Boston — The Northeastern Huskies 2016-17 season came to a dramatic halt at the hands of arch-rival Boston University, as the Terriers swept the Huskies in two straight games at Agganis Arena. The games both ended in 3-2 scores, and the script of the games were eerily identical. Northeastern received goals from Zach Aston-Reese, Dylan Sikura, Biagio Lerario, and Nolan Stevens over the weekend. Ryan Ruck saved 57 of the 63 shots he faced (90.5%).
In both games, the Huskies jumped out to a 2-0 lead that held through the first period. On Friday, Aston-Reese’s goal was a pure sniper’s shot over the shoulder of Jake Oettinger, while Sikura’s was the product of incredible vision by Jeremy Davies to find Sikura on the back doorstep through traffic. Northeastern easily could have put in another goal shortly after, but Davies’ backdoor bid was shut down by Oettinger. In the second game, the opening goal was scored by Lerario, his first collegiate goal. Taking a pass from Tanner Pond, Lerario went bar-down to beat Oettinger. Nolan Stevens would tap in a goal shortly after a powerplay expired, scoring off of a beautiful feed by Matt Filipe into traffic.
In both games, BU would cut the lead in half in the second period via a powerplay goal. On Friday, the goal was scored by Dante Fabbro, whose wrist shot beat a screened Ruck. On Saturday, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson had a beautiful tip in off of a perfect saucer pass feed by Clayton Keller- legitimately one of the prettiest plays I’ve seen this season. Nothing Ruck could have done.
BU would tie the game in the third Friday night off a Chase Phelps goal, only his third of the season. Phelps cashed in off a turnover by the Huskies’ 4th line behind the net, and he buried the feed from Patrick Curry. On Saturday, senior Nick Roberto scored his final goal at Agganis Arena, a wrist shot from the high slot that beat Ruck between his body and his blocker. He may have been screened by his own defenseman, but that is a shot that probably should have been saved.
The game-winning goals were both powerplay goals. On Friday the winner was scored in overtime by Jordan Greenway; after the Terriers caught the Huskies in a bad line change due to a clearing not making it fully down the ice, Greenway took a Keller pass and shot it into the upper corner of the net, a perfect shot.
On Saturday, Chad Krys scored on a rebound goal after Ruck made the initial save on Forsbacka-Karlsson on right post. It could be argued that Ruck overcommitted on the goal, but Eric Williams lost his footing as the initial JFK shot came in, allowing Krys to get behind him and pot the rebound over a prone Ruck.
Thoughts and Musings
1) Losing sucks. Losing to BU sucks even more. Losing to BU the same way two games in a row sucked even more. Unfortunately, the series came down to BU converting on chances they had, and the Huskies failing to convert theirs. The Huskies’ powerplay, entering the weekend scoring at a 29% clip, second-best in the nation, went scoreless in seven attempts. The Huskies penalty kill, entering at a respectable 84% success rate, allowed four BU goals on eight powerplay opportunities. The Terrier’s powerplay entered clicking at 19%. Northeastern also had two late powerplays on Friday where they could have sealed the game, possibly swing the series, but they could not control the puck well enough or get good looks on the BU net. The Terriers did a good job holding their ground and not giving the Northeastern shooters much room.
2) It was also noticeable how intently BU tried to take away the patented Northeastern drop pass in the neutral zone. BU sent in a deep forechecker on the penalty kill, as they did in the first meetings with NU in November, which caused disruption in the NU breakout and also prevented clean drop passes allowing the Huskies to enter the zone with speed. BU clearly did their scouting well, and the results showed.
3) I thought Ryan Ruck played very well this weekend, and that the games could have been much wider margins of defeat had he not stepped his game up. He saved one breakaway each game, once each on Clayton Keller and Jordan Greenway. He stoned Greenway on multiple power moves in front of the net. He controlled his rebounds for most of the weekend, and when he did give up bad rebounds, they were either cleared or there were no Terriers around to jump on them. The Roberto goal he likely wants back, but if you told me Ryan Ruck would hold BU to two even strength goals over the weekend, I would have taken that in a heartbeat, trusting our offense and PK to get the rest of the job done.
4) The offense didn’t get the job done. We knew going in that BU had a great defense. Both games, however, NU showed they can be beaten, and NU cycled the puck well in both games, spending long lengths of time in the BU zone. Unfortunately, Jake Oettinger showed why he may be the first goalie taken in the 2017 NHL Draft, shutting down the Huskies after the first period ended. Multiple Huskies had chances that were not converted- Adam Gaudette, Sikura, Aston-Reese, Nolan Stevens, Sam Kurker, Davies, Filipe, all had multiple chances either at even strength or on the powerplay that were not converted, and that came back to bite the Huskies. The Top 6 scored three of the four goals, but for large stretches of the games, Gaudette, Sikura, and Aston-Reese struggled to get good looks at the net.
5) Thank you to the Northeastern Men’s Hockey Program for another eventful season. While fans may be bitter about penalties, scores, and decisions, the fact of the matter is they do so because they care so deeply for this program, and every season, the team gives us reasons to cheer and continue our support for them. The program carries itself as incredible ambassadors of the NU community and I for one am proud to be a Huskies fan. With the projected firepower and experience returning next season, I fully expect Northeastern to again contend for the Hockey East Championship, and be in contention for home ice with the other powers of the conference. Thank you to the seniors who have given everything they had during their times at Northeastern. The program is truly better off because the nine of them came to Northeastern and donned the jersey. I can’t wait to see where they all end up professionally, in hockey or otherwise.
We can’t thank our seniors enough for all they’ve done for our program. Because of them, the future of Northeastern hockey is bright #GoNUpic.twitter.com/4KFEgsdTM3