Tyler Madden scored his first two goals of the season to put Northeastern ahead, including the first PP strike of the season for the Huskies, but Holy Cross ultimately tied the Northeastern 2-2 at Matthews Arena last Saturday.
The first half hour of the game mirrored the first half of every other game NU has played this season, barely any shots for NU and not much scoring chance for either side. Northeastern has yet to score a goal in the first 30 minutes of a single game this season through 4 chances, 3 against opponents that should be theoretically overmatched.
Holy Cross struck first on a wide open backdoor power play goal in the second period, the first PPG Northeastern has allowed on the young season, but the Huskies struck back in much the same way, with a power play scramble ending up on the stick of Zach Solow, who found Madden waiting at the backside for a one-time finish to tie the game after 2.
Madden started the third by taking a rush down the wing and backhanding it into the net all by himself, showing flashes of why he was picked so high in the NHL draft, and many breathed a sigh of relief thinking that NU had avoided danger. But it was not to be, as the Crusaders answered just minutes later with a tip that got past Craig Pantano and barely had momentum to make it into the net, but they all count the same. NU turned it on for the last couple of minutes of regulation and for overtime, including a key power play chance where they seemingly did everything but score, but could not find the winner. Holy Cross went on a shorthanded breakaway with 10 seconds left in overtime, but thankfully, total catastrophe was avoided when the puck sailed wide of Pantano to seal the tie.
On one hand, a tie isn’t the worst result ever and certainly isn’t quite the RPI/Pairwise anchor that some losses in previous seasons have been, especially because there will be no head to head comparison advantage for Holy Cross. However, it’s still a game the Huskies should have won, and the inability to score early or score more than twice in a game is a growing cause for concern. Of course, this all comes with the caveat that NU is one of just seven non-Ivy teams who have yet to lose on the season, so complaints complaints about them are easily disproved. But it seems pretty obvious to anyone looking on that the team is solidly in “They can’t keep getting away with this” territory, and hopefully coming up short against Holy Cross reinforced that to the team.
Jim Madigan said as much after the game, calling it the worst performance NU has put on at home in his tenure. Which… those of us who are old enough to have seen the start of Madigan’s tenure know that that was a bit of an embellishment, but it’s probably the worst home game NU has ever played against an Atlantic Hockey team (even in the famous loss to Bentley they outshot the Falcons by 40+) and that could well make it the worst game ever by default. So, fair point, but at least it’s not a loss.
Looking ahead to the future, NU travels this weekend to last year’s almost coast-to-coast Pairwise #1, and the current #14, St. Cloud State Huskies. NU hosted the second game ever between the two schools last year, winning 3-2 and handing SCSU their first of just four losses all regular season thanks to Eric Williams’ heroics. Puck drop is at 8:37 Eastern Friday (on Fox 9+ Minneapolis) and 7:07 Eastern Saturday (on Fox Sports North Plus). Assuming you don’t have a cable package that covers your standard local Minnesota channels, NCHC.tv will also be streaming the games for a relatively absurd 17 dollars per game. For those of you who were complaining about the Hockey East streaming package at a price of $5.99 per month for the entire conference, this is your opportunity to log off, now that you have seen what the other premiere conference in the country charges.
Looking at the Other Huskies, there’s an argument to be made that they lost more than just about anybody over the offseason (which explains their drop in the normally-stagnant early polls). Their top four scorers all departed, 21 goal and 47 point Patrick Newell, 42 point Blake Lizotte, 40 point Robby Jackson, and 35 point Jimmy Schuldt. Not to mention a certain prospect by the name of Ryan Poehling, who took his talents to Montreal.
Still returning though are senior Jack Ahcan, one of the stars of the World Junior team a few years ago, Easton Brodzinski, who scored 16 goals last year, Nolan Walker, Sam Hentges, Nick Prebix, Kevin Fitzgerald, and the other two-thirds of the Poehling trio, Jack and Nick. In goal, David Hrenak is back for his junior season and has a .919 save percentage (through 2 games) coming off a 23 win campaign in 2018-19.
All that means that, well, the Premiere Huskies of the West (and honestly the country) look a lot like the Premiere Huskies of the East usually have in recent years. Lots of talent departing plus lots of talent returning usually leads to some bumps on the way but eventually another strong team, and St. Cloud certainly looks like they’ll be strong yet again. The biggest challenge for the (good) Huskies this weekend may be that they’re entering St. Cloud for the first time in program history, looking to pick up wins in a venue where St. Cloud did not lose a single game in all of 2018-19 and lost just two regular season games in 2017-18 before winning their home playoff series in both seasons.