Howlin to the End: Huskies Seize 4 Points in Late Game Heroics

They may not be the Huskies of last year. They may not win a Hobey. But there’s a whole lot of fight, a whole lot of determination, and a whole lot of goal scoring in this litter of Huskies folks. Despite taking a one goal deficit into the third period on Friday against UConn and a two goal deficit into the third period on Saturday against Lowell, the Northeastern Huskies fought back both nights and took four points from a weekend that could well have ended in zero, a performance that will no doubt be critical come March when every point matters.

First, on Friday NU put their 1-0 record in intra-Husky matchups on the line when they faced off with UConn on homecoming night at Matthews Arena. NU controlled play for much of the first, but it was UConn who got on the board when Roman Kinal, the son of a former Northeastern winger of the same name, scored his first collegiate goal and turned the momentum around. NU had to face some adversity after going down a goal as well, as Austin Plevy was called for a facemasking major after a scrum that resulted in four players being sent to the box. They killed off that one and survived a questionable Matt Filipe penalty then had some fun, as Lincoln Griffin was fouled on a breakaway and was awarded the first NU penalty shot since 2014. Griffin beat Adam Huska clean but was denied by the iron. Another penalty shortly after finally helped NU get on the scoreboard when Jeremy Davies sniped a point shot past Huska on the advantage. Davies has been doing a lot of fake shooting from the point this year and finally put the real thing to the test, with successful results.

NU couldn’t take the momentum with them into the third though, as back to back tripping penalties left them down 5 on 3 and, while they technically killed the penalties, Max Kalter scored seconds after to put UConn back on top. NU would get a 5 on 3 of their own in the third and Zach Solow converted on it with one of the prettier goals you’ll ever see, dangling around and through Adam Karashik to get into the slot and find the back of the net. It looked like we were headed to OT from there, but the Huskies weren’t quite done yet, as a Tyler Madden point shot with just over a minute left went right at the stick of Brandon Hawkins and the senior winger executed one of the best tip-ins you’re ever likely to see to find the back of the net and secure two points in regulation.

Coming off the win, NU returned to Matthews for a Saturday matchup with Lowell, as the Riverhawks looked to rebound from a 2-2 tie against UNH on Friday. Kenny Hausinger opened the scoring early with a shot that took an unfortunate deflection off a Husky and into the net, but Davies led the Huskies back again with his second goal in as many nights just five minutes later, from a little closer in this time.

Then, it got ugly.

Northeastern had already taken a penalty on the play that led to Hausinger’s goal, and they were about to take a ton more. They killed off two more minors in the first, before the horn sounded and Biagio Lerario followed with a high stick to a Lowell player in the offensive zone for NU’s fourth minor of the period. The second was no better, as an early trip gave Lowell PP number 5, then 6 and 7 came shortly after, one of which was Lerario taking his second unnecessary infraction after being warned and tossed from a faceoff, an act that actually led to him getting thrown off the bench and sent back to the locker room by Jim Madigan in the middle of the game. Lowell converted on both of those last two chances after the Huskies had shut them down on the first 5 and they took a 3-1 lead into the second break.

NU finally got what would have been their first full two minute power play of the game at the start of the third, but didn’t need all that time, as Grant Jozefek sniped a shot that beat Cristoffer Hernberg’s glove and got NU back within 1. But true to form, NU took a penalty number 8 exactly 8 seconds after the goal and Lowell converted for third time in a row to push the lead back to 2. Jozefek wouldn’t be denied though, and he scored his second goal with a super impressive release to the blocker side of Hernberg to cut the deficit right back down. As the tweet below also mentions, it was made possible by a beautiful breakout from Shea and Hawkins.

Lowell was doing a good job of shutting NU down from there and it looked like the game would end with that scoreline, especially with 5 minutes and change left when Plevy tripped Connor Wilson for penalty number 9. But the gods of Hockey East showed their stripes one last time, calling Wilson for embellishment and a #HockeyEastSpecial. During the 4 on 4 Madden would score the second late deflection goal of the weekend, getting a piece of a Ryan Shea pass to the slot and sending the game to overtime where Liam Pecararo made a pass to breakout senior and certified Lowell killer Patrick Schule, who converted for his fifth goal of the season and second overtime goal against the Riverhawks in the past calendar year and sent the Husky faithful home Howlin’.

Let’s start with the penalties. It’s been a while since we’ve seen a parade to the box from NU, they’ve been one of the least penalized teams in the country for a few years now. Part of that is how they play, they don’t really hit people and often avoid contact to an infuriating degree, only for Lerario to knock someone out and send the fans Howlin’. But they took a ton this weekend, 15 minutes worth on Friday and 18 more on Saturday. A quarter of the weekend with someone in the box. Some of them were questionable, like Plevy somehow getting a major during a scrum when we’ve all seen players grab each by the helmet 100 times, Filipe getting the first “handling the puck” penalty I’ve seen in college hockey, and Griffin getting a trip Saturday because his opponent fell somewhat near him. But a lot of them were deserved too and it was far from the most disciplined the Huskies have ever been. The real question is whether they’re taking the penalties because of the fight and intensity they’re playing with and the ends justify the means, or if they’re only having to fight back because they already took so many penalties. The tail wagging the Husky, if you would.

On the other hand, they scored 8 goals in a weekend against two of the hotter goaltenders you could match up against and the scoring continues to come from everywhere, with six different goal scorers contributing to the wins. The top six of Hawkins, Jozefek, Madden, Solow, Pecararo, and Filipe are all threats and Griffin and Schule are thriving as well while intermittently getting mixed in up top. We’ve seen one key prediction coming into the season definitely come true, that there is other scoring talent on this team outside the Big Three that just needed an opportunity to make an impact. Jozefek and Hockey East Rookie of the Week Tyler Madden had 4 point weekends, Davies, Solow, and Hawkins all tallied 3, and Pecararo scored 2 while essentially only playing one game worth of time, if that.

It should be noted that the injury bug is also putting a serious dent in the lineup. The Huskies’ big names haven’t missed a ton of time which had kept the problem hidden until Pecararo went out, but the depth is really starting to take a hit. Pecararo returned Friday after missing just one weekend but hardly played while slotted in at the thirteenth forward; he got a lot more time Saturday and probably benefited some from Lerario’s exit. I would imagine he’s good to go from here on out. Forwards Austin Goldstein and Brandon Schultz are still out, and Goldstein has yet to make his season debut with a long-term lower body injury. No word on whether Matt Thomson is injured or out due to a coaches decision, he’s a player we would have thought could get some 13th forward time but hasn’t for the most part, so it wouldn’t be surprising to learn he’s on the mend too.

On defense the top four has been relatively unscathed besides the “upper body injury” that forced Davies out for a game, but both of the Huskies’ preferred third pairing defensemen AJ Villella and Collin Murphy were unable to suit up this weekend, replaced by Billy Carrabino and Julian Kislin. They didn’t see a ton of time and NU mostly relied on the top four to pick up the considerable minutes Villella and Murphy had been trusted with, so hopefully they come back sooner rather than later. A Huskies team rolling all six defensemen with confidence for the first time in quite a while was a welcome sight over the past few weeks.

Finally, the power play finally got rolling with three goals on the weekend plus another goal 4 on 4 while not allowing anything shorthanded. Davies shooting the puck and finding twine was a welcome return and the forwards seemed to do a much better of moving around and generating looks than they did against BU.  The penalty kill had held out for a while too, stopping every chance they faced in the first four periods before Lowell scored on three consecutive power plays Saturday after wearing them down.

Believe it or not, the schedule is already winding down for winter break. The Huskies have played their final full weekend of the fall and it’s only single games from here until Christmas, the next two game Hockey East weekend isn’t until mid-January. Northeastern is back in action next week with a single game in Burlington, which is technically the first Hockey East Bonus Third Game of the season, as the two games in Matthews in February make up the regularly scheduled two game conference series. We’ll have a preview for that later this week as the Huskies look to pick up two more ever-important Hockey East points.