Entering the third period of Saturday’s game against Union, it was clear to Northeastern coach Bruce Crowder that something needed to change.
The Huskies trailed Union, 1-0, despite having outplayed the Dutchmen for forty minutes. More frustrating, the club had extended its scoreless streak to five straight periods and, according to Crowder, was starting to look desperate.
“In the last five minutes of the second it was clear that guys were staring to get frustrated,” said Crowder. “Guys were starting to try to beat guys one-on-one and it was good that the period ended so we could pull them in and talk to them.”
Whatever Crowder’s words of wisdom were between frames they proved inspiring, as Northeastern broke out of its scoreless drought, scoring four times en route to a 4-2 victory in front of a sparse home crowd of 1,121.
A major breakthrough for NU was the play of the Huskies’ third line. The combo of Brian Tudrick, Trevor Reschny and Joe Santilli struck twice in the period, including for the game-winning goal with 4:37 to play, to lead NU to victory.
The game winner, scored by Tudrcik, was the exact opposite of the uncharacteristic play that Crowder complained about at the end of the second. Tudrick finished off a consistent puck cycling for the line combo by making a nifty move from the left corner to the front of the net, and stuffing the puck far side against Union netminder Kris Mayotte (30 saves).
For Tudrick, it was his fourth goal of his junior season after scoring just three times in his first two years.
“Tudrick is the type of kid who’s not going to wow you, but he’s not going to get outworked,” said Crowder. “That’s his M.O. and it seems to work.”
As happy as Crowder was with his team’s grit and strong play used to comeback, Union coach Kevin Sneddon was equally unpleased with his club’s effort.
“I thought it was the worst game we’ve played all year and a tough way to end the first half,” said Sneddon, whose team drops to the .500 mark at the break at 7-7-3. “We’re a young hockey team that has done some good things in the first half, but this game leaves a sour taste in our mouths going onto vacation.”
The game was one that Sneddon and his club thought they might be able to steal. Despite being outshot, 20-8, through two periods, the Dutchmen led 1-0 on a first period power play goal by Marc Neron. Much of the credit for the lead, though, would have to go to Mayotte, who throughout the game stifled the NU attack and, at least for two periods, frustrated the Huskies offense.
“Kris Mayotte did a great job tonight and I thought we left him out to dry in the third period,” said Sneddon. “We had a 1-0 lead and they were all over us and you knew the tide could quickly change. It certainly did because we made some real stupid plays and they were able to capitalize on them.”
The beginning of that capitalization came 5:47 into the third when Reschny was able to pick the pocket of the Union defenseman, skate in alone on Mayotte and push home his own rebound on the breakaway to tie the game at one.
Less than three minutes later, Mayotte was the victim of a bouncing puck. Joe Mastronardi’s shot from the left point deflected off a Union defender and onto the stick of Mike Ryan. He quickly deflected the puck off of Mayotte, off the post and into the net for Northeastern’s first lead of the night.
Still, despite the territorial difference, Union was able to come back. Matt Blabac intercepted a clearing pass with 6:46 to play and wristed a high shot over Northeastern goaltender Keni Gibson (22 saves) to pull even at two.
But the Northeastern offense continued to dominate, and it was Tudrick’s line and himself that controlled the puck enough to bury the winner late in the period. Ryan added an empty-net goal for his second of the game and 13th of the season to account for the 4-2 final.
“For five periods I thought we had played well and got nothing for our efforts,” said Crowder referring to the first two periods of Saturday’s game combined with last weekend’s 1-0 loss to Merrimack. “But hats off to the kids. They continued to play and work for us and were finally rewarded.”
Saturday’s game, the final for both teams before the holiday break, sends each into the respite on different notes. The Huskies riding the high note have won four of its last five and stand at 6-8-2. Union, though .500, will need to rebound for Saturday’s sluggish effort in the months of January and February that feature an all-ECAC slate.
“When we come back [from break] we have to start new and build from there,” said Sneddon. “It’s going to be a building process for us that will take some time to learn to play every night consistently.”