Men’s Hockey Buries Providence with Offensive Onslaught

Image Credit: nuhuskies.com

By Christian Skroce

BOSTON —Providence coach Nate Leaman summed up tonight’s game the only way he could: “We got our butts kicked. That’s my opening statement.”

It had been three years since the Huskies had last beaten Providence, and it looked like that streak would continue tonight. After falling to the Friars in Providence last night, 3–2, Northeastern knew it had to pull off a win at Matthews Arena, especially given the muddled landscape of Hockey East early this season.

“Last night I thought that we weren’t physical; we let Providence dictate the game and their space, and we didn’t respond,” Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan said after the game. “One of the things we said here tonight, ‘let’s punch them in the mouth before they punch us in the mouth,’ because they are a heavy, hard team to play against, and I thought we were a little too passive last night.”

Jason O’Neill got the scoring going for the Friars 17 minutes into the first period with a weak attempt that slid underneath Northeastern netminder Craig Pantano. The Providence lead did not last long, as just 38 seconds later, freshman defenseman Mike Kesselring netted his first collegiate goal to level the score at one. After a nice juke from the blue line, Kesselring slid a shot through the legs of Providence goalie Michael Lackey. Madigan praised the goal after the game, saying “I liked how we responded immediately after that first goal. It was important to make sure they didn’t get too comfortable.”

After the first-period stalemate, the Huskies came alive in the second frame, putting together their best period of the season. Grant Jozefek began the period by finishing off an excellent feed from sophomore defenseman Jordan Harris.

Harris was not done yet, as a minute later he fired a power-play shot from the blue line past Lackey to give the Huskies a two-goal lead.

Senior forward Matt Filipe extended the Husky lead to 4–1 soon after with an impressive breakaway finish off a neutral-zone feed from freshman defenseman Jayden Struble. The goal forced Lackey out of the game, as Leaman let junior goalie Gabe Mollot-Hill finish the game for Providence.

Providence got one back toward the end of the second frame with a Patrick Moynihan goal, but the Huskies didn’t panic. With two minutes remaining in the period, freshman defender Jeremie Bucheler put away his own blue-line shot for his first goal of the season, giving the Huskies a 5–2 lead. Northeastern scored four second-period goals, more than they’ve scored in all but one of their 11 games this year.

Providence rebounded nicely to begin the final period, pulling within two goals after a nice finish from forward Vimal Sukumaran. The Friars pushed forward during the first ten minutes of the frame and got two power play chances to bring the game within one goal. Despite numerous close calls, Northeastern killed off both power play chances. The second penalty kill of the final period turned out to be the difference, as the Providence players were visibly deflated after failing to cut the lead to one.

Northeastern continued its physical play for the final ten minutes, eventually earning a 7–3 win after empty-net goals from Tyler Madden (his eighth of the year) and Filipe (his second of the game and third point on the night).

Northeastern’s entire penalty kill unit was tonight’s MVP. The Huskies killed all four Providence power plays, including two in the third period.

“We’ve worked on that a lot in practice, and we’ve tried to build our identity on the penalty kill,” Filipe remarked. “We have a lot of guys who want to be out there on the kill, and it’s nice to be able to rotate guys throughout.” Filipe also complimented Pantano, who had two nice games this weekend.

It was a big night for Northeastern’s impressive freshman class, with two defensemen getting their first goals of the season and two more adding assists. Madigan noted that “[Struble, Bucheler, and Kesselring] have been incredible recently. [Providence] are a heavy team, and they’re a fast team, so we knew that some of our younger guys would have to step up.”

The Huskies also got important contributions from a significant second year player. In addition to his goal and assist, Jordan Harris made several key defensive plays, logging the best game of his career in arguably the Huskies’ most important early-season contest. Harris was key to stopping Providence’s Jack Dugan, the nation’s points leader. When asked about Dugan after the game, Madigan explained, “He’s such a good player, and they use him a lot. He’s coming over the boards, [it seems like] every shift there, and then with the TV timeouts you can really use that to your advantage. It’s kind of like how we used Gaudette and Sikura a couple years ago.”

