Junior netminder Chris Rawlings stops 31 shots for Huskies

Junior goaltender Chris Rawlings made 31 saves for the Huskies

Northeastern skates into the New Year as Mariucci Classic Tournament champions after a 3-2 triumph over No. 2 Minnesota on New Years Eve at Mariucci Arena. The Huskies preserved their undefeated mark on New Year's Eve and moved to 4-0-0 on that day and extended their unbeaten to eight games; the second-best streak in the country.

The Huskies have won the Mariucci Classic tournament twice in program history with the first coming over the host (Minnesota) on Dec. 28, 1997. Northeastern moves to 4-1-1 in the Mariucci Classic and has now knocked off the No. 2 team in the country, on the road, on three separate occasions (Notre Dame, Dec. 2 & 3 and Minnesota, Dec 31).

Northeastern's eight-game unbeaten streak (7-0-1) is the third longest in program history. It is the program's longest stretch since NU went 8-0-1 in 1985-86. The Northeastern benchmark is 12 games as the 1980-81 squad won the first 12 games of the season.

Sophomore Braden Pimm came away as the Mariucci Classic Tournament MVP while junior Vinny Saponari (Forward), sophomore Anthony Bitetto (defense) and junior Chris Rawlings (goaltender) earned All-Tournament Team honors.

Minnesota committed 12 penalties and bestowed the Huskies with three two-man advantages in which NU cashed in on two of them. The junior trio of Steve Quailer, Garrett Vermeersch and Saponari acted as NU's goal scorers with Vermeersch's counting as the game-winner. Saponari and Vermeersch attacked with the two-man advantage. Quailer stretched out his point streak to a whopping nine games (6-8-14) with the even strength goal.

Despite a scoreless first stanza, the opening period looked to be all Minnesota with the shot total favoring the Golden Gophers, 12-4. The Huskies scratched back and outshot UM, 26-21, in the remaining to frames.

Rawlings has been Northeastern's rock in net, stopping 31-of-33 shots in his seventh victory in eight games. Minnesota netminder Kent Patterson turned away 27 shots in the loss.

The first opportunity of the game arrived for Minnesota at the 1:48 mark of the first stanza when Northeastern was whistled for too many men, but was negated when Tyler Matson took a tripping call at 3:14. The Golden Gophers were the only team to get a shot off during the respective extra-man opportunities in the early goings.

Both teams traded near misses as sophomore Anthony Bitetto crafted some fancy stick work through Minnesota's zone and nearly connected with Quailer on the far post, but it sailed just wide. The Gophers responded with three grade-A chances on the ensuing exchange, but UM was denied on a couple wide-open looks.

Senior Mike McLaughlin was called for interference in the offensive zone at 12:15 but did not inflict any damage as the Huskies' penalty kill did a sound job of protecting around the net. Minnesota gained a faceoff in Northeastern territory after the penalty expired and Joe Miller nearly tallied even strength after ringing a wraparound shot off the left pipe.

Northeastern closed out the first with a couple strong opportunities after a Mark Alt high-sticking call at 17:10, but both teams skated into the locker rooms after the first period scoreless with UM owning a 12-4 shots advantage.

Scoring erupted in special teams' fashion to initiate the second stanza with Minnesota striking first on a short-handed tally from Nate Condon at 00:55. Seth Helgeson was assessed a cross-checking call at 00:27, but Condon's pressure at the blue line gave way to the short-handed strike. Condon stripped rookie Ludwig Karlsson and charged on Rawlings alone, beating him with, blocker side, with the sharp wrister and a 1-0 lead.

The Huskies were still on the power play and Erik Haula helped NU out even more with a hooking call at 1:57 to give Northeastern 30 seconds of 5-on-3. Northeastern wasted no time taking advantage after junior Justin Daniels cleanly won a draw out to Saponari waiting in the seam. Saponari blasted the one-timer through traffic and tied the game at the 2:00 mark with the power play tally, 1-1.

Quailer bestowed the Huskies with their first lead of the game at 5:38 of the second after sophomore Braden Pimm induced a turnover in Minnesota's zone and zipped it behind to Quailer in front. Quailer corralled the loose puck carted it out in front of Patterson, threw a quick head fake, and slipped the backhand through the five-hole for the 2-1 NU advantage.

Haula took another interference call at 10:47 of the second to give the Huskies a chance to break it open, but the Gophers' persistent kill managed to rattle off more shots than the Huskies in the two-minute window. Rookie Josh Manson's hold at 14:03 of the second session returned the favor and gave UM its third power play of the evening, but Minnesota could not capitalize.

The Huskies took their lead into the second intermission thanks to Karlsson sweeping away that was centimeters from crossing the goal line with 30 seconds remaining. A one-timer squirted through Rawlings' pads, but Karlsson crashed the net and paddled the disc away to maintain the 2-1 lead.

The Huskies power play unit to the ice early once again to start the third period after a Larson trip at 1:25. Northeastern sent a flurry of one-timers Patterson's way, but it was Rawlings who stole the show on the power play after making an amazing acrobatic save after a Taylor Matson breakaway at 2:00.

After an Adam Reid kneeing penalty subsided, Hegelson and Ben Marshall both took holding calls at 7:38 and 9:04, respectively, to put Northeastern back on the 5-on-3 for 34 seconds. Unfortunately, the Huskies could not reciprocate their last two-man advantage and the opportunity waned away.

Minnesota continued to play undisciplined and offered the Huskies their third 5-on-3 opportunity of the night at 12:53 of the third period, this time for 1:31. Northeastern cashed in on its second power play goal of the night after working the puck around meticulously with all the open real estate. Karlsson started it up by punching it out to junior Drew Daniels up top. D. Daniels connected with Vermeersch for the one-timer and sent an absolute missile past Patterson for the 3-1 cushion at 14:23.

The Gophers added an extra attacker goal (short-handed) after Tyler Matson crashed the far post and snuck the puck by Rawlings at 19:42 to keep Northeastern in check, but the Huskies played keep away and ran out regulation as tournament champions.

Northeastern hits the ice for the first time in 2012 in scrimmage fashion. The Huskies welcome the U-18 National Team Development Program based out of Ann Arbor, Mich. on Saturday, Jan. 7 at 7 p.m. Hockey East play resumes when Northeastern collides with arch-rival Boston University for the first time this season. Game time is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on the New England Sports Network (NESN). Following the BU game, the Huskies will skate next door to play Boston College at Fenway Park on Saturday, Jan. 14 at 6 p.m.

Mariucci Classic 2011 All-Tournament Team
MVP: Braden Pimm (Northeastern)
Forward: Braden Pimm (Northeastern)
Forward: Jake Hansen (Minnesota)
Forward: Vinny Saponari (Northeastern)
Defense: Nate Schmidt (Minnesota)
Defense: Anthony Bitetto (Northeastern)
Goaltender: Chris Rawlings (Northeastern)