The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly: Huskies Swept by Union

The home debut of the 2018-2019 Northeastern Huskies didn’t go quite to plan this weekend, as a heartbreaking 4-3 loss in overtime on Friday was followed by a 3-1 loss on Saturday as the Dutchmen swept the Huskies out of their own barn. This marks the second year in a row that an ECAC team has dealt a serious home blow to Northeastern in Week 2, after Quinnipiac pulled off basically the exact same result last year, a regulation win and an overtime win at Matthews during this same weekend.

The Huskies came out strong Friday, fielding basically the same lineup from their last game with the addition of Matt Filipe, who made his season debut in return from injury. The Huskies dominated the first period and quickly staked themselves to a 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Lincoln Griffin (from absolutely no angle) and Tyler Madden (scoring for the third consecutive game to start his career.) But a pair of goals by Union’s Brett Supinsky left the score tied after the first period in spite of the Huskies’ solid play. The second period was the best of the game for the Dutchmen, so true to the script of this game, the only goal of the period was scored by the Huskies, a highlight reel goal from Liam Pecararo that was named the NCAA’s #3 play of the week. Union started the third on a power play and NU nearly killed it before allowing a goal with just 4 seconds remaining on the clock. NU proceeded to dominate the rest of the third period and get nothing for their efforts, before the opening seconds of overtime saw a puck in the NU zone get deflected and go the opposite direction that all 10 skaters on the ice and Cayden Primeau were moving, allowing Cole Maier to pop it into an empty net for the win. NU outshot Union 40-29 on the night and looked much the better team in spite of the unfortunate result.

On Saturday, the Huskies responded to what even Union coach Rick Bennett felt was an unlucky result by changing up most everything at forward, including taking Brandon Hawkins off the Huskies’ red hot first line and cycling players like Matt Filipe and Austin Plevy in his place. In addition, Jeremy Davies missed the game with an upper body injury that some speculate may have been the result of a heavy collision in front of the net in the third period Friday Night. The changes didn’t do much good for the Huskies, as they went down 2-0 early and the forwards struggled to create chances from threatening areas from the start while simultaneously getting worse as the game went on, culminating in zero high-quality chances in the entire third period. The Huskies were basically only able to generate point shots and their lone goal came during a Union major penalty when one of those point shots was deflected by Grant Jozefek. They would go on to give up one more goal late in the third to cement the 3-1 tally.

While the final shot total on Saturday was 32-32, 13 of the Huskies’ 32 were credited to the top 4 defensemen of Ryan Shea, Jordan Harris, Eric Williams, and AJ Villella, and that doesn’t even include a number of shots they took that weren’t credited to them because they were deflected on the  way in (such as Jozefek’s goal). Among the forwards, Brandon Hawkins, Jozefek, Pecararo, and Filipe generated 15 shots, leaving just 4 combined shots by the other 11 players on the team, including Tyler Madden recording 0 shots en route his first career 0 goal/0 point performance.

It’s hard to differentiate how much of NU’s struggles on Saturday can be attributed to missing Davies vs. The shuffling of the forward lines, but it’s safe to say both had an effect. If nothing else, the top line was getting a ton of chances for Madden and allowing him to shine, which immediately dried up once that line was taken apart. None of the 4 lines were able to maintain pressure on a consistent basis and nobody was able to get open anywhere on the ice, while NU struggled to break the puck out of the defensive zone. When they finally did, the whole team usually desperate for a change, which meant Union immediately getting the puck again. While Davies missing obviously hinders the breakout considerably,  common theme of the first few games was Davies constantly carrying the puck up the ice and breaking in himself, and Ryan Shea had to do that a number of times on Saturday. It’s becoming pretty clear that this team, particularly at forward, is seriously lacking in that department without the big three and that the over-reliance on Davies happens by necessity, not because of any selfishness on Davies’ part.

One caveat to the Huskies’ seemingly night-and-day performance is that whilethey never trailed Friday night,  they trailed by multiple goals almost immediately on Saturday, and Union seemed to play a very UConn/IceBus style of game, where they got ahead and once they were there they constantly had a literal army of players behind the puck making sure nothing easy could get by. It’s interesting to imagine what would have happened if NU had scored on a couple of the really few good chances they had early before getting completely shut down, but regardless, good teams should do better against teams that are, to some extent, just sitting back with extra men high and allowing you the puck.

The good news from the weekend is that the Huskies should have won a game and showed very well with their original forward lines and Davies, and as there’s no indication Davies is out long term, they could return to that setup at any time. In addition, while Cayden Primeau allowed 7 goals in just over 120 minutes of work, only one of them really has an argument that he made a bad play, and it was just an overcommitment. Otherwise he was the same solid goaltender he always is, only left out to dry quite a bit by the defense and the victim of a bad bounce or two. You just really hope this isn’t a weekend we look back at in February and March and wonder “What if?” as the Quinnipiac series was last season.

The Huskies will look to bounce back with a pair of important games next weekend, as they visit Lowell Friday for their first Hockey East contest of the season and their first of three matches with the Riverhawks, before the #2 St. Cloud State Huskies visit Matthews on Saturday Night in the signature non-conference game of the season.

(Quick note as we sign off. The cover image for this post was taken by one of Northeastern’s own and a friend of the blog, the incredibly talented Justine Newman. Find more of her work on Facebook at Justine Newman Photography.)