2014 Frozen Fenway: Northeastern Uses Dominant Second Period, Strong Special Teams to Beat UMass Lowell

Frozen FenwayBOSTON, Mass. — Northeastern earned its first outdoor game victory Saturday with a 4-2 defeat of Hockey East rival UMass Lowell in Game 1 of the afternoon’s Frozen Fenway doubleheader.

After a scoreless first period that the River Hawks controlled, the Huskies opened the scoring with a Braden Pimm goal to kick off a dominant second period. The senior right-winger grabbed the puck from his own blue line off a turnover and skated toward the attacking zone on a 2-on-1 rush up ice. Pimm kept the puck and beat Lowell goaltender Doug Carr with a wrist shot from the right faceoff circle.

About a minute and a half later, the Huskies increased their lead to 2-0 on the power play. Freshman center Mike Szmatula skated the puck from right to left across the attacking zone and fired a shot from the left faceoff circle that Carr initially stopped, but he couldn’t cover the loose puck in the crease before defenseman Matt Benning pounced on it. Benning was drafted in the sixth round (175th overall) by the Boston Bruins in the 2012 NHL draft, and he’s also the nephew of B’s assistant general manager Jim Benning.

The Huskies’ first two goals were created by Lowell turnovers that were forced by exceptional defense in the Northeastern zone. The Huskies did a phenomenal job of moving the puck quickly up the ice with a strong first pass out of the defensive zone, helping them establish a fast pace to the action despite the poor ice conditions and steady rain.

Northeastern increased its lead to 3-0 shortly after Benning’s goal with a short-handed tally from Josh Manson. The junior defenseman and Anaheim Ducks prospect skated down the left side into the attacking zone and beat Carr stick side with a phenomenal wrist shot.

Lowell made a strong push in the third period, but Northeastern goaltender Clay Witt shut the door in the final 20 minutes with several important stops to preserve the victory. He made 47 saves and earned the first star of the game.

Excelling on special teams is one of the most effective ways to overcome poor ice conditions in outdoor games. The Huskies entered the game ranked sixth in power-play success, 10th in penalty-kill percentage and tied for last in special teams plus-minus among the 11 Hockey East clubs, but their success on special teams was a major factor in the outcome of Saturday’s contest.

Northeastern improved to 13-6-3 (6-4-1 in Hockey East) with its victory over Lowell (14-6-1, 4-3-0), and head coach Jim Madigan likes the mindset of his team heading into a tough stretch of four games (two apiece) against Vermont and Notre Dame.

“We have that kind of quiet confidence going into every game where we know we have an opportunity to win,” Madigan said.

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