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Balanced Providence Attack Holds Off Northeastern, 5-4

2015 NCAA Division I Men's Hockey Championships
Brian Pinho (right) had an assist and Anthony Florentino (left) had two shots on goal from the point.
Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Saturday night at Schneider Arena, Providence College head coach Nate Leaman’s lineup looked quite a bit different than it had 24 hours prior in Boston.

With right winger Chase Zieky and defenseman Truman Reed making their first collegiate appearances among other maneuvers, the Friars responded with a 5-4 win over Northeastern, their first this season in Hockey East play.

“I’m proud of us because we played as a group of five tonight,” Leaman said. “We did a much better job with the game plan and had a lot of guys stepping in that I thought played pretty well. That’s a good win for us.”

Freshman Brandon Duhaime and sophomores Erik Foley and Scott Conway all scored a goal and added an assist for the Friars, who improved to 4-4-2 on the season and 1-2-1 in Hockey East play.

The Friars pressured right from the opening faceoff, scoring twice in a 12-second span just before the halfway mark of the first period.

Foley struck quickly off a draw for the first Friar goal at the 9:04 mark, crashing the net to obtain a rebound that freshman Josh Wilkins’ shot left in front of Northeastern goaltender Ryan Ruck.

Rebound control hurt Ruck once again at 9:16 as the hosts doubled their lead to 2-0. After taking a feed from senior Niko Rufo after he forced a turnover, Conway drove hard to the net and picked up his own rebound at the top of Ruck’s crease for his third goal of the season.

“We were ready to play. That was a good sign,” Leaman said. “We were not ready to play last night, but we definitely were tonight. The faceoffs in the first period were 15-3, and they killed us there last night. … We got off to a good start and we were able to ride that a little bit.”

Ruck finished the opening stanza with 12 saves as the Friars finished with a 14-11 shot advantage.

Northeastern sliced into its deficit at 17:21, thanks to an impressive exchange between seniors Zach Aston-Reese and Brendan Collier while shorthanded. Aston-Reese won a puck battle along the side wall and dished the puck to Collier in open space where he netted his first goal of the season from Hayden Hawkey’s left crease.

The teams went forward and back in the second period, but it finished with the Friars ahead by a 5-3 count after scoring three times.

Freshman defenseman Jacob Bryson gave the hosts a two-goal lead just 1:22 into the second period, beating Ruck to his short side off a slap shot from the top of the circle, but Northeastern responded with the first of two straight goals less than two minutes later as Aston-Reese cut into the slot for a wrist shot that beat Hawkey.

The outstanding connection of sophomore Adam Gaudette and junior Dylan Sikura continued at 6:42 with a power-play strike, tying the score. Sikura sent a perfect pass across the ice, finding Gaudette alone at the bottom of the left circle for an easy finish to his seventh goal this season.

“The shorthanded goal gave us a little bit of life, and I liked how we responded in the second period early in tying the score,” Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan said.

Junior Jake Theut’s relief appearance in goal looked to spark the Huskies for the interim, but PC responded again. The Friars decided the game before the end of the second frame, scoring twice in the latter half.

Duhaime picked up a loose puck and fired a wrister over Theut’s glove from the left side at 14:31, while Wilkins added a power-play strike off a one-time feed from Duhaime at 19:05.

Fourteen Friars have scored goals this season, and all five goals came from different players on Saturday. The team’s depth, plus adding Zieky and Reed to the rotation, bodes well.

“I like (the top line of Foley, Wilkins and junior Brian Pinho), but now it’s about finding a second and a third,” Leaman said.

“I thought Truman was very good tonight, poised and made good plays,” Leaman said. “Zieky, for me, was a big surprise. In practice, we know he’s got a great stick and could make plays, but we weren’t quite sure he knows what he’s doing. Tonight, he made great reads all over the ice and really earned my trust.”

Down two once again entering the third, the Huskies ― with Ruck back in the net ― pushed back and held a 9-4 shot advantage. It was not until the 18:30 marker that NU got on the scoreboard though as Sikura cleaned up an errant puck in the crease while skating with a 6-on-4 advantage.

“We just chased the game right down to the end,” Madigan said. “We’ve got to do a better job coaching these kids. We’ve got to be better in net, defensively, and offensively. … (Our undisciplined penalties) took over yesterday and were front and center today.”