The win boosted the Huskies to 6–4–2 (3–3–1 HEA) and sets the team up nicely for next weekend’s home series against Maine. WRBB will cover both contests, starting with Friday night’s game at Matthews Arena. Jonathan Golbert and Mack Krell will call the action, with coverage starting at 6:45 PM ET.

Hockey East Preview: Providence Friars

Last Season: 24–12–6 (14–7–3 HE, second place); lost in HE quarterfinals to Boston College; lost in NCAA semifinal to Minnesota Duluth

Head Coach: Nate Leaman (eighth season)

Coaches’ Poll Projected Finish: Third

Losses

  • G Hayden Hawkey
  • DJon Barry
  • D Jacob Bryson
  • D Vincent Desharnais
  • F Scott Conway
  • F Bryan Lemos
  • F Ryan Tait
  • F Brandon Duhaime
  • F Josh Wilkins
  • F Kasper Björkqvist
  • F Jay O’Brien

Additions

  • G Jake Kucharski
  • G Michael Lackey (transfer from Harvard)
  • D Max Crozier
  • D Luke Johnson
  • D Cam McDonald
  • F Garrett Devine
  • F Jamie Engelbert
  • F Parker Ford
  • F Jerry Harding
  • F Patrick Moynihan
  • F Craig Needham
  • F Albin Nilsson
  • F Caleb Rule

By Matt Neiser

The Providence Friars continued their run of success in 2018–19, finishing second in the Hockey East standings and earning their sixth consecutive NCAA Tournament berth. The Friars pulled off two straight upsets over No. 3 overall seed Minnesota State and Cornell to advance to the Frozen Four, where they were defeated by eventual champions Minnesota Duluth.

The squad’s going to look a little different in 2019–20 though. Much of the talent that brought Providence so far last season has left the program. Hockey East All-Stars Josh Wilkins (first team), Jacob Bryson (second team), and Brandon Duhaime (third team), all juniors last season, forewent their last season of NCAA eligibility to sign NHL contracts. Star goaltender Hayden Hawkey (.921 SV%, 1.88 GAA) graduated — taking with him arguably the best name in the sport.

A host of other important names graduated or left early for the NHL as well. The top four goalscorers and five of the top six point-getters from last season won’t be on the squad this year, including Wilkins, their leader in both categories. The Friars lost 78 of the 133 goals (about 60 percent) they scored as a team last season.

But enough about who isn’t here. Head coach Nate Leaman has plenty to work with this season. The roster includes seven NHL draftees, five of whom were chosen in the first five rounds of their respective drafts. 

The standout of the group is sophomore forward Jack Dugan, who notched 10 goals and a team-leading 29 assists en route to a Hockey East All-Rookie Team selection. The 6’ 2” Vegas Golden Knights prospect has plenty of opportunity to shine this season, and he’s primed to take full advantage. A physical wing with excellent distribution, Dugan is the perfect player for Leaman’s system.

Besides Dugan, look for sophomore New Jersey Devils draftee Tyce Thompson (8 goals, 17 assists) and junior Greg Printz (11 goals, 7 assists) to step into bigger roles on offense this season.

Leaman has turned Providence into a perennial defensive powerhouse. His squad allowed just two goals per game last season, tied for fifth best in the nation. The Friars are physical, smart, and well-drilled on the blue line, led by senior Spenser Young, junior Ben Mirageas, and sophomore Michael Callaway.

The departure of Hawkey left many concerned about the Friars’ goaltending situation — netminders not named Hayden Hawkey played just 54 minutes last season for Providence — but the addition of graduate transfer Michael Lackey has allayed worries. Lackey posted a 14–8–3 record in his senior year with Harvard, compiling a 2.34 GAA and .918 save percentage while backstopping the Crimson to an NCAA Tournament appearance.

Bottom Line: Providence lost A LOT of talent this offseason, but the Friars have reinforcements waiting to step up and fill the holes. If Nate Leaman can maintain the defensive excellence that has become the trademark of his teams, Providence should be right back in the mix for a top-four spot in Hockey East.