BOSTON — The game felt like a case of déjà vu, only without the goal total.
Sparked by an early and persistent churn in the offensive zone, Providence grabbed an early lead and had an answer for everything thrown at them, leading to a 3-2 win over Northeastern at Matthews Arena on Saturday night, sweeping the Huskies on the season.
The win gave the Friars a share of first place in Hockey East with two weekends to play, but Providence coach Nate Leaman wasn’t interested in talking about the standings post-game.
“With quality of play in our league and the number of teams that are battling for [the title], I don’t think the champion is going to be crowned until the last game of the season,” Leaman said. “With us, I’m very pleased with a gutsy performance on the road, but now it’s just about the next game. That’s all it’s about now.”
While the Friars’ top line was responsible for most of Friday night’s outburst, the team’s depth came into focus on Saturday with goals scored by the fourth line and the blue line.
“I thought our fourth line might have been our best line [tonight],” Leaman noted, adding that personnel changes to add fresh legs made a major difference in the ability to sustain pressure.
The Friars’ forecheck was a slow, grinding tempo that had a hypnotic quality to it, lulling the game to an almost unbearably slow pace. Yet it suited their hard-hitting style well, pinning the undermanned Huskies deep in their own zone for most of the game.
Northeastern was so short on personnel that the team had virtually run out of players to dress. Every player that wasn’t hurt suited up for NU on Saturday and the Huskies were only able to roll three lines during the game.
The lack of depth became a nagging problem for the Huskies as the night went on, as they ran out of steam by the time they could get looks on offense.
Trailing 1-0 in the second period and struggling to get time in the attacking end, the Huskies were able to break that spell briefly and tie the game. At 4:14, just as NU wrapped up a penalty kill, Cody Ferriero skated past the blue line, dropped the puck for Vinny Saponari on the right wing and Saponari unleashed a booming slapshot into the back of the net to tie the score 1-1.
But like Northeastern’s attempt to climb back into the game last night, it didn’t take long for Providence to respond.
The Friars reclaimed the lead just 73 seconds later, with Ross Mauermann slipping an acute angle shot past Chris Rawlings (36 saves).
In the third period, a similar sequence was flipped, as Steven Shamanski scored what he later called a “lucky” shorthanded breakaway goal for the Friars off a turnover, immediately followed up by Josh Manson netting his third goal in as many games with a power-play tally.
In the end, one goal was as close as the Huskies could get.
With a wry sigh after the game, Northeastern coach Jim Madigan was in disbelief over how the Huskies gave up the third Friar goal – a collision between Ferriero and Colton Saucerman that left Saucerman hurt, piling on another injury to worry about (freshman Kevin Roy was already missing from the lineup after a late collision on Friday night).
“I thought our effort was very good [and] our kids played hard and we executed well,” Madigan said. “We were a little short-staffed here today and our guys gave everything they had. We worked hard and at the end, [but] just couldn’t find enough to get the tying goal.”