ROCHESTER, NY – In front of a packed crowd for the Brick City Classic, the Northeastern Huskies (2-0-1) fought back from a 3-0 second period deficit to post a 3-3 tie against RIT (0-0-1). Lincoln Griffin, Garret Cockerill, and Dylan Sikura (PP) scored the three goals for the Huskies, while freshman Cayden Primeau started his second consecutive game in net and made 24 saves in 27 chances on the night. Adam Gaudette and Sikura both posted two point nights as the Huskies put 47 shots on RIT freshman goaltender Logan Drackett. Matt Filipe (lower body) missed the game and is considered day-to-day.
The first period was relaively uneventful, as the Huskies took the shot advantage 16-8 but neither team created much in terms of quality chances or drew a penallty as they felt each other out. The Huskies started to pick up the pace in the back half of the period and had RIT reeling, but there was never a point that either team could point to and say they should have had the lead. Primeau made a few stops including one on a backhand in front, but it’s hard to think most goalies wouldn’t have ended that period at 0-0.
Things started to unravel just 50 seconds into the second when Matt Abt walked down the right wing and set up for a shot. The puck was knocked away from his stick, but that quickly turned into a benefit for the Tigers, as the loose puck turned into an impromptu drop pass for captain Myles Powell, who beat Primeau for the first goal of the night. After killing off back to back penalties, the opportunistic Tigers once again turned a negative into a positive, as they sprung Mark Logan for a breakaway just as he finished serving his infraction and exited the box. Cayden Primeau was able to make the initial save, but Erik Brown beat the Huskies back into the zone and knocked the rebound past Primeau while crashing into the net.
The Huskies started to look a bit frustrated in the face of two goal deficit in spite of a lopsided shot advantage, and the Tigers turned that frustration into yet another opportunity at 13:31 when Trevor Owens went off for tripping (his first of two infractions on the night). They took just 17 seconds to take advantage, as a Brady Norrish point shot turned into a knuckleball, crossing Primeau up and resulting in Brown finding a puck in the crease for the second time in ten minutes. The goal is probably one that Primeau wants back, despite the initial shot going wild it’s a puck you need to be able to get covered or knock away.
Now thoroughly behind the eight ball, the Huskies were able to get one back before the period ended as Zach Solow took the puck below the goal line after a long cycle play and centered for Lincoln Griffin, who sniped the puck over Drackett. Griffin’s second goal on the year extended Solow’s collegiate point streak to three games. Griffin also had Grant Jozefek open on the back door for a tap-in on the play, but elected to shoot bar down instead.
The third was when the real parade to the penalty box began, as RIT started back to back minors to give the Huskies a 5 against 3 opportunity. Despite a plethora of chances and a number of shots that we’ve come to expect the talented Huskies power play to convert, they weren’t able to find the back of the net. Grant Jozefek in particular had two chances at the doorstep but missed the net on the first one and was robbed on the second moments later.
The first line finally came through two minutes later though, as Sikura and Gaudette cycled the puck down low before finding a wide open Cockerill, who walked into the high slot and fired a bullet past Drackett to pull back within 1. With just 5 minutes left it was looking like the Tigers were going to hold on and send a packed arena home happy, but the Huskies’ bench successfully appealed for a too many men call and went back to work on the advantage. After an 0-6 power play showing to start the game, lucky number 7 saw the Huskies get a frenzy of chances in front of the net, drawing both the RIT defensive formation and goaltender Drackett way out of position. Cockerill received the puck up high and found Sikura uncovered and in front of a yawning net, which he hit to tie the game at 3.
The game tying goal was just about the last highlight for NU though, as RIT had a flurry of chances at the other end and at one point had Primeau beat for the game winner only to see the shot sail over the crossbar. Cockerill took a tripping penalty with 18 seconds to play and the Tigers started overtime on the advantage, unleashing chance after chance after chance that the Huskies’ defense and Primeau were just able to get enough of each and every time. After a multitude of near-disasters, the Huskies finally got back to even strength and finished out the game without much of a threat, though another RIT too many men call with 35 seconds to play provided a final scare for the Tigers.
Despite the shot advantage, the Huskies looked like they underestimated RIT (something this blog is also guilty of) after dominating a weak team last weekend, and they were lucky to escape Rochester with a tie and the RPI boost that comes with it. Credit where credit is due, they could have shut down when they were down three goals and accepted that, for the third year in a row, a Week 2 game against an AHC opponent was going to be their downfall. Instead, they kept griding and got just enough quality chances to salvage a meaningful result from a bad situation. But it’s impossible to ignore that if not for RIT taking SIX penalties (including two bench minors) after they had a 3-0 lead and seven while playing with the lead in general, it would have been a very different game.
The Huskies’ normally potent power play generated some good chances, but not as many as you would expect with over 15 minutes of time and ended up a dismal 1-for-8. Griffin’s goal was scored just a few seconds after the end of a PP, but if you give them credit for that you also have to count the breakaway out of the box and ensuing goal against them. They didn’t convert nearly as often they needed to and struggled to even get into the zone at times, though they looked better once they got there.
The penalty kill and team defense need just as much work, as RIT scored nearly immediately on their first power play chance and I have no idea how they didn’t win the game on their last chance when shot after shot seemed destined for the net. While 3-4 on the kill doesn’t look especially awful, it’s a situation where experiencing it was worse than the stats show. RIT played wth speed and seemed to counter NU chances with odd-man rush after odd-man rush all night, and even when they didn’t seem to have numbers, they would find a drop pass or an open man streaking down the ice and get a quality chance out of it. They looked like the more energetic team who knew how to get open and create chances while NU seemed to be bottled up and settle for shooting the puck into the chest of Drackett. At points it seemed like they were perhaps all aiming for the five hole, but I’m not sure why, as Drackett seemingly handled nearly every shot there with ease, didn’t give up a five hole goal or very many second chance opportunties, and was aggressive playing the puck all night.
Trevor Owens gets a mark against him for taking two penalties, even though he’s been playing with more of an offensive edge so far this season, you can’t do that as a third pairing guy. Cockerill, while always good offensively and a main factor in two of the NU goals, had a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde night and it felt like he had lead in his skates. Tough to watch RIT players blow right past him all night, even when he was supposed the last man back and suddenly RIT had a breakaway chance, and tough to see him take a penalty going into OT. Primeau played well other than the goal he wants back, he had no chance at all on the second goal and saved the defense with his play numerous times. He’ll get at least one more game next weekend.
Perhaps I’m being a bit too harsh for just the second weekend of the year, but we all came into this game expecting to handily dismantle RIT and certainly didn’t expect to struggle, be the slower team, or to need a three goal comeback, yet that’s what happened. Chalk this one up to some early season jitters in front of a big and raccous crowd, and more than a bit of overconfidence and underestimating their opponent after dismantling Sacred Heart, but the Huskies should be happy RIT’s parade to the box helped them salvage a 3-3 tie and that they were able to keep it that way and not allow a 4th goal. They have a lot of work to do in practice this week and a repeat performance won’t be nearly enough if they’re to come out ahead of an always-solid Quinnipiac team next weekend.