Providence Rallies to Force 3-3 Tie at Northeastern

Northeastern junior goaltender Clay Witt - Northeastern Athletics

Northeastern goaltender Clay Witt made 52 saves on Friday night, the third most in program history.

Boston, Mass. -- Northeastern scored just seven seconds into the game and held a 3-0 advantage after 40 minutes, but that didn't deter Providence. The Friars stormed back for three unanswered goals in the third period to force a 3-3 tie with the Huskies on Friday night at Matthews Arena.

"We played well for two periods then in the third period we sat back. We got out of a rhythm and how we need to play well to be successful and how we played for two periods," said Northeastern bench boss Jim Madigan.

"It was a good game. I thought it was our best effort in our last five or six games. I was really happy and proud of the way we played tonight," said Providence head coach Nate Leaman.

Leaman's Friars fired 55 shots on the Northeastern net, but Huskies junior goaltender Clay Witt stopped all but three of them. The 52 saves made by the Brandon, Fla. native tied for third most in program history.

"Against Providence they direct a lot of pucks to the net. They put pucks to the net and drive the net hard. I wasn't really worried about shots on goal. [Witt] is a good goalie," said Madigan.

Michael Szmatula scored seven seconds into the contest before some people had even sat down after the opening face-off. He crossed the blue line on the left side and took a slapper that beat Jon Gillies to the short side. Josh Manson and Mike Gunn assisted on the rookie's sixth goal of the season.

Kevin Roy scored his 12th goal of the season later in the period when he came into the zone from left to right. He took a wrist shot cross-grain and beat Gillies to the far side for the 2-0 lead. Matt Benning set up the Anaheim Ducks prospect with a nice forward pass.

Despite being down 2-0 after 20 minutes, Providence coach Nate Leaman didn't think his team played all that poorly. "It was tough in the first period. I thought we really played great and we were down, 2-0."

The score would stay that way until Branden Pimm connected on a shorthanded situation for his eighth of the season. He collected the loose puck and blew by one Providence defender before cutting in towards the middle and snapping a shot off that hit off Gillies' glove before popping into the back of the net.

"It's tough to get down on the road early in a tough environment. It can be tough to get back into it, but it speaks to the character of our team. We stuck to the game plan and knew if we kept getting pucks to the net that we'd get our chances. We just needed to keep getting to the net and get the rebounds," said Providence junior Ross Mauermann of his team's mindset heading into the third period.

Freshman defenseman Anthony Florentino gave some life to the Providence bench when he connected on a wicked snapshot from the left wall on the man advantage 3:16 into the third period. He was set up by a nice feed from Trevor Mingoia who just became eligible three games ago after transferring from Union.

Providence cut the Northeastern lead to one just over two minutes later on a rebound that couldn't be corralled by the Huskies defense or goaltender. Witt made the initial save on a Nick Saracino shot, but Shane Luke was there to bat in the rebound.

The Friars completed the comeback bid with 2:21 to play in regulation. It was a nice play by Tom Parisi who showed patience to wait for the right opportunity. The defenseman let a defender go by and then whistled a wrist shot upstairs and past Witt.

"We found a way to come back in the third and tie the game. I thought we kept coming and had some great chances to win it there," said Leaman.

"In the third period they took it to us," said Madigan. "We hung on for a tie, but it's obviously disappointing."

With defenseman Kevin Hart in the penalty box Providence was shorthanded for the last 1:48 of the overtime period, but the Friars might have had the best scoring opportunity. After a tough battle for possession Mark Jankowski transitioned up ice and made a terrific pass to Steven McParland, but the sophomore couldn't get his stick on the puck.

"That was a heck of a play. That's what you want. You want your best players trying to make plays when the game is on the line. I thought he made a terrific play there. It was a big kill in overtime," said Leaman.

Providence and Northeastern each have one game left before the Christmas break. The Friars head to Army for a nonconference game on December 20 while the Huskies travel to Burlington for the last league game of the semester at Vermont.

Jeff Cox covers college and junior hockey, NCAA recruiting, NHL Draft prospects and the AHL for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.

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