DURHAM, N.H. — New Hampshire defeated Northeastern, 3-2, for its third straight win, keeping pace with Providence in a tie for sixth place and closing to within five points of Maine and fifth in Hockey East.
Northeastern scored just 30 seconds into the game, but two weak goals put UNH ahead 2-1 by the end of the period. The Wildcats expanded the lead to 3-1 in the second and maintained the margin until an extra-skater goal in the closing minutes provided the final margin.
Austin Block scored two goals for UNH, while Casey DeSmith stopped 24 of 26, including all between the bookend opening-minute and closing-minutes goals.
“After our weekend [getting swept by] BC, we knew that every game was going to be huge and every point was really big for us,” UNH assistant captain Stevie Moses said. “These three straight wins have given us a lot of confidence and a boost in the standings as well.”
While Northeastern goaltender Chris Rawlings has been a mainstay for the Huskies, he gave up two first-period goals on shots taken from along or behind the goal line.
“[Against] any tall goaltender, it’s good to put ‘em low,” UNH coach Dick Umile said. “The bottom line is that we knew we needed to get pucks into the crease. He’s a big kid who’s playing very well. We had to make sure we screened him and got into the crease.”
Moses was the first beneficiary and Block was the second.
“I just picked it up and threw the puck at the net,” Block said. “There are weird bounces in this sport. A goal’s a goal.
“I’ve always been told that the harder you work the luckier you get. You grind it out in the corners and throw the puck at the net. It worked out tonight.”
Despite the loss, Northeastern coach Jim Madigan liked the way his team played compared to its 7-1 humbling in the Beanpot semifinal game at the hands of Boston College.
“I liked our compete,” he said. “I liked our effort. We worked hard. We were on pucks. They kept us to the outside a little bit on our shots, but we were on pucks down low and tried to create some offense. I just liked the way our guys responded from last Monday.
“We’re not taking any consolation out of here because at the end of the game you’re measured in wins and losses and the scoreboard read 3-2 for them. They got the win, but I liked the way we battled until the end.”
The improved play notwithstanding, Northeastern now sits in a precarious position in the standings, tied with Massachusetts for the last playoff berth while giving away a game in hand. UMass upset No. 1-ranked Boston University to draw even with the Huskies.
The game got off to an ominous start for UNH when the Huskies struck just 30 seconds in. Robbie Vrolyk scored off the faceoff, ripping a shot off from inside the right faceoff dot.
The Wildcats rebounded on two goals that Rawlings undoubtedly wanted back. Moses scored the first while straddling the goal line off to the right. When the puck somehow slipped through five hole, it looked like the softest of goals.
It got some stiff competition at 16:43, however. Austin Block’s shot from behind the net caromed off Rawlings’ skate into the net.
The Huskies finished the period with a 12-8 shot advantage but trailed, 2-1.
Block expanded the lead to 3-1 on a tip of a Damon Kipp shot from the right point.
DeSmith came up with a big save after Vrolyk split the UNH defense and walked in alone after receiving a pass from Mike McLaughlin.
In the closing minutes, Madigan pulled Rawlings for an extra skater and the ploy worked, though not enough. Luke Eibler sent the puck toward the net and McLaughlin tipped it past DeSmith, making it 3-2. As UNH fans held their breath, the Huskies got the puck into the offensive zone, but couldn’t score the equalizer.
On Saturday night, UNH concludes the weekend with a trip to Merrimack. Northeastern waits for Monday night’s Beanpot consolation game against Harvard.