A historic season for the Northeastern Huskies came to a disappointing end Saturday afternoon, as the Huskies fell to the Cornell Big Red in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by a score of 5-1.
It was a game in which the Huskies never looked fully comfortable, as Cornell got out to an early 1-0 lead in the first period when a 2-on-2 rush shot snuck through the arm and body of Cayden Primeau. It was one of the softer goals of the season for Primeau, and that goal was a marker of how things would go the rest of the game for him and the Huskies.
While the first period ended 1-0 in favor of Cornell, the Huskies started to buzz in the second half of it. Multiple players including Liam Pecararo, Zach Solow, and Patrick Schule had excellent chances to score on Cornell goalie Austin McGrath, but the sophomore backup shut the door at every pass.
The second period is when Cornell really poured it on, even with the Huskies holding an 8-7 advantage in shots and getting the benefit of three second period powerplays to Cornell’s one. Cornell started with a goal in the period’s first minute, doubling their lead 54 seconds in when their captain, Mitch Vanderlaan, pulled off a Kevin Roy-like self-pass across the slot, and beat Primeau glove-side. Doubling the lead that early into the period likely threw most of the Huskies’ intermission preparation into disarray, on top of Cornell’s play style suppressing the Huskies’ offense all game.
Cornell goal three came on a wraparound goal, quite possibly only the first or second wraparound goal I can remember Primeau giving up in two years. Goal four was a powerplay goal, the lone powerplay attempt that Cornell got all day, and was the one that proverbially broke my back while I was watching it. A point shot that gets to the goaltender, and the Big Red just dominated the front of the net to poke it past Primeau. The coaches talk every game about playing heavy and strong on pucks, and that was a play where Cornell was heavier, stronger, and wanted to get to the puck more.
The Huskies did not go down without some push back, as they broke the shutout bid late in the second period with a powerplay goal from Liam Pecararo. The Huskies powerplay actually had multiple instances of looking very good, but didn’t convert until a Jeremy Davies slap shot bounced off a player and Pecararo deposited it into the net. Looking retrospectively, I am thrilled that Pecararo was the one who got the goal after all he’s been through to get to this season and this stage with the Huskies. Playing in his first, and only game, he was one player who deserved to score at this level. Wonderful for him.
The third period was more of the same for both teams; the Huskies could not get anything past McGrath, and the first real chance Cornell had in the period, the open man in the slot deposited it into the net. That would be it for scoresheet ink in this game, as no further penalties or goals would be scored. The final horn sounded and the Huskies went out with a whimper rather than a bang.
After the game ended, in fact barely after the Huskies skated off the ice, reports were coming out that Cayden Primeau will be signing his entry-level contract with the Montreal Canadiens, foregoing his final two seasons in the NCAA. While the announcement hasn’t come officially yet, it has sent a sense of panic into Northeastern faithful.
Primeau, in two seasons, put together arguably the greatest career a Huskies goaltender ever assembled. If he were to finish his career, he would hold the all-time record for save percentage and goals-against-average. He was the backbone for the team as they won two Beanpots, including breaking the thirty-year drought, as well as the Hockey East Championship. Truthfully, there is nothing left for him to prove at the NCAA level besides winning in the NCAA Tournament. When looking at the situation objectively, it’s understandable why he may want to turn pro.
I’ve seen some people take this news as saying “he played poorly because he had an eye on the pros” or statements similar to that. That is a load of malarkey. Cayden Primeau has given everything he had to the Northeastern program. He has taken the program to new heights and new levels of success, raising the standard for the program since he arrived in 2017. Blaming a bad game on him getting ready for the NHL is, quite frankly, insulting to the success he has had as a Husky. If he does choose to sign with the Habs, he should be supported 100% by Northeastern fans, and we should be grateful for Cayden fulfilling his commitment to the Huskies for two years.
We will have news and articles about Primeau, Davies, and other Huskies that sign with professional teams as the news breaks. Please follow us on Twitter @NUHockeyBlog for the most rapid responses.
Ending this season in losing fashion sucks. Ending this season after a game where the team did not play to their full potential sucks even more. But this team has a lot to be proud of looking back on the season. Billed as a rebuilding year after losing The Big Three, this team set a program record for wins, took home two of the three major trophies they play for each season, beat two of the best teams in the nation, and established itself as the premier program in the city of Boston.
The only thing that was rebuilt this year were the expectations for the program; Northeastern hockey isn’t here to just occasionally contend, and be happy they are included. Northeastern hockey is here to compete, year in and year out, and be a force to be reckoned with. Coaches Madigan, Keefe, Smith, McLaughlin, and Walsh have proven they can build winning teams on an annual, consistent basis. The Huskies will be back next year.
Feature photo via NUHuskies.com