Player of the Week

Player of the Week

When Joe Vitale woke up Saturday morning his cell phone had multiple missed calls, voicemails and text messages. Afraid something bad had happened to a family member he quickly began checking them, only to find everyone had the same urgent message. Vitale’s overtime game-winning goal against Merrimack Friday had made SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays.

The sophomore forward on the men’s hockey team scored his sixth goal of the season with 49.9 seconds remaining in overtime to give the Huskies the 1-0 win earning him The Northeastern News Player of the Week honors.

“When I woke up I was really nervous something had happened to my family or something,” Vitale said. “When I read the text messages I thought it was a joke. But I TiVo SportsCenter every morning and I couldn’t believe it when I saw it.”

The St. Louis native said the goal was the most climactic of his career. Vitale scored off a play set up on the face-off. He won the face-off and got the puck to senior defenseman Steve Birnstill. Birnstill took a shot and Vitale collected the rebound for the game-winner.

“We have had great success with face-offs this season and this was just another set play,” Vitale said. “Steve took that shot and the next thing I knew I was on my knees in front of the net. My little sister could have scored that goal; it didn’t take much skill.”

Vitale nearly scored in the last minute of regulation to give the Huskies the win without overtime. He took the puck up ice, went around a Merrimack defenseman and dropped a pass to junior forward Jimmy Russo in front. Russo’s shot was saved and the game went into extra time.

“It was another set play off the face-off,” Vitale said. “We couldn’t have executed the play better and I was certain it went in. I have no idea how the goalie came up with it.”

The overtime win seemed like perfect momentum leading into the 55th Beanpot Tournament Monday at the TD Banknorth Garden. The Huskies lost the game 4-0 to Boston University but NU had the advantage early and Vitale nearly came up with a goal to get an early lead.

“We played a really strong first 10 minutes,” Vitale said. “On my first shift it was almost like the seas parted and I had a clear path to the net. I gave the goalie a shoulder fake but [BU senior John Curry] made a great save. If that goal had scored it would have totally shifted the momentum of the game especially in the Beanpot and especially against BU.”

– Erika Carrubba, News Staff

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