Photo via Boston Herald
The #16 Northeastern Huskies welcomed in the #18 Quinnipiac Bobcats this weekend for a weekend set that would serve as NU’s first true test of the season. Both teams should be fighting for NCAA tournament bids come spring time – and both teams looked discombobulated for large swaths of the weekend. Chalk it up to early season growing pains; unfortunately it was Northeastern that paid the price for their pains while QU skated away with two big wins for the Pairwise.
On Friday night, Northeastern treated its fans to a back-and-forth affair that felt, for forty minutes, like an inevitable Huskies win. The club out-shot the Bobcats 13-4 in the first period, 19-5 in the second period, and 41-15 overall. NU answered every QU score, threatening to run away with the game. That never happened, though. The Huskies won the shot battle just 9-6 in the third, scoring zero goals on those 9 shots while surrendering 3 goals on QU’s 6 shots. NU lost 6-4.
On Saturday, the Huskies again grabbed multiple early leads. This time, the flow of the game leaned heavily towards the Bobcats. QU out-shot Northeastern 46-26 including 31-15 in the final two periods. The Huskies couldn’t get the same kind of offensive production that the Bobcats received the night before and ultimately dropped in overtime, 3-2, despite an impressive outing from Ryan Ruck (43 saves on 46 shots).
First, the good. Yes, there are a lot of positives to take away from this weekend. Ryan Ruck had one of his best outings in a Northeastern uniform. Dylan Sikura had two more multi-point nights and is skating with a confidence you only see Hobey Baker Award-caliber players. Grant Jozefek continued his strong early season play, picking up another goal. The power play scored 3 times on 9 attempts.
Now the bad: Cayden Primeau struggled. He allowed 6 goals on 15 shots, and while they weren’t all entirely his fault, it’s tough to find a positive to point to in that kind of outing. There were a couple goals I’m sure he’d love to have back. The good news? He’s a true freshman making his 3rd career start and first against an NCAA-playoff caliber tournament. Nearly every goalie goes through growing pains as they reach the NCAA level. I wouldn’t worry too much about this one, at least not yet.
On the other end of the ice, the offense probably could have done more on Saturday, sure. But there’s too much forward talent and blue line offensive skill on this team to get hung up on that. No, the biggest culprit this weekend was early-season sloppiness. There were big chunks of time where the Huskies looked lost in their own zone. Bobcats were left unmarked, checks were missed, and loose pucks were left out in dangerous areas. In Fridays game in particular, there were multiple odd-man rushes generated by QU after they blew past NU defensemen at the blue line, a disturbing trend we saw begin in the RIT game. Eric Williams in particular struggled, being on the ice for 8 of Quinnipiac’s 9 goals, and losing his positioning so badly a times he would attempt a dive to cover space behind him near the net. Saturday, two og Quinnipiac’s goals came off rebounds, a pattern we’ve seen far too frequently from Ruck, but the defense still bares some responsibility for not clearing those loose pucks out from harm’s way. QU didn’t look particularly great either, but ultimately Rand Pecknold’s squad was a little sharper and made a few more plays. There’s a reason this club is a perennial threat for the national tournament.
This is a weekend of missed opportunities for Northeastern. With some cleaner play here and there in both third periods, the Huskies could have been the ones walking away with a sweep. But they didn’t. They did prove, though, that they can skate with the nation’s best, score at will when they are clicking, and could be a bona-fide threat with more work in the defensive end.