By: Dan McLoone
Nolan Stevens tipped home a Dylan Sikura shot from the blue line with under a minute to play in regulation as the No. 14/15 Northeastern Huskies fought back to tie the No. 2/2 Quinnipiac Bobcats, 2-2, to open the regular season.
“We came in here knowing it was going to be a hard game,” said Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan. “They’re a heavy team. They’re obviously a team who’s very seasoned, veteran, and used to playing in close tight games. They’ve been in the national championship game last year, and the tournament the last few years, so we were expecting a heavy game and I liked the way our kids came out and competed.”
Both squads traded chances to start the first period, with both goalies preventing any pucks from getting into the back of the net. With 3:18 left in the period, Bobcats forward Landon Smith sent a shot over a charging Ryan Ruck and past the net. The puck bounced off the glass and fell to Andrew Taverner, who fired it past a diving Ruck and into the goal. Ruck and Madigan both appealed for goalie interference on Smith, but the goal stood after a short review to give the Bobcats a 1-0 lead.
The Huskies came out strong to start the second period, immediately forcing Quinnipiac back into its defensive zone. Just 1:39 into the frame sophomore Lincoln Griffin touched home a beautiful centering pass from freshman Grant Jozefek to tie the game at one.
“I thought our team got better as the game went along from the first period where we got outshot a little bit, but we had some really good opportunities,” said Madigan. “In the second and third period, I really liked our offensive zone play and the opportunities in and around the net.”
Northeastern largely outplayed the Bobcats through most of the third period, but Bo Pieper was able to pounce on a loose rebound that Ruck couldn’t cover up and slot a shot into the bottom right corner of the net with 6:23 to go in the game.
Trailing 2-1, the Huskies did not take the foot off the gas pedal, firing shot after shot at Quinnipiac netminder Chris Truehl. With under a minute to go and Ruck pulled, the Huskies won a faceoff in their offensive zone. Sikura corralled the faceoff, skated to his right and fired a shot from the blue line that Stevens was able to tip in from the right of the net to force overtime. Northeastern dominated the extra frame, not allowing a single shot for the Bobcats, but were unable to notch a game-winner.
“Our kids are maybe not as seasoned as Quinnipiac but we’ve been through a lot…the last two years,” said Madigan. “There’s no panic on the bench and there was a confidence on the bench that ‘hey, we’re going to have a chance to win this’, [and] tie the game still.”
Both Ruck and Truehl played strong games in net. Ruck finished with 20 saves in his sophomore debut, while Truehl made 28 of his own, including stonewalling both Adam Gaudette and Brandon Collier in one-on-one chances. The Huskies also finished five for five on the penalty kill against a Quinnipiac team that converted at a 24.8 percent clip over the last five years, good for tops in the country.
“You never want to be happy with a tie, but I thought we built confidence as the game went along, and I actually thought we deserved a little bit of a better fate if we capitalized a little bit more around the net,” said Madigan.
The teams will square off once again on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. at the TD Bank Sports Center. Coverage of the game can be heard live on WRBB.
Josh Brown contributed to this article.