The Takeaway: Northeastern, PC Tie, 2-2, at Matthews

Posted by: Joe Meloni

BOSTON — Northeastern and Providence tied, 2-2, Saturday at Matthews Arena. The clubs battled to a pair of draws this weekend, but the two games couldn’t have looked more different.

On Friday, a 1-1 tie, neither team managed to create consistent rhythm offensively, resulting in just 44 total shots in the game. Saturday, however, was a back-and-forth affair, with the teams creating chances. Northeastern’s Chris Rawlings made 47 saves in the game, while PC’s Alex Beaudry stopped 33 of NU’s 35 shots.

The clubs combined for 34 penalty minutes in a second period that two players ejected for illegal hits, two 5-minute power plays and three goals, one of which was reviewed and rewarded to the Friars.

In overtime, a Myles Harvey tripping minor put Northeastern on the power play, but the aggressive PC power play negated the Huskies’ man advantage.

The point keeps PC one point clear of New Hampshire in sixth place in Hockey East. Northeastern slips back to an eighth-place tie with Massachusetts. Entering the weekend, Northeastern held the tiebreaker with UMass. The first tiebreaker is head-to-head record. With the clubs splitting the season series, 1-1-1, it fell to the second tiebreaker, Hockey East wins, which gave NU the advantage — seven league wins to UMass’ seven. However, with UMass defeating Maine Saturday night, that is no longer the case. The first two tiebreakers are now even as well, so it falls to third — record against the first place team. With BC defeating Merrimack Saturday, the Eagles jumped into first. Northeastern 0-3-0 against BC in league play, while the Minutemen took two of three from the Eagles. As of now, this gives UMass the tiebreakers, lifting them into the playoffs and leaving Merrimack out for the second time in three years.

What I Saw

  • Providence carried its gameplan of taking of taking odd-angle shots on Chris Rawlings over to Saturday’s game. Tim Schaller scored from the goal line on PC’s first shot of the weekend, and the Friars kept trying from that point forward. On Saturday, these attempts had the same general effect of creating second and third opportunities for the Friars. The difference being that they got to these pucks in the second game. Rawlings turn away most of the rebounds in one of his stronger performances of late. However, the effort was certainly there, which only demonstrates the compete level and belief from PC. Nate Leaman has brought a whole new attitude to this club, and it seems to respond to his methods. They didn’t get any wins this weekend, but they didn’t deserve to lose either game.
  • Northeastern struggled to get the puck deep on the power play due to the Friars’ aggressiveness at the blue line. The Huskies went 1 for 6 on the man advantage. Their lone goal came when Alex Tuckerman slipped a rebound past Beaudry at 17 minutes, 34 seconds of the first period. For the most part, though, the aggressiveness of the PC forwards on the penalty kill prevented the Huskies from moving the puck well along on the blue line. Following a weekend sweep at the hands of Boston University, where the Friars allowed eight power play goals in 15 chances, Leaman and his staff made a few adjustments. Allowing his penalty killers to attack the blue line, rather than reacting to their movement, forces decision-making. Against a Northeastern club that struggles in almost every aspect of their power play, forcing quick decisions makes it especially difficult to generate scoring chances.
  • These clubs don’t like each other very much. It’s unlikely that Northeastern and Providence will meet against this season, which is probably a good thing. The 13 power plays, two major penalties and countless big hits were mostly a result of aggressive play from these teams. The occasional bad stick foul came, but there were several points in the game where it was abundantly clear that the players were plainly looking to level each other. Scuffles between players on the bench and those on the ice were common, and shoving and jabs after the whistle were scattered throughout. Late in the season in the back end of any weekend pair, there is more at stake, and that manifests itself in several ways. On Saturday, it was physicality more than anything else.

What I Thought

  • Braden Pimm, Garrett Vermeersch and Adam Reid formed the best line combination for Northeastern on Saturday. The trio took 10 shots combined in the game and combined for a beautiful goal on a critical sequence in the second period. After the Friars had taken a 2-1 lead with at 6:47 of the second, PC maintained their pressure for the next 10 minutes or so. A lengthy possession in the NU zone forced Vermeersch to ice the puck. NU coach Jim Madigan opted against a timeout, forcing his second line to remain on the ice. Pimm won the faceoff back to Drew Ellement who flipped the puck to center ice, Vermeersch hesitated for a moment. As Reid darted up ice, rather than head off for  change, Vermeersch laid a beautiful pass on his stick. From there, Reid broke in on Beaudry and completed a backhand, forehand move that leveled the game at two aside. Pimm’s excellence in the faceoff came throughout the game, as he went 16-10 in the dot.
  • Shane Luke’s emergence as a contributor on offense continued. The freshman missed the first half of the season with eligibility issues, but he has a been a revelation for the Friars since getting into the lineup. He scored his fifth goal in 13 goals on Saturday, which loomed even larger with PC’s leading goal scorer Tim Schaller missing the game after leaving Friday’s in the first period. Luke has been versatile for the Friars playing the wing and center positions as needed.
  • This weekend was a gusty performance for both clubs. With shortened benches due to injury, players were forced out of position or into other rolls not particularly familiar, yet both clubs managed to get a point from each game. On the weekend, PC’s Schaller and defenseman Mark Adams were injured, along with Matt Bergland, who went down after the hit that ended Ben Oskroba’s evening but returned shortly after. On the Northeastern side, Robbie Vrolyk, forced into regular minutes due to injuries to Steve Quailer and Cody Ferriero, left Friday’s game with an injury. Dan Cornell also went off for most of the first and second periods after taking a shot to the head. Needless to say, neither of these teams were at 100 percent this weekend, but neither of them lost a game.

What They Said

“Daniel New will be back next weekend.” — PC coach Nate Leaman

On the surface, this is good news, as the Friars get a top four defenseman and the leader of their power play back for a huge weekend pair with Boston College. However, Leaman was asked about the status of New, Schaller and Adams. New was the only case he provided an answer to. Adams suffered a concussion on Friday night, while Schaller went down with an undisclosed injury earlier in the game. Leaman said New will return last week. He didn’t say a word about Schaller and Adams.

What They Didn’t Say

Northeastern coach Jim Madigan did not speak to the possibility of Quailer returning to Northeastern’s lineup during the regular season. The junior has missed NU’s last six games with ligament sprains in his knee, and the Huskies miss the rugged winger in many different elements of their game. With four games remaining, in a dead heat for a playoff spot, Northeastern needs all the help it can get. The return of Quailer will certainly help.

What Else You Should Know

  • Northeastern hosts Maine for a pair of games at Matthews Arena next weekend. Maine currently leads the season series, 1-0-0, with a 6-3 win in Orono on Oct. 9.
  • PC plays a home and home with BC next weekend, beginning on Friday in Providence. The Friars lost their first meeting of the season, 4-1, on Dec. 6.

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