East Meadow, NY– It was a close battle for the Long Island University Sharks this past Saturday, as they fell 3-2 in overtime to no. 8 ranked Northeastern up in Beantown. Everyone in the college hockey community was shocked to see the LIU Sharks hang with their ranked opponent, everyone except LIU.
“We’re not surprised to be where we were with five minutes left or heading in overtime for that matter,” LIU Sharks head coach Brett Riley said in an exclusive interview with NYI Hockey Now. “Although disappointing, [there are] so many positives to build off of.”
As for the positives, not only did LIU keep the game close, but they came from behind in the third period to force overtime.
“I think after the first period, I think the shots were about dead even. We finished every hit in sight. We had a commitment to blocking shots. We won the special teams’ battle. Our goaltending was outstanding,” Riley said. “Twelve new guys in the lineup that more than held their own.”
“So there’s a lot to unpack, and there’s a lot of guys that didn’t dress that very well can contribute ahead here too.”
With a game under their belt, Coach Riley has some homework to do, given the information now at his disposal.
“Well, it’s nice like we actually have some video now. We have stats. We have data. We have analytics. We’ve got a lot going on here,” Riley said. “So camaraderie and cohesion are always important to us. If we don’t have a team, we don’t have nothing.”
Before the start of their season, Coach Riley told NYI Hockey Now that his goal was to gain respect from the college hockey community and the opposition as he continues to build up the LIU program.
Despite an opening night loss, ‘it definitely was a step in the right direction,” Riley said.
One of the game’s stars was senior goaltender Vinnie Purpura who made critical saves in the third period to keep the contest close and Coach Riley gave him props for his clutch play.
“Outstanding performance by him. We expected just that, and he delivered,” Riley shared. “We want our goalies to be over a .910 save percentage, and I think it was at .935, so he gave us a chance to win.”
“Outstanding on the penalty killers as well. You need your goalie to be your best killer, and he was that, and he made some big saves when the game was tight to give us a chance.”
Purpura has some history with Northeastern, as he battled the Huskies often when he played for Boston University from 2018-2020.
“I definitely think it’s a totally different team than when I was there, at BU, but they kind of keep the same structure. They work it really well down low and they have some fast players,” Purpura said. “I think I kind of had a good idea, and then I think we prepped really well for the week.”
Purpura said that the key to his success in the third period at the historic Matthews Arena came down to him trusting his ability.
“So I knew we were in a tight game going into the third. I basically just kept playing my game,” Purpura said. “I know I got to show up and perform in the third period because that’s when it gets gritty, especially when it seemed like maybe they don’t think they played their best game the first couple [of periods]. They’re going to come firing in the third period. So, just stick with my game and trust my game.”
Saturday’s loss also marked a couple of milestones for the Sharks.
Quinn’s message to the boys heading into the contest was simple. “Everyone do their part.”
Staying positive, especially on the road against a formidable opponent is no easy task, but LIU’s newest captain thought that was something his team did a great job of against the Huskies.
“Just everyone staying positive and being able to respond to adversity throughout the game, and just keep moving forward,” Jack Quinn shared as a positive from the loss.
As far as the road ahead, the Sharks will have their first back-to-back situation this upcoming weekend as they take on Stonehill College Saturday at 5 P.M, followed by a matinee game on Sunday at 2 P.M at no. 7 Quinnipiac.
While there is a big difference between Stonehill and Quinnipiac, the approach remains the same.
“We’re approaching Stonehill like any other game. It’s going to be a competitive game, and we’re going prepare for it as if we’re playing Northeastern,” Quinn said. “It doesn’t matter who we’re playing. We’re going to go in there and be ready to give 100%, and we try to focus on us mostly [not our opponents.”
Coach Riley shared the same mentality.
“Right now, the focus is primarily on Stonehill. I mean, we were in [the same] position that [Stonehill] was in when everyone doubted us,” Riley said. “So we’re not going to look past them.”
“We need to be ready to play, and in college hockey, as you saw this past weekend, anyone can beat anyone.”
Stefen Rosner contributed to his article.