BOSTON — Northeastern and Providence played to a 1-1 tie on Friday night at Matthews Arena. Friar goaltender Alex Beaudry made 20 saves in the draw, brushing the few scoring chances NU created aside without much difficulty.
PC’s leading goal scorer Tim Schaller scored 29 seconds into the game, with a bad angle attempt from the right goal line extended. The puck kicked in off the skate of NU goaltender Chris Rawlings. The first couple shifts of the game, Schaller created three chances for PC, but left the game midway through the first with an undisclosed injury.
PC coach Nate Leaman said after the game that Schaller will be out for Saturday night’s matchup with Northeastern. This compounds some existing injury woes for the Friars, with defenseman Daniel New already out for the weekend. Moreover, defenseman Mark Adams suffered a concussion in the third period and will miss tomorrow’s game, Leaman said after the game.
What I Saw
- Odd-angle shots were the plan for the Friars throughout the game. Rawlings’ 6-foot-5 frame allows to him to stop most shots he’s able to square himself, too. PC looked to exploit this by creating scoring chances on shots from the goal line and the half-wall. In the first period alone, PC attempted eight shots from half-wall. Eventually, Northeastern took this play away to an extent, and the Friars went back to more traditional attempts from the point, looking to create traffic in front of Rawlings. In the second, the odd-angle looks came from Rawlings’ left with seven shots come from beyond the faceoff circle. While the first attempt resulted in a goal for PC, Rawlings handled the later efforts without much worry. The NU defense recognized the effort as well, preventing many of these chances from getting through.
- Even with the odd-angle attempts on Rawlings, the Friars struggled to create many chances in front of him. Shots from difficult angles work most effectively, because they create rebounds. They worked in this regard on Friday, but the NU defensemen were first to those pucks more often than not. PC battled, but they lost too many of these races to really take advantage of the chances they created with the odd-angle shots. The loss of Schaller definitely took something from the PC forwards, but their effort never waned. Losing battles typically reflects a lack of jam from a club. That wasn’t the case on Friday. Friars battled, Northeastern just beat them in this area.
- PC penalty killed took away shooting lane and scoring chances by pressuring the NU point men. The Huskies gave PC a different look on than the power play than they’ve used for most of the year. However, the pressure eventually frustrated Northeastern’s power play enough to force it back into its old habits. Forcing Northeastern into an 0-for-4 on the power play is hardly a major accomplishment, but it meant a point tonight in the tie.
What I Thought
- The loss of Tim Schaller took something away from the Friars’ offensively. Obviously, losing a leading goal scorer is going to deflate a team, but there was a noted lack of finish on several chances PC created. Many of their chances off the rush resulted in good attempts, but the goals didn’t come. Now, with Schaller in the lineup, there’s no telling if it would’ve helped PC, but it certainly wouldn’t have hurt. Aside from his skill, losing a top line center forced the Friars to adjust their lineup. Replacing him will be tough on Saturday, but the Friars need the point.
- The energy wasn’t there to finish, but the Friars performed well enough even after losing Schaller and Adams. Despite the shortened bench, the health PC players worked hard and maintained their aggression. Momentary lapses in intensity severely damage teams down the stretch in Hockey East. PC learned that last weekend in Amherst, allowing UMass to come cut two-goal deficits on two separate occasions. Learning from lessons is critical for a Providence team trying to do more than just make the playoffs after missing them for the last three seasons.
- Alex Beaudry maintained his steady play for the Friars. Beaudry is good enough to help PC steal a series in the first round of the Hockey East Tournament. In sixth-place right now, PC would play UMass Lowell if the season ended today. It doesn’t, of course, but Beaudry’s consistency in goal has maintained the Friars throughout the season. A 2.96 goals-against average a sub-.900 save percentage aren’t going to win Beaudry any awards, but his performance have, at the very least, give his team confidence. He only had to make 20 saves Friday night against a Northeastern team that hasn’t shot frequently enough at any point this season, but he made them. His team picked up a point and remained in sixth place because of it.
What They Said
“It showed improvement with our team. That’s what I told them after the game. We have to play 60 minutes if we want to be a team that’s going to make a push at the end of the year, and is a good playoff team. We still have a lot of work to get there. You need opportunities like this for guys to step up. You need to elevate, and that’s why I said I was happy with the third period. We had some guys in very unfamiliar roles, and they were elevating their game.” — PC coach Nate Leaman
With the injuries and other issues, PC very easily could’ve lost this game. The Friars avoided this issue, though, and played well in the third period. A sign of a team buying into their coach’s philosophy. PC is no more talented than Northeastern, New Hampshire, Massachusetts or Vermont — the teams below them in the league standings. But Leaman’s players seem to believe in their coach, and what he’s asked of them. That’s why they’re comfortably in a playoff spot now, rather than battling for their lives.
What They Didn’t Say
Aside from saying they are all out for tomorrow, Leaman did not provide much information on the injuries of Schaller, New and Adams. When Schaller went down with mono last month, Shane Luke stepped in and played well. With Luke a regular member of the Friars’ forward lines at this point, it will be interesting to see who gets in the lineup Saturday night.
What Else You Should Know
- PC stays ahead of UNH with the tie, moving two points clear with a game in hand. Meanwhile, the point gives Northeastern a one-point advantage over UMass for the final spot in Hockey East. The Huskies own the tiebreaker with UMass, with seven conference wins to UMass’ six. The first tiebreaker is head-to-head record, but the clubs tied the season-series, 1-1-1.
- The win pushes Providence’s unbeaten streak to three games after the Friars lost as many in a previous stretch.