The Northeastern University Huskies have been a scoring machine this season, with their top line of Nolan Stevens, Adam Gaudette, and Dylan Sikura seemingly unstoppable in many games. Gaudette was named Hockey East’s Player of the Year on Thursday night and entered Friday night’s contest against the Providence College Friars leading the nation in points. The Braintree, Massachusetts native is only the third Husky to be so honored in the college’s history. And he follows in the footsteps of Zach Aston-Reese, who was chosen at the end of last season.
The Huskies came into Friday night’s semifinal game against the Providence College Friars as the number two seed, with an overall record of 23-8-5 and the current Beanpot champion. They hoped to see their school hanging from both the Beanpot and the Hockey East banners in the rafters of TD Garden when the two-day tournament was finished. Such was not to be though for this impressive group, as the Friars would take the win in overtime.
“So, it’s overtime. One team’s gonna win, one team’s gonna lose, and unfortunately for our guys, we came out on the short end of the stick,” Huskies head coach Jim Madigan told the media after the game. “It will sting. We had some goals, and a good group of guys who have worked hard to accomplish goals, and one of them was Hockey East. Though we clinched a spot in the [NCAA] tournament last weekend, this tournament is special, the Hockey East tournament. This is a tough league, and it’s hard to get to this spot, and when you get here, you want to take the opportunities of it. Two years ago, we were known as Hockey East Champions, and you want to have that same feeling again this year. It’s not going to happen. But because of our good regular season, we’ll be able to move on, and in a few days, or not a few days, but later tomorrow or Sunday, focus in on the next goal in mind.”
After having played two strong periods against the Friars, in which they outshot Providence 29-16, the teams were tied at one, with Vimal Sukumaran having scored for the Friars at 8:57 of the first and Sikura tying it at 18:06 of the second, while the Huskies were shorthanded. At 3:03 of the third, freshman Austin Goldstein buried his first goal of the season giving the Huskies their first lead in the game. But just as Northeastern had scored with 1:53 remaining in the second to tie things up, Kasper Björkqvist would tie it up for the Friars, getting his 14th of the season with just 1:51 remaining in regulation, ultimately forcing the overtime.
The Friars did manage to accomplish something that few other teams had this season when playing against the Huskies—keeping Northeastern from scoring on the power play.
“You can’t be real aggressive against their power play. Everyone we watched, every tape we watched, and from playing them twice, you can’t be aggressive because if you get aggressive you get stretched out. They find that back door or the guy in the middle,” Friars head coach Nate Leaman shared. “It’s a power play you have to be real passive against. And when you’re real passive like that you spend a lot of time in your own end and we did. I give our assistant coaches Krys Mayotte and Scott Borek a lot of credit because we found a way to kill those three penalties. [Hayden Hawkey] made a lot of great saves and we were able to get through that stretch.”
Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that the Huskies and Friars went to overtime, given that their three regular season games required overtime. What hasn’t happened in a while though was that both Hockey East semifinal games on Friday had to go to overtime to determine a winner. The last time both Hockey East semifinals went to extra time was 1989.
The Friars will take on the Boston University Terriers on Saturday night in a rematch of their 2015 NCAA Frozen Four Championship game in which Providence beat BU 4-3 at TD Garden. If Providence can play as defensively strong on Saturday as they did against the Huskies, they will be a difficult team to solve.