BOSTON — A pair of Northeastern rookies cashed in on a costly third-period turnover by No. 11 Maine en route to a 4-2 victory over the Black Bears. Winger Joseph Manno nabbed an errant Maine pass at the Huskies’ point, out-hustled the defender, and made the initial attempt on Black Bears goaltender Dan Sullivan. Center Justin Daniels got a piece of the rebound, but freshman winger Adam Reid padded Northeastern’s playoff hopes with his sixth goal of the season.
“I’m obviously happy with the win,” Northeastern coach Joe Madigan said. “Two big points for us. I think everyone knows that we’re fighting for that last playoff spot with [University of Massachusetts].”
As Madigan uttered those words, Massachusetts suffered a key 4-3 loss to the University of New Hampshire and handed sole possession of eighth place — and the final Hockey East playoff spot — to the Huskies.
Despite Northeastern’s obvious incentive, Maine opened the first period by peppering Huskies netminder Chris Rawlings to no avail. Bears captain Brian Flynn received the puck on his backhand in front of an open net in the first minute, but could not convert. Just five minutes later, Maine winger Adam Shemansky could not solve Rawlings on a cross-crease pass at the left post.
“[Rawlings] played very well,” Madigan said. “He’s a big-time goalie, and he knows the importance and urgency of where we’re at, and he stepped up. He was very good.”
Although the Black Bears had the early edge in quality scoring chances, Tthe Huskies jumped out to an early 1-0 lead midway through the first frame courtesy of Maine winger Andrew Cerretani’s boarding penalty. Northeastern center Justin Daniels fired a pass to defender Anthony Bitetto, who swapped places with winger Garrett Vermeersch at the blue line before making the pass. Vermeersch launched a wrist shot through traffic that beat Maine goaltender Dan Sullivan at 10:25.
“One thing that stands out is the amount of penalties we took,” Black Bears coach Tim Whitehead said. “Certainly the penalties cost us.”
It only took the Black Bears a matter of seconds to knot the score at one in the second stanza. Maine captain Will O’Neill rifled a shot from the left point, which Flynn redirected past Rawlings from the left circle at 0:15. Linemate Joey Diamond also notched a helper on Flynn’s 17th tally of the season.
Maine threatened to take the lead at 4:20 in the second period when Rawlings prevented Diamond from converting on a backhand pass from winger Spencer Abbott on the doorstep.
The Huskies were certain they had tempered the Black Bears’ momentum when Maine blueliner Mike Cornell received a major penalty and game misconduct for contact to Northeastern defender Drew Ellement’s head at 9:10. The tandem of Abbott and Diamond responded with Maine’s fourth short-handed goal of the season. Abbott planted his stick on the right post and deflected Diamond’s pass up and over Rawlings at 9:56.
It took the Huskies double the effort, but Northeastern knotted the score at two before the second stanza concluded. At 13:03, Huskies center Mike McLaughlin redirected a backhanded cross-crease feed across the goal line just between Sullivan’s skate and the left post. After a lengthy review, however, the officials waved off the goal because McLaughlin had kicked the puck in to the net.
The Huskies’ second effort was more successful. Northeastern linemates Daniels and Reid exploited a defensive breakdown by the Black Bears and swooped in on Sullivan in an odd-man rush off a pass from Manno. Maine defender Nick Pryor hustled to make a sliding block on Daniels’ slap shot, but wound up redirecting the puck over Sullivan’s shoulder at 14:30.
Maine failed to repeat its early-period antics in the final frame, when Black Bears center Stu Higgins rang a slap shot off the right post from the top of the right circle at 1:35.
Back in action after missing six games due to injury, Huskies winger Steve Quailer came within inches of garnering the go-ahead goal midway through the final frame. Quailer disrupted the Black Bears’ attempt to clear, but Sullivan stymied his quick backhand from the crease at 11:15.
“Couple of spider webs I have to clean out,” Quailer said.
After Northeastern tallied the go-ahead goal at 18:46, Quailer swept the cobwebs away when he made a pass across the slot to winger Vinny Saponari on the man advantage. Saponari netted the insurance tally at 19:45.