BURLINGTON, VT — Playing just hours after a blizzard rolled through Boston on Saturday and postponed three Hockey East matchups, the Northeastern Huskies suited up in Burlington, Vermont and dropped the only conference game of the night to the University of Vermont by a score of 4-3.
Brian Bowen opened up the scoring for the Catamounts just 7:34 into the game with a pretty tip of a centering pass that may not have even been intended for him, but Northeastern responded a few minutes later to tie the score at 1. The first line made a nice passing play and ultimately got the puck to the stick of Garret Cockerill in the high slot, who rifled the puck past goaltender Stefanos Lekkas. The score would remain 1-1 going into the first intermission.
The second period is where the game started to fall apart for the Huskies, as Vermont scored twice on goaltender Ryan Ruck. The first goal of the period was credited to Catamounts Captain Brendan Bradley, as a desperation shot by Bowen just after a power play expired led to a scrum in front of Ruck, who couldn’t find the puck and ultimately watched Bradley poke it in behind him. Vermont’s third goal of the night came on a play behind the net where the puck squirted out to Ruck, who promptly poked it directly to Corey Moriarty in the slot. Moriarty immediately returned the puck to Ryan Ruck’s net, putting it through Ruck’s legs for the score. John Stevens hit a post late in the second period, but the Huskies ultimately failed to find the back of the net and entered the second intermission trailing 3-1.
In the third period, Northeastern came out strong and dominated play for the first five minutes, but moments later Vermont took the puck back the other way. Trey Phillips then walked into the zone, cut inside, and put the puck into the net on the low stick side of Ruck. The Catamounts’ color commentator noted that the goal was another one that Ruck would like to have back, mentioning he was possibly screened by his own defenseman after Phillips cut in. Now trailing 4-1 with just 13 minutes to play, the Huskies made a valiant effort, as Patrick Schule put a rebound home off a Lincoln Griffin wraparound then Zach Aston-Reese scored a goal on the power play just 37 seconds later to pull Northeastern back within 1. Adam Gaudette assisted on both scores. One goal was as close as the Huskies would get though, as in spite of a few good chances in the final ten minutes, Lekkas stood strong and shut the Huskies down for the remainder of the night.
If you’ve read this blog before, the summary you’re about to hear is going to sound like a broken record. The top six scored three goals, including one on the power play. The defense was generally okay. The goaltender allowed multiple inexcusable goals and, for the 9th time in 20 games, 4 or more goals were scored against Northeastern. The best forward talent ever assembled together on Huntington Ave, no offense to Kevin Roy, is being wasted. There were some problems with the Huskies’ offense in this game too, they shot a lot of pucks directly at people and were losing board battles at a rate I’ve never seen before from a Jim Madigan-led team. But in the end, they put up 3 on one of the better defensive teams in the conference. The play of Zach Aston-Reese (in what could be a Hobey campaign if he ends up on a team with a respectable record), John Stevens, Dylan Sikura, and Adam Gaudette is not going unnoticed, it’s simply being wasted. Garret Cockerill is posed for one of the highest scoring seasons by a defenseman in school history as well. Again, wasted.
Northeastern has now failed to defeat Vermont in five consecutive contests dating back to January of 2015 (0-3-2) and have a pretty massive hole to dig out of, if there’s going to be any hockey at Matthews Arena after February 18th. Northeastern now carries a Hockey East record of 1-7-2, a mark that ranks 11th in the conference and is only one point ahead of Maine. The Black Bears carry two games in hand on the Huskies to make up that deficit, meaning the Northeastern Huskies could very well be effectively in last place in the conference, in January of a season where they received a first place vote in the preseason poll. It’s embarrassing that the year after everyone doubted Northeastern and didn’t believe they were a legitimate team until they won the whole damn thing and nobody had a choice, Northeastern’s “We’re Here” announcement was getting run over in Hockey East play with much of the same team returning. The fans deserve better and the players deserve better.
Somebody else deserves better too, though. Ryan Ruck deserves better. Ryan Ruck deserves so much better. Ryan Ruck deserves better than having the entire season fall on his shoulders. Ryan Ruck deserves better than being trotted out to start every game in spite of a 3.85 GAA and a .869 save percentage in conference play. Ryan Ruck deserves better than being fed to the wolves, both the ones on the other team and the ones watching the team, on a weekly basis with some expectation that he won’t be exactly the goaltender we all know he is. He’s struggling. We are waiting for the coach to do something about it instead of standing behind the bench, watching him fail over and over and over, watching every fan of this team pile on him, and pretending there’s nothing that could possibly be done to save him or the team.
Ths Huskies are back on action on Thursday night this week, as they start their weekend early at UNH, before practice at Fenway on Friday then a home game against UNH at Fenway at 7:30 PM Saturday night. We’ll have coverage of that game, though likely not live from the baseball version of Matthews Arena. As always, Go Huskies.