Boston, MA- Two goals in the third period powered the Northeastern Huskies past the visiting RPI Engineers Sunday afternoon. Aidan McDonough and Matt Choupani‘s goals capped off the weekend sweep of the Engineers in a pair of 2-1 wins. Devon Levi turned back 20 shots to notch his 11th win.
In the first few minutes of action, the Huskies and Engineers heralded goaltenders each faced point-blank bids to get them involved early and often. # 18 Northeastern’s Levi paddled away a shot from RPI’s TJ Walsh on the Huskies’ doorstep at 5:04. Walsh, a former NU player, had an active game against his former mates.
Engineers graduate student Linden Marshall turned away a shot from NU’s McDonough at the bottom of the left circle a minute and change after the RPI chance at the other end. Marshall (22 saves) has started every game for the Engineers this season.
Levi again came up big in the first when a turnover at the Huskies’ blue line led to a three-on-one. Levi squeezed the pads to keep sophomore forward John Beaton‘s shot out of the net.
The two teams traded zone pressure as the opening period wound down. The Huskies had almost a minute and a half of steady force in the RPI end, but Marshall was on his game and stopped at least five NU shots.
At the opposite end of historic Matthews Arena, Levi was equally up to the task as he turned away two quality chances for the Engineers during their a minute of pressure in the Huskies zone.
RPI took the lead at 6:36 of the second period when sophomore Jack Brackett was sprung for a breakaway on Levi by a two-line pass through the neutral zone by James McIssac. Brackett raced in and beat Levi five-hole with a snapshot to earn his first NCAA goal.
Levi turned away a Ture Linden bid at the right side of the Huskies’ net as the Engineers looked to build on their momentum.
In front of the RPI net halfway through the middle frame, huskies forward Alex Mella had a chance stonewalled by Marshall.
Linden had another quality look to the right of Levi when a Huskie defender lost a puck at the goal line. The puck went right to Linden, who fired off a quick shot only to see Levi flex a leg save to pad the puck away.
In the third period, the game turned when McDonough caught a drop pass from Matt Demelis just inside the zone. McDonough dragged the puck past the poke check of RPI forward Otto Leppanen before snipping a shot from the slot past Marshall’s blocker-side. McDonough’s 14th goal of the season, at 1:02, was assisted by Demelis and Choupani.
Neither team could break the deadlock until 15:48 when Choupani skated in from above the right circle, deked on senior forward Nick Bowman, and then flicked a back-hander past senior defenseman Jake Johnson at the inside hashmark. Choupani’s shot beat Marshall at the post as defenseman Jack Agnew may have screened the RPI goalie, and NU’s McDonough tangled up in front of goal.
“I saw my lane and just threw it on the net hoping for the best bounce,” said Choupani of his game-winning goal. “And I got it.”
Freshman Choupani was skating with Demelis and McDonough because the Huskies were dealing with injuries and last-minute illness, and Huskies coach Jerry Keefe tinked with his lines during the game.
“Playing with older guys like them is really good,” said Choupani. “They move the puck well, and I felt like we played pretty well together.”
Indeed they did as the trio combined for all six points on the Huskies’ two goals in the third period. Details had two assists, while McDonough and Choupani had a goal and an assist.
The game’s lone penalty came against the Huskies at 1:56 of the last period. Sophomore Michael Outzen went to the penalty box for Holding, giving the Engineers a power-play to potentially tie the game.
RPI pulled Marshall for the extra skater with the face-off in the Huskies’ zone. The Engineers threatened once before two NU clears were sent the length of the ice. Linden had the puck on his stick at the left side of the Huskies goal with a few ticks left on the clock during the six-on-four, but Levi got his blocker on Linden’s last-second scoring attempt to seal the victory in front of 1,387 spectators.
“I thought it was a really good game,” said Engineers coach Dave Smith. “I think as our current team grows, that’s something we’re going to lean on; this experience, because I thought we played very, very well and maybe the end, being up 1-0 was in sight at the end of the second period.”
“I thought we squeezed our sticks,” added Smith. “We didn’t play with defensive pace were capable of, and gave a very skilled team a little bit more space on a couple of plays, and they capitalized on it.”
“In the future, we will find a way to close that out.”
“I thought it was an ugly hockey game, to be honest,” said first-year NU coach Keefe. “I thought both games were pretty ugly, Friday and today (Sunday).”
The Huskies won the weekend series, with Friday being in Troy, NY, and Sunday at home in Boston. Both games were 2-1 victories.
“You don’t get graded on how pretty your win looks, so we’re going to take the win and learn from it and keep moving forward. Simple as that,” added Keefe.
The Huskies 11-4-1 (5-3-1 in Hockey East) take on Providence College this weekend in Hockey East play. Friday at Providence and Saturday in Boston.
RPI 6-7-2 (3-3 in ECAC) host #4 Quinnipiac on Friday and Princeton on Saturday at Houston Field House.