BOSTON — Coming into this season, no one expected Northeastern junior goalie Clay Witt to be the glue that held this Huskies team together. That’s exactly what he’s been.
Behind 46 saves by the Brandon, Fla., native, Northeastern picked up a 3-2 win against Vermont in a game that Vermont outshot the Huskies by a 48-19 margin. The win keeps Northeastern in sole possession of second place, two points ahead of third-place Providence. Vermont drops to 4-6-1 in conference after the loss.
Despite no scoring by either team, the first period was all Catamounts, as they were able to forcefully outshoot Northeastern 17-8 in a frame that showcased outstanding goaltending not only by Witt, but also by Vermont netminder Brody Hoffman.
The Huskies, despite being outshot 17-3 in the second period, were able to get on the board first at 19:24 on a Braden Pimm goal, assisted by Mike Szmatula and Kevin Roy. The goal was Pimm’s fifth goal in the last three games. Despite being in a 1-0 hole, Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon liked what he saw out of his team.
“I thought we played excellent tonight,” Sneddon said. “Until we got into penalty trouble there in the second period I thought we were controlling the game pretty well.”
Goals by Matt Benning at 3:07 and Zach Aston-Reese at 15:08 gave Northeastern a 3-0 lead in what looked like a runaway game for the Huskies. Then Vermont found some life, thanks to a five-minute spearing penalty on Northeastern forward Torin Snydeman.
With just over 1:30 left in the period, Vermont captain Chris McCarthy launched a shot over the head of Witt, who did not see the shot hit off the glass and land in the crease before knocking it in with his back, to get Vermont on the board.
Just 41 seconds later, freshman Mario Puskarich sniped a shot past the shoulder of Witt to get Vermont within one.
Unfortunately for the Catamounts, time was not on their side, and Northeastern was able to secure the victory. When asked how to beat Clay Witt, who was seemingly untouchable for the first 57 minutes of the game, Sneddon had trouble finding a strategy.
“This is what you do: you call a play and you shoot it over the net, bank it off the glass, bank it off the back of his head and in,” Sneddon joked. “You know what guys, I think he was the difference in the game tonight. You talk about how important goaltending is, and I thought in that category they were superior tonight”
Despite the win, Madigan was not too pleased with his team’s performance, especially the seven penalties the team took.
“I like the way we found some resolve and resiliency to win,” Madigan conceded. “I don’t like the way we got there. To advance in this league and to advance to wherever you want to get to, there’s a word, discipline, that you need to play with all the time, and I thought our lack of discipline on the ice didn’t allow us to create much momentum.”
Madigan, despite the huge difference in shots, does not see that as troubling as his team’s discipline.
“You’ve heard me all year long I’m not a big shot guy, it’s quality,” Madigan said. “In that second and third period, there was more quality shots, and they had pucks and were buzzing because they were just missing at the net front, and in the first period I didn’t think it was as big an issue.”
The win gives Northeastern a season sweep over Vermont, as they picked up a 3-0 win over the Catamounts on Dec. 17 in Burlington. The two teams will meet again at Mathews Arena Saturday night in a nonconference game.