BOSTON – Points in Hockey East are crucial and the Northeastern Huskies can ill afford any more league losses.
NU skated toe-to-toe with the UMass-Lowell River Hawks for the duration of Saturday night’s game at Matthews Arena, but Derek Arnold’s overtime winner at 2:50 was the difference as the River Hawks skated away with the 3-2 victory.
“It was obviously a disappointing loss,” said Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan, whose club has lost four straight since ending an eight-game unbeaten streak. “I thought we played hard tonight. Much better than last night when we did not have a good effort…We competed very well and they did too, so hats off to them, they got the two points.”
The goal was Arnold’s tenth of the season, coming off a neutral zone turnover. The puck flew into the air in the offensive zone and the Foxboro, Mass. native settled it and fired a low wrister past NU junior Chris Rawlings.
“We’ve obviously very excited to get four points this weekend in such a tough league,” said UML head coach Norm Bazin. “I thought it was a tough effort tonight and certainly we’re happy to have those points.”
“Overtime is never a pretty goal, but that was as pretty as one will get.”
The Huskies took a 1-0 lead at 8:09 of the first period as sophomore Braden Pimm went streaking down the ice on a goal that was originally waved off during a scrum in front of the goal.
Pimm stripped the puck in the NU defensive zone, broke in one-on-one and was taken down by a UML defenseman as the puck squirted under River Hawk sophomore Doug Carr, who posted a 28-save shutout on Friday night.
The River Hawks squared the count on the power play at 12:21 as Zack Kamrass found freshman Scott Wilson for a one-timer in the right wing circle that beat Rawlings through a screen.
With the goal, the Ontario native set a new school record for most goals by a rookie, beating out Brad Rooney during 1997-98.
“He scored tonight and he’s certainly been opportunistic,” Bazin added. “In the past couple games, especially…However, we’ve been fortunate to have a lot of balance in scoring from a team standpoint.”
Northeastern held a 20-18 advantage in total chances and an 11-10 edge in shots on goal during the first period.
In the second period, the Huskies answered just 32 seconds in as junior Garrett Vermeersch backhanded a rebound past Carr. To begin the play, Vinny Saponari sent a nice attempt toward goal, but Carr covered. Vermeersch followed the play very well and tapped his fifth of the season past the Hanover, Mass. native on the left post.
UML re-tied the game at the 3:04 mark as freshman Terrence Wallin’s shot deflected off the body of Northeastern goaltender Chris Rawlings, but junior Colin Wright fired a low wrist shot past him for his first goal of the season.
The teams played a more evenly matched middle period as the Huskies held a 9-8 shots on goal edge, but the River Hawks had four more total chances.
The third period ended scoreless as the teams traded strong chances at both ends of the ice. Both Rawlings and Carr matched each other save for save as the teams headed for an extra five minutes.
As most fans at Matthews Arena know, an extra five-minute period means “No-T OT” in the Dog House – a tradition, which was successful during the last head-to-head meeting between the teams. On Feb. 11, 2011, the now-departed Jamie Oleksiak blasted the winner in the final minute of overtime to lift NU to a 3-2 win at Tsongas Center.
On this instance, it did not work as the Huskies fell to 0-3-3 in overtime games this season.
“We’ve been in this situation three times this year where we’ve lost in overtime,” Madigan said. “Each time, we’ve found a different way [to lose]…Tonight, it was just a high lob and it went off one of our defensemen, kind of bounced.”
Rawlings finished the contest with 22 saves, while Carr posted his 13th win in 16 decisions this season with 29 stops between the pipes.
In the end, the Huskies mustered 70 total chances and 33 shots on goal, while the River Hawks managed just 52 and 26, respectively.
The Huskies will look to pick up the slack next weekend when they travel north for a pair of games against a lowly Vermont squad, which sits in sole possession of the bottom slot in the conference. The River Hawks continue their current three-game road swing on Tuesday night at Providence College.