A pair of tallies from the defense was the difference in a pivotal Hockey East victory for Northeastern on Tuesday night at Matthews Arena. The Huskies, formerly in eighth place with 11 points in the league, put four points in between themselves and the Friars with the victory and now rest in sixth place.
Freshman defenseman Jake Newton dialed up his second-career game winner in powerplay fashion while linemate, senior David Strathman, broke the ice with the first tally of the contest at 11:18 of the first.
"We showed a lot of character tonight," Strathman said. "We showed that we really want a spot in the playoffs and earn our chance to win the Hockey East title."
With the victory, Northeastern extended its unbeaten streak against the Friars to six games. The Huskies have won five out of six against PC along with a tie in the last encounter on Nov. 21.
"I thought we played really well for the most part except when Providence had the forecheck going," head coach Greg Cronin said. "I was pleased with the way we played. These are the wins that help your team build momentum and character."
Northeastern outshot the Friars, 30-24, including a 13-3 advantage in the second stanza. Rookie goaltender Chris Rawlings upped his record to 9-9-1 in a 23-save performance. PC netminder Alex Beaudry turned away 27 shots in the loss.
Strathman put the Huskies on the board with an unattested missile from just inside the blue line. The puck met iron originally, but the momentum of the puck bounced off of Beaudry's leg and trickled across the goal line at 11:18 for the 1-0 advantage.
An extra-attacker tally at 18:48 was generated for the Friars after junior Mike Hewkin was about to get whistled for a tripping penalty, but Beaudry scooted off the ice and provided Providence with a sixth skater. Ian O'Connor corralled Mark Fayne's rebound and crafted a deke in front of Rawlings to even the count, 1-1.
Newton's powerplay rip at 5:30 of the second stanza recaptured a one-goal lead for the Huskies, 2-1, and stood as the game-clincher. Fayne was cited for cross checking at 5:20 and just 10 seconds into the man-advantage, Newton intercepted a failed Friars' clearing attempt at the blue line and lit the lamp on a high-percentage shot from the high slot. Newton also earned the assist on Strathman's marker, standing as his fourth multi-point outing of the season. Junior Wade MacLeod leads the club with five this season.
Providence did not record a shot in the second period until the 10:53 mark.
The Friars had their chances in the third, but Northeastern's defense band together to keep PC off the board. With 63 seconds to play, Providence coach Tim Army called for a timeout, but junior Tyler McNeely had other ideas. With an empty net staring at NU's zone, McNeely stripped the puck from PC's point man, evaded a defender and sealed the deal with Northeastern's second empty-net goal in its last three games with 00:18 to play.
MacLeod had a six-game point-streak heading into Tuesday night's game, but the third-year forward did not figure into the Huskies' 3-1 triumph. MacLeod tallied eight points over that stretch.
Following their third game in five days, the Huskies take a 10-day hiatus before hosting UMass Lowell on Friday, Jan. 29 to close out the three-game regular season series. As of Tuesday evening, Northeastern looms just one point behind the River Hawks. Friday's game will be the Huskies' last game before gearing up for the 2010 Beanpot Tournament at the TD Garden.