This past weekend, the Northeastern Huskies split their conference matchups with Vermont and Boston College, earning a tightly-contested 2-1 victory over Vermont on Friday before falling to BC on Saturday, 4-1. Both games took place at Matthews Arena.
Friday: While the final score was 2-1, the Huskies dominated the Catamounts from the onset. Unfortunately, Vermont goaltender Stefanos Lekkas proved infallible for the first 40 minutes of the game, making numerous awe-inspiring saves to keep the Huskies at bay. In the first period alone, Lekkas turned away all 15 shots he faced, including multiple grade A chances from the slot and below the faceoff dots.
After a scoreless first period, Vermont took a 1-0 lead just 1:14 into the second when Derek Lodermeier rebounded off of Cayden Primeau and was buried by Alex Esposito. It was a frustrating result for the Huskies, who were clearly the dominant team in the game, yet trailed going into the third period.
In the third, the Huskies waited until the final ten minutes but came to life with 9:10 left in the period when a Ryan Shea point shot tipped off a Catamount defenseman and got past Lekkas, tying the game at 1. As time was winding down and the teams looked destined for overtime, Jeremy Davies collected an errant pass through the neutral zone from Dylan Sikura, streaked down the right boards before making a great power move to the net front and putting a low wrist shot off the far post and into the net, giving the Huskies a 2-1 lead they would not relinquish. Vermont would pull the goalie for 100 seconds, but never come close to scoring again.
Friday Thoughts: This was the first 2-1 victory for Northeastern since December, 2015, and forgive me for using “coach-speak,” but it was a gritty, hard-fought win that the team can build on. It was the second in what would become a stretch of three games where the offense sputtered, and proving to themselves that they are capable of playing a responsible, tight-checking game that ends in a win is great for their psyche going forward. Notable players from Friday included Cayden Primeau, who stopped multiple breakways and odd-man rushes to keep Vermont at bay and looked the part of a program goalie; Jeremy Davies, who continues to excel and prove he’s the best defenseman on the team; and Zach Solow, who even though has been cold on the scoresheet had multiple chances below the faceoff dots only to be stifled by Lekkas. He’s due for a breakout any game now.
Saturday: In a battle of the top two teams in Hockey East to this point, the Eagles came into Matthews Arena and tamed the Huskies’ potent offensive attack from the onset. Northeastern would not get their first goal until 3:19 left in the third period when John Picking tipped an Eetu Selanne shot past Joe Woll, yielding Picking’s first collegiate goal and Selanne’s first collegiate point.
Saturday Thoughts: Well this was a let down. Boston College played perhaps their best game of the whole season, and executed a gameplan that neutralized any offensive threat the Huskies could muster. The Huskies struggled to find any space to maneuver in, with BC closing gaps and playing a physical game along the boards and in the open ice to quell any chances the Huskies got. Northeastern did manage some excellent flurries of offensive possession during each period, but Joe Woll was excellent in net for BC, turning away 27 of 28 shots.
Three games in a row where the offense was absent, however the score does not indicate how well the Huskies did play. Two of the goals against Cayden Primeau were flukey goals- the third BC goal was a swatted puck from behind the goal line that went off his shoulder and in, while the fourth goal was a cross-crease pass that deflected off of a sliding Zach Solow and past Primeau. Despite his game statistics, Primeau looked excellent, turning away many excellent chances, including multiple powerplays and one breakaway, keeping his team in the game. The final score would likely have been 7-1 or worse had Primeau not played at the level that he did. He continues to inspire confidence in me going forward.
Obviously 5 goals in 3 games, yielding only one win, is cause for concern, but I am not ready to blast the sirens just yet. These games came against three teams that are classically three of the best defensively in the conference- Lowell, Vermont, and Boston College. In addition, outside of Gaudette and Stevens, multiple Huskies who are being counted on to score have been extremely unlucky when shooting the puck- Sikura has 0 on 23 shots in conference play (last year he shot 14% overall, this year 11% overall). That will change for the better soon. Solow has 0 goals on 14 conference shots. Filipe has 0 goals on 9 conference shots (he needs to shoot more). Once these guys stop being snake-bitten and their performances progress to the mean, we’ll see a more diverse scoring array.
Lastly, it’s a three game sample. The next six games are against UConn, Merrimack (three times), BC, and AIC. Five games against teams with below-average, borderline BAD goaltending, and then a rematch against BC that you can expect Coach Madigan and his staff will be prepared for. This next stretch of games is exactly what the team needs to get its offense reset. Lets give them a few more games before panicking about the offense.
As always, Go Huskies!