. Mike McLaughlin took a pass from Luke Eibler and launched a wrist shot from the top of the right circle over DiGirolamo’s shoulder at 8:37.
Despite the Huskies’ prolific offense, the secret to Northeastern’s success was its suffocating defense. Its blueliners were responsible for blocking 34 of UNH’s attempted shots and Chris Rawlings stymied the Wildcats on all 26 of their chances.
“It’s a complete 180 (from last week),” Rawlings said. “I thought the biggest key tonight was how many shots that we blocked. (UNH) came over the blue line, trying to shoot on me (and) pucks weren’t getting through, which makes my job a lot easier.”
Rawlings himself is no stranger to this strategy for success. With the win, he tied Northeastern’s shutout record with his ninth career blanking, sharing the record with Brad Thiessen.
“Although we might have gotten out of the blocks a little slow in the first five minutes of the period and they were coming at us, (Rawlings) made some real good saves and kept us in the game,” Madigan said.
By contrast, the Wildcats fall to 0-2 and have failed to light the lamp in 120 minutes of play.
“We’re shooting the puck, but we’re not taking quality grade-A shots,” UNH co-captain Mike Borisenok said. “When we do try to make a play, we try to make too much of a play versus making a simple play. We need to just continue pushing the pace and trying to get a goal.”
While the Huskies bask in their victory a bit longer with a night off, the Wildcats continue to search for their first win – and their first goal – against vaunted Hockey East rival, No. 1 Boston College, tomorrow night.