Boston, Mass. — Northeastern hadn’t won a hockey game in nearly a month heading into Friday’s Hockey East tilt against Providence.
Senior captain John Stevens had been out of the lineup during that stretch in which the Huskies went 0-3-2. He added two assists and won a big draw that led to another goal to help catapult the Huskies to a 5-1 lead, and ultimately a nail-biting 5-4 victory over the Friars in front of 1,901 at Matthews Arena.
“The thing about John Stevens is he understands how to take a face-off. If he’s not having success against a certain center, he knows not to lose a draw. He knows how to tie it up or get help from his wingers. He communicates,” Northeastern coach Jim Madigan explained.
“Coach Keefe talked about it earlier today. ‘Let’s get a face-off goal. I think that was our first face-off goal this year,” he added.
Having Stevens back in the lineup did more to bolster the Huskies’ chances than just the leadership and what he brings to the ice each shift. It also gave Madigan’s squad two formidable lines once again.
“Having 18 back gives you a very good player, a leader and our captain. Him and Aston-Reese create and have played together for a while. Now we can spread our lines out a little bit and we have a little more depth there,” Madigan explained. “You’re seeing Gaudette and Sikura and you’re seeing Aston-Reese and Stevens.”
The Huskies did a good job in the first two periods of transitioning from defense to offense, forcing turnovers, and capitalizing on mistakes the Friars made in their transition game.
“We ran around for 50 minutes turning pucks over. They’re a good team. They really capitalized,” said Providence coach Nate Leaman.
Freshmen Jeremy Davies and Ryan Shea and junior Garrett Cockerill bring mobility and push the pace in transition. All three skate well and move the puck quickly and efficiently up ice.
“They transition well. We turned a lot of pucks over so they were getting a lot of pucks with speed,” said Leaman.
A lack of discipline on the Huskies part, some questionable goaltending and the Friars finally showing a sense of urgency allowed Leaman’s club to make things interesting at the end.
Leaman, who was visibly disappointed following the result, summed up his frustration with his team’s loss and 0-2-1 start in league play.
“I’m just really disappointed in our team tonight. We didn’t have a commitment to our game plan. We lacked a lot of poise. We create our own adversity with two stick penalties,” Leaman said.