BOSTON — The winless odyssey for Alabama-Huntsville continued on Saturday night at Matthews Arena as two first-period goals for Northeastern proved to be more than enough for the Huskies, who took the win on home ice 3-0 in the first-ever meeting between the two teams.
Northeastern’s Chris Rawlings pitched the shutout, the 10th of his career, surpassing Brad Thiessen for most career shutouts in team history.
It was Alabama-Huntsville’s seventh consecutive road game, part of a stretch of 12 straight road contests as the program continues to recover from cancellation and reinstatement last year. The Chargers fall to 0-8-1 and have now gone 16 games since their last victory over a Division I team, while the victory snapped a five-game winless streak for the Huskies, who improved to 3-4-1 on the season.
“We’ve been struggling to get a win over the last couple of weeks, but it’s a win [and] it allows us to build on a win for tomorrow night,” Northeastern coach Jim Madigan said. “In a business that’s results-oriented – we got the win.”
Northeastern opened the scoring 13:06 into the first period as Cody Ferriero connected with Braden Pimm in transition, who shoveled the puck past John Griggs. Later in the period, Kevin Roy circled into the right-wing corner and found a streaking Ludwig Karlsson, who flipped it past Griggs to put the Huskies up 2-0.
“I’ve been struggling in the beginning of the year to score; the whole team has,” said Karlsson, who picked up a power-play goal in the third period to make it 3-0. “I’m happy with the two goals. It’s good for my confidence [and] I just need to keep working hard.”
The Huskies peppered Griggs early and often, recording 24 shots in the first period and finishing with a total of 54 in the game (the first time the Huskies eclipsed 50 shots in a game since 2004), forcing Griggs to make several athletic saves, including many from close range.
Perhaps the most impressive stop came midway through the third period, as Roy found himself alone on a breakaway. As Roy dangled and went to the backhand, Griggs stayed aggressive and in position, cutting down the shooting angle and forcing the shot to the corner with his stick.
“You need goaltending to win at pretty much any level and we’re in a situation right now where we need outstanding goaltending to win hockey games,” Chargers’ coach Kurt Kleinendorst said after the game, but lamented, “We gave up 50 shots, you can’t be happy about giving up 50 shots.”
Rawlings was largely untested during the game, stopping 19 shots, while his defense did the rest, blocking an additional 12. Though Rawlings didn’t see much rubber, he tried to do everything possible to stay focused.
“I try to play the puck as much as I can, get out there as much as I can, follow the puck around,” Rawlings said. “It’s a little bit harder than having 50 shots a night, but it was a big test for me, and obviously, our team played well.”
Upon hearing that he broke Thiessen’s team record for career shutouts, Rawlings was just as focused, concerned less with the shutout record and more with his team’s play.
“It’s an honor, but it’s over and done with now,” said Rawlings. “I’m just looking forward to tomorrow.”
Alabama-Huntsville’s troubles snowballed over the course of the game. As the defense got pinned deep in its own zone, line changes could not be executed, stifling the Chargers’ transition game and preventing more high-quality chances. Northeastern also dominated from the faceoff circle, winning 46 of 67 faceoffs, denying the Chargers opportunities for puck possession.
Despite the win for the Huskies, Madigan acknowledged that his team’s offense is still a work in progress. Northeastern has scored just four times in the second and third period of games this season.
“There’s some work to do and the guys in the locker room know there’s some work to do,” Madigan noted. “We’ll continue working at it, come back here tomorrow night, and play better for an entire series. Because we’re capable of doing it, there’s enough talent in that locker room that’s capable of playing 60 minutes, [but] we just haven’t been able to put it together to this point.”