BOSTON, MA — Playing two games in three nights in two distinctly different locations, the Northeastern Huskies garnered just one point in their series against the Wildcats of the University of New Hampshire. The two squads played Thursday January 12th at UNH, where the Wildcats came from behind to win 5-3, and then again on Saturday January 14th in the latest edition of Frozen Fenway. The teams played to a 2-2 tie that game.
In Durham, the Huskies jumped out to an early 3-1 lead. Zach Aston-Reese opened the scoring after UNH goalie Danny Tirone fell out of the crease, and ZAR put the puck in the open net. John Stevens followed up with a redirection in close off an Eric Williams slap-pass from the point. A Brendan va Riemsdyk goal, a top corner snipe beating Ryan Ruck high, cut the lead in half, but then ZAR would strike again on the powerplay early in the second period.
That is the last goal the Huskies would score in the game. Jason Salvaggio would cut the lead to one halfway through the second, and then UNH erupted for three goals, including one empty-netter, in the third period. Salvaggio’s goal was at 4-on-4 strength, and was the result of an NU turnover with the defense up in the play, resulting in a 3-on-1 against Dylan Sikura. UNH’s tying goal was the result of the Huskies losing a defensive zone faceoff clean, and Patrick Grasso firing a puck over Ruck’s shoulder- I would wager that Ruck did not see the puck off his stick, based on how her reacted to the shot. The winning goal was a point shot tipped past Ruck after UNH mugged Sam Kurker along the boards or the puck.
Unlike previous games, Ruck was not the reason we lost the game. The first goal was a pure snipe, followed by an odd-man rush, a screened shot, and a tip. The team came out and played arguably their worst period of the year in the third, leaving their goalie out to dry a handful of times and letting UNH right right over them. It was a disappointing loss, especially after having a two goal lead.
The game at Fenway proved to be a much better showing for the Huskies. The team jumped out to an early 1-0 lead off a powerplay goal from Adam Gaudette, who followed with a baseball-style celebration that would make David Ortiz proud. The Huskies then allowed two goals, one after a point shot deflected off Jeremy Davies and landed in front of an open net, and another that flew past Ruck after being buried in a scrum. Davies made up for it at the end of the second period, throwing a puck on net and having it get through Tirone’s legs.
The outdoor conditions make takeaways tough to find from the game, but there were a number of things that the Huskies should build on. The was Ryan Ruck’s best game in a few weeks. It was the first game he saved over 90% of shots since the Clarkson game (Ruck saved 33/35 at Fenway), and his positioning was much better. Tom Caron and his partner in the booth made reference to how Ruck was going down early quite a bit this season, and then lauded him for his cross-crease quickness and his tracking of the puck. Hopefully the fresh air is what he needed, as the Huskies are fighting for their home-ice lives every game from here on out.
This also was the best game that I have seen Matt Filipe play since he arrived at Northeastern. Filipe was a force in all three zones, hit a post early in the first, drew multiple penalties, played a great cycle game with ZAR and Stevens, and on a penalty kill skated the puck out himself, and got the puck deep in the UNH zone while fighting off multiple UNH players. He also has shown a serious edge in recent games, playing physical while staying out of the penalty box. He is someone that will continue to blossom into a bonafide power forward and pro prospect, and should continue his emergence as the season progresses.
One last stick tap to the Northeastern defense and their handling of Tyler Kelleher this series. Coming into the series as the nation’s leading point scorer, and still leads the nation in points per game, Kelleher was held scoreless in consecutive, the first time it has happened since February 2016. Ryan Shea in particular was used in a shutdown role, and did well to minimize the impact Kelleher had while on the ice.
All in all, Northeastern is at the point of the season where any points gained is a step in the right direction. Obviously, a victory would have been the best case outcome, but 1 point is still better than 0. UNH has proven to be a formidable opponent in Hockey East this year, and there were things Northeastern can use to build on for their second half run. The Huskies next will play Merrimack College this coming weekend in a home-and-home series.