The back-to-back Beanpot Champions wasted no time moving forward to their next goal. The Northeastern Huskies took the ice (while their fans in the stands took pictures and bought merchandise) for two games against a suddenly-hot Vermont team this weekend and defended Matthews with a sweep of the Catamounts, completing a 3-0 blanking in the season series between the two programs. With a 4-1 win on Friday and a 2-1 win on Saturday, alongside his Beanpot MVP performance on Monday, star goaltender Cayden Primeau was named Hockey East Player of the Week for the first time in his career and the NCAA Hockey First Star of the Week. Lincoln Griffin, Patrick Schule, and Matt Filipe rode the momentum from their Beanpot heroics into the weekend as well, each adding major contributions to the Northeastern sweep.
Vermont played their best period the weekend in the first on Friday, drawing the first power play of the weekend during a period where they outshot NU 16-5 and had fears of a Beanpot hangover propagating through Matthews Arena. Cayden Primeau was, as always, up to the task though, and the first period ended without a score. The Huskies settled in and drew a power play of their own just seconds into the period, but it was the catamounts that struck first when Liam Coughlin and Alex Esposito skated into the zone on an odd-man rush and executed it perfectly, resulting in Esposito sending the puck just inside the post on a rare show of offensive potential from the Vermont forwards. The teams would trade penalties before an unlikely hero, Ryan Shea, answered back for the Huskies with a seeing-eye shot that would have made David Beckham proud as it seemed to bend around every obstacle, and finally goaltender Stefanos Lekkas, on the way to the twine. The tying goal flipped momentum to NU and it never changed back, as Matt Filipe scored the eventual game winner early in the third, John Picking added a late goal on Lekkas to extend the lead in his first game back from illness, and Lincoln Griffin closed it out with an empty net goal and the 4-1 win. Primeau was the star of the game, saving 32 of 33 shots, and credit to him for keeping NU in the game as most of those shots came early before the Huskies settled down and took over.
Quick note before we move on to Saturday’s game: During the two games this weekend Captain Eric Williams tied then broke the Northeastern record for consecutive games played at 146. Williams dressed for the first game of his freshman year nearly 4 years ago and has never exited the lineup since. The games played record has been threatened a few times in recent years, John Stevens had a shot at it before an injury plagued senior season eventually derailed him while Garret Cockerill was making a similar push before his untimely departure from the team. Williams is now the consecutive games king though, and if he continues to extend his mark he will tie then break the record for overall games played during the first weekend of March. Aside from his legendary slapshot, Williams has been overshadowed at times by the swiftness of Jeremy Davies or the defense of Shea, but the senior captain and his two disciples wearing ‘A’ on the blue line form a formidable trio with over 350 combined games played in an NU uniform.
Back to the action: On Saturday there would be no early push from Vermont, and that’s about all you need to know. The Huskies took the lead just 56 seconds in thanks to Griffin, scoring for the third consecutive game, in an otherwise uneventful first. It would be Filipe’s turn to start a goal streak next, as he turned a 5 on 3 chance into a net-mouth goal with just one second remaining in the second power play to double the lead to 2, leading off yet another uneventful period. It looked like Vermont would go down without much of a fight, but a Julian Kislin penalty in the waning moments of the second became a Vermont power play goal at the start of the third, the eighth of the year for breakout freshman Joey Cipollone. I wish I could say the third was more interesting, but it really wasn’t, the only drama came when Griffin was assessed a penalty for “roughing” Lekkas while dodging around the goaltender behind the net and unfortunately failing to disappear into thin air when Lekkas decided it was time to leave the hockey team he carried on his back and join the UVM Swimming and Diving team. NU would kill the penalty and the remainder of regulation for the win.
That summary was possibly the most boring thing I’ve ever written for this blog, and with good reason. The Catamounts are just not a good team. They play a boring, trapping style of hockey with a stud goaltender behind slow skaters. Even when down multiple goals in the third period they don’t press much if at all. Their breakout is downright abysmal, getting caught by the NU forecheck for defensive zone turnovers with alarming regularity. NU coming back from a 1-0 deficit on Friday to take the lead against that style of hockey was just about the only impressive thing to happen all weekend. The whole rest of the time was spent watching a bad hockey team jam up a good one with just enough success to prolong their inevitable defeat.
Of course, there’s good news for the Huskies. They took 4 league points and put themselves back into the driver’s seat to finish 3rd, and maybe even 2nd, after a rough month of Hockey East play since the Maine series. Upperclassmen Griffin and Filipe are suddently joining Schule on the breakout train and Shea has a couple of goals in short order as well. Primeau certainly appears to be well on his way to being called the best goaltender in NU history, no offense to some other legends by the name of Racine and Thiessen. Kislin seemingly improves by the day.
Also, they have the Beanpot, which needs to be restated in every article, because they have the Beanpot. By the way, they have the Beanpot.
CHN gives the Huskies an 82% chance of making the NCAA tournament after they took care of business this weekend. While playoffstatus.com is a bit more pessimistic at 73%, they give NU an 84% chance of capturing home ice in the Hockey East quarterfinals, and I think all would agree it would be a welcome to sight to get one of the old-guard, BC/BU/UNH/Maine, into Matthews rather than having to travel to Providence. So the next step is keep the momentum going. In the Pairwise the Huskies find themselves in 11th, which is as high as they could have possibly imagined entering the weekend. Once again, the results around the world broke their way, whether it be Lowell dropping both their games, Harvard falling to Clarkson on Saturday, or results out west. That keeps on happening, and you have to imagine it will stop at some point (right?), which will make every win more and more valuable as we go. Next Stop: Lake Whitt.