BOSTON -- Providence head coach Nate Leaman has made it clear his top-ranked Friars are not defending their national championship, they are pursuing the next one.
No matter the mindset, things seem to be clicking on all cylinders in Friartown. With Thanksgiving ahead this week, PC is unbeaten in its last 15 games and looks poised to remain a national threat.
Sophomore goaltender Nick Ellis made 21 saves in the second shutout of his collegiate career on Saturday night ― a 3-0 win over Northeastern at historic Matthews Arena.
The win completed PC's third weekend sweep of the young season, improved its record to 8-0-3 on the season and extended a school-record unbeaten streak that dates back to last season.
"I thought they had a pretty good push in the first period, and we were struggling to get in on the forecheck," Leaman said. "They were playing a little bit faster than us, and we were fortunate enough to get out front and score on a couple opportunities."
The Friars jumped on the scoreboard with two first-period goals, markers which proved to be the only offense they would need in their third victory in four games against the Huskies.
Freshman Garrett Gamez took sophomore defenseman Jake Walman's pass and carried it into the offensive zone, where he waited for senior assistant captain Mark Jankowski for an easy score from the slot just 1:40 into the game
Jankowski scored twice in Friday's 5-2 win over the Huskies at Schneider Arena and has cracked the point column in all but two games this year.
"I thought Mark Jankowski was outstanding, as was Nick Saracino, this weekend," Leaman said. "I thought Mark was winning faceoffs, winning battles, and obviously had a goal and an assist."
Walman added to his outstanding offensive start to the season with the secondary assist on Jankowski's seventh goal of the season. The Flames prospect's 17 points, which include a team-high nine goals, lead all Division 1 defensemen.
"I was really happy with the way he played tonight," Leaman said. "He's pretty dynamic when he's got the puck heading up ice. He's got the ability to look guys off, the strength to get around guys, and his shot is hitting the net."
Saracino doubled the visitors' lead at 10:09, finishing a wraparound that Ruck could not stop as he tried to recover back to the post on his left side.
John Gilmour started the play with the sixth assist of his senior season from the blue line, feeding Saracino for the trip around goal and the shot from just outside the crease.
Neither side found much offensive rhythm in a scoreless second period. Although the Friars earned two power play chances in the frame, Ruck stood tall and made 11 saves to keep his team in the game.
"I think he's playing well and given us a chance to be in games," Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan said of his rookie goaltender. "I think if you asked him, he'd want that second goal back where he overextended too much to one side and couldn't get back. Like all freshmen, they go through ups and downs in this league. ... I think he's capable of giving us a lot."
The Huskies' best chances to get back in the game came in the third, but the visitors surrendered just one shot on goal while killing a pair of penalties.
Ruck did his job at the other end of the ice by stopping Jankowski on a 2-on-1 in the final four minutes of regulation, one of his 11 more saves in the final frame.
"We had some sustained short periods of offense but not enough," Madigan said, "and then we needed to get something on the power play and we couldn't."
The Huskies simply ran out of time to mount any more offensive pressure, and any hopes of a miracle comeback were dashed with 1:52 left. Shortly after Ruck was pulled for an extra skater, PC senior Brandon Tanev rushed through the neutral zone with some help but filled the empty net himself for an unassisted tally.
Madigan liked his team's effort in its final game before packing up and heading for the Friendship Four Tournament in Belfast, Northern Ireland, next week.
The Huskies will take on fifth-ranked UMass Lowell on Friday, but there is a lot of work to do before then.
"I liked the effort, I liked the mentality in how we went about the game and just trying to keep it tight," Madigan said. "Their two goals where bad reads by us in two odd-man rush situations."