Weekend Recap: Huskies Take One Point From Boston University

In their annual home and home series, Northeastern tied Boston University by a score of 5-5 last Thursday at Matthews Arena before dropping the Agganis Arena leg of the games 4-1 on Saturday night. The victory was BU’s first of the season.

Not going to lie, it was tough to work up the motivation to type this recap after the Saturday game. The Thursday night tie, while not the ideal result, still yielded a valuable point in Hockey East standings and also was one of the best hockey games I have seen live in a long time, from a pure fan’s perspective. But Northeastern had struggles on Thursday that stayed with them through the Saturday game, and ultimately the weekend ended much differently than any Huskies faithful would have wanted or predicted ahead of the games.

Thursday Recap– In front of one of the best student section crowds Northeastern has produced in the last two or three years, Northeastern jumped out to an early 2-0 less than four minutes