BOSTON – Hockey East play is very tough and a weekend series can go either way at any given point during the season. This was the case at Matthews Arena as Northeastern and Providence split their weekend set with a pair of ties, including a 2-2 draw on Saturday night.
Both sides settled for a 1-1 deadlock on Friday night and each team takes two points out of the weekend as the season heads into the final two weeks.
“There was a lot more offense in tonight’s game,” Friar head coach Nate Leaman said. “I thought [both goalies] were very good. There was a lot of desperate hockey. It was an emotional hockey game and I thought special teams played a big role.”
With Massachusetts’ win on the road in Maine, the Minutemen and Huskies are now tied for eighth in the conference standings. UMass would earn the tiebreaker and the eighth seed as it has a 2-1 record against top-seeded Boston College.
“I thought our guys worked hard,” said Huskies head coach Jim Madigan. “There was good energy, they competed for pucks. At times, I thought we got a little bit undisciplined…I liked the way our kids battled. We had some chances in front of the net and we could not convert. We have to do a better job of converting.”
The teams opened the first period with a defensive struggle that saw goaltenders Chris Rawlings and Alex Beaudry make some outstanding saves to keep the offenses off the scoreboard at both ends of the ice.
The Huskies held a 13-11 shots advantage in the stanza and took the lead at the 17:34 mark as junior Alex Tuckerman was on the spot on the right post, potting the rebound for his fourth goal of the season and first since a two-point effort on Jan. 28 at Vermont.
Fellow junior-class member Drew Daniels took the initial shot from the right point, but the Orleans, Mass. native was there to clean up the mess on the second-effort.
“It felt like a playoff game,” Tuckerman said. “You have to give credit to Providence. There are a lot of tough guys over there, so I think our team is happy to get two points this weekend and I feel like it is nice to see playoff tempo from our team going into the last couple weekends here.”
Providence took the lead with a pair of goals in the opening half of the second period – a pair that Rawlings would like to have back.
Junior Chris Rooney took the initial shot from the right-side point, handcuffing Rawlings long enough to allow rookie Shane Luke to come in and bang the rebound over the goal line at 2:36. The goal was the fifth in 12 games since the Manitoba native was eligible on Jan. 5 and continued a three-game scoring streak.
With PC attacking on a major power play, Beaudry sent the puck up ice and sophomore Kevin Hart sent a lazy puck on Rawlings that trickled under his five-hole as he attempted to steer away the chance.
The goal was just Hart’s second of the season and marked the first assist by a Friar goaltender since Beaudry fed junior Tim Schaller shorthanded in the second period on Oct. 15, 2011 against UMass.
Northeastern tied the game with 4:59 to play in the period as junior Garrett Vermeersch sprung rookie Adam Reid on a breakaway, coming in with a trailing defenseman and beating Beaudry low for the score – his first since Feb. 3 against UMass.
The Friars dominated the shot chart in the middle frame, holding a 19-10 edge in shots on goal.
Neither team found the back of the net in a very eventful third period. Both goaltenders shined when things mattered most as the sides headed to a second-straight overtime.
In the extra period, Northeastern had a glorious chance with 25 seconds remaining but junior Garrett Vermeersch could not handle the pass out front with Beaudry tied up on the opposite right side.
After the buzzer sounded, sophomore Anthony Bitetto fired a wrist shot that was reviewed as the tying goal but it was to no avail as the teams settled for the draw in the end.
Rawlings established a new career-high with his 47-save effort, which included 18 stops in the third period. Beaudry finished the contest 33 stops, including 12 in the opening period.
The Huskies return to the ice next week in another pivotal Hockey East series against Maine. Both games take place at Matthews Arena at 7 p.m. The Friars take on Boston College in a home-and-home set, which begins next Friday night at Schneider Arena.