NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Junior goaltender Clay Witt made 30 saves and Dalen Hedges scored the lone goal in a shootout to help the Northeastern men's ice hockey team (8-5-1) advance to the championship game of the Shillelagh Tournament against Western Michigan (5-5-3) on Friday night at Compton Family Ice Arena, 1-1.
The Huskies will play the winner of Alabama-Huntsville and Notre Dame, who will face-off in the second semifinal at 7:30 p.m. on Friday. Game time is slated for either 4:05 p.m. or 7:30 p.m.
Northeastern won the shootout, 1-0, thanks to three saves from Witt. John Stevens scored the only goal in regulation for the Huskies, who outshot WMU 33-31 in the game and won 36-of-66 face-offs. Frank Slubowski made 32 saves for the Broncos, who were 1-of-5 on the man advantage while NU went 1-of-7.
The Huskies came out of the gates with energy, pressuring the puck and maintaining possession in the Western Michigan zone. Three NU penalties in a four minute span midway through the frame, however, allowed the Broncos to tilt the ice in their favor of generate offensive opportunities of its own as the period wore on.
Northeastern's best chance of the opening stanza came less than seven minutes in when Tanner Pond worked hard behind the goal to control the puck before spotting Kevin Roy in front of the cage for a shot that Slobowski got a pad on.
At the other end of the ice, Witt kept the team in the game when he made a diving stop along the left post. The play began with a Bronco shot from the point that was sent intentionally wide and out to Justin Kovacs at the left dot. Facing an empty net, Kovacs sent a shot in on goal, but Witt recovered just in time to get a blocker on the puck and send it wide. Later in the period, WMU almost took a 1-0 lead when David Killip got a hold of the puck in the slot before firing a backhand off the crossbar.
The teams traded chances during a back and forth second period that saw the Huskies hold a 12-10 edge in shots on goal, and it was Northeastern that potted the frame's lone goal to give NU a 1-0 lead through 40 minutes of play.
The Huskies took a 1-0 advantage just eight seconds into the stanza when Stevens buried his third goal of the season with NU on the power play. After Stevens won the opening face-off back to Roy, Roy dumped the puck into the Bronco zone. Braden Pimm chased down the loose puck and dished it out to Stevens in the slot, who blasted it past Slubowski for the score.
Penalties to both squads gave each team ample opportunities on the power play throughout the second, including four chances for Northeastern. The Huskies almost took a two-goal lead with 6:35 to play in the frame when Colton Saucerman fired a puck down to Pimm at the goal line. Pimm then spotted Roy alone in front for a one-timer that Slubowski handled.
The Broncos dominated the play in the third period, taking advantage of an NU minor penalty to tie the score at one with 7:51 remaining in regulation. Shane Berschbach leveled the score with Western Michigan on the power play when he knocked home a loose puck following a scrum in front of the Northeastern goal. The goal was looked at during a lengthy review by the officials, but stood as called to send the teams into overtime.
During the extra session, Northeastern held a slight 3-1 edge in shots, but could not solve Slubowski, forcing the game into a shootout to decide which team would advance to the championship game.
Western Michigan, electing to shoot first, sent Justin Kovacs to center ice to kick things off, but as he flew in on goal Witt was able to poke check the puck away.
Hedges took the first shootout attempt for the Huskies, and skated in on goal before deking Slubowski to the left and sending a backhand in on the right side for the score.
Witt took away the bottom of the NU net during WMU's second attempt from Dennis Brown, who could not get a shot off. Roy's next chance for NU sailed wide of a wrister, and the Huskies secured a spot in the title game after Berschbach's shot from the right side went wide left.
- Northeastern is now 3-1-1 all-time against Western Michigan, and extends its unbeaten streak against the Broncos to four games.
- Friday marked the first time in the four-year history of the Shillelagh Tournament that a Hockey East team has reached the championship game.
- Witt has recorded at least 30 saves in five of his last six outings.
- Western Michigan's third period goal snapped Northeastern's shutout streak at 120:34.