Despite erasing two different one-goal deficits, the Northeastern Huskies saw their historic season come to a close at the hands of the Michigan Wolverines by a score of 3-2.
It was a game in which the Huskies never seemed to get comfortable, never able to establish the offensive cycle or the neutral zone speed that they had utilized with great success all season long. Michigan was simply bigger, faster, and better than the Huskies in this game. The Wolverines did an excellent job preventing the Huskies from getting any time and space with the puck, in particularly the Huskies’ top line of Adam Gaudette, Dylan Sikura, and Nolan Stevens. The Big Three finished the game with only six shots on goal- three by Sikura, two by Stevens, one by Gaudette, which was a season-low for all three players.
After a scoreless first period, Michigan opened the scoring with just under five minutes left in the second, when Cooper Marody wheeled around the offensive zone and put a shot just inside the right post and Cayden Primeau‘s blocker. This goal was the culmination of a dominant second period by Michigan that saw a 13-2 shot advantage for the men in white. The Huskies struggled mightily in this period with exiting their own zone and getting any sustained pressure in the Michigan zone. On the flip side, Michigan was pounding the Huskies’ defensive zone, and would have scored even more had Primeau not been his standard excellent self.
The Huskies tied the game later in the second period on a powerplay goal, their second (and final) powerplay of the game. After an initial unsuccessful rush, Sikura brought the puck into the Michigan zone before finding Stevens in front of the net, who fed Jeremy Davies in an open area near the faceoff dot. Davies quickly passed it to Sikura, who one-timed it past goaltender Hayden Lavigne and sent the Huskies faithful into a frenzy. Sikura’s goal would prove to be the final goal he scores in a Huskies uniform, and extended his national lead in powerplay goals to 14.
In the third period, the Huskies fought valiantly but it was evident that the size and speed difference between them and Michigan had taken its toll. The Huskies were visibly gassed. Michigan took the lead six minutes into the third after a backhand shot from the face-off circle squeaked through Primeau, one of the softer goals he had given up this season, at the worst possible time. The Huskies fought back once again, tying the game later in the third when Eric Williams’ wrist shot from the right point found its way through traffic and past Lavigne, knotting the game at two and giving the Huskies hope. Unfortunately, Michigan dashed those hopes shortly after, scoring with 4:30 left in the game after Marody put a rebound in transition through Primeau’s pads. The Wolverines would ward off the remainder of the Huskies’ efforts, and the final buzzer sounded the close of the Huskies’ season.
The story of the game was the battle of each teams’ top line. All six players between the two teams were on the ice for the three Michigan goals, a rare sight for the Northeastern trio who prided themselves on not having been scored upon much this season. The way that was accomplished was frequently a product of the trio possessing the puck for as long as they did, but Michigan prevented that from happening for long stretches of this game. Gaudette in particular looked uncomfortable most of the game, and didn’t record his lone shot on goal until the third period.
It was a game that was frustrating to watch, knowing it was not the best effort the Huskies were capable of producing. Jim Madigan said as much after the game in his press conference. But at the end of the day, this is a single-elimination tournament that will see fifteen other teams have their seasons end in similar fashion, joining the forty-six other schools who would have given anything to have been in the position Northeastern was in. Northeastern players, coaches, and fans will look at this game as a missed opportunity, but it also is a marker of growth for this program.
This program historically does not achieve much success. This was only the sixth season that the Huskies made the NCAA Tournament. Two of those six teams were coached by Jim Madigan, and featured this class of five seniors, as well as the class of five juniors below them. This loss stings, but do not let that take away from the historic success that this senior class and their teammates have achieved. The bar at Northeastern University has been raised each of the last three seasons. There are questions in place for next season; we will address those in the near-future with more posts. For now, as we reflect on this loss, it’s not out of anger, it’s not out of spite. It’s out of sadness that we have to close another chapter in the book of Northeastern Hockey; out of respect to the five seniors who gave everything they had to change the landscape of hockey on Huntington Avenue; and with optimism as that we now look to the future with the faith that Coach Madigan and his staff will return our beloved program to this level again, and beyond.
Northeastern University hockey is not done. It’s not going away. There will be dips and dives, just as with any program. But we will be back. We will be back.
As always, go Huskies.