Freshman goalie Brad Thiessen turned away 37 shots for his fourth shutout of the season and Bryan Esner scored a short-handed goal for the game-winner as Northeastern University topped Providence College, 3-0, on Friday night at Matthews Arena. Joe Santilli and Ryan Ginand each had a goal and an assist for Northeastern.
Thiessen's four shutouts are the second-most in a season by a Northeastern goalie. Keni Gibson posted five shutouts in 2003-04 and Marc Robitaille had three shutouts in 1996-97.
Northeastern improved to 12-14-4 overall and 8-11-4 in Hockey East while Providence dropped to 7-20-2 overall and 6-14-2 in Hockey East. The teams rematch on Saturday night at Schneider Arena.
Esner made a great play on the penalty kill to get his second short-handed goal and his fifth overall score of the season. He poked the puck loose from a Providence player at the point and won the race to the puck for a breakaway. Providence goalie Tyler Sims came out and Esner faked left, went right and put the puck behind Sims to make it 1-0 at 3:00 in the first period.
The Huskies took a two-goal lead as time was running out in the first period. Northeastern was on a power play with PC's Cody Wild in the box for boarding. Joe Santilli got the puck at the goal line and passed it to Steve Birnstill at the point. Birnstill shot it and Ginand redirected it through the crease to make it 2-0 with 0.2 seconds on the clock. Each team took four penalties and had three power plays in the first period.
With Providence's Trevor Ludwig in the penalty box for hitting from behind, Santilli scored a power-play goal of his own to make it 3-0 at 12:12 in the second period. As a PC player tried to clear the puck, Ginand fought to keep it in the Providence zone. Kyle Kraemer picked up the puck and skated around the right side and passed it through an open lane to Santilli, who was wide open down low. Santilli deflected the puck behind PC goalie Chris Mannix, who had replaced Sims at the start of the second.
Thiessen made a lot of key saves to preserve the shutout, including 19 in the second period. Providence put on a barrage in the final minute of the second, but Thiessen was on fire, stopping them all. Sims made five saves in the first period and Mannix made 15 saves in the second and third.
Northeastern went 2-for-5 on power-play opportunities while holding Providence scoreless on five opportunities. The Huskies' penalty kill improved to 89.0 percent, which ranks fourth in the nation. NU is just a few ticks behind national leader Notre Dame, which has an 89.8 percent penalty kill.
Northeastern and Providence meet for the third and final time of the season on Saturday at Schneider Arena at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast live on 890 ESPN Boston and WRBB Radio, 104.9 FM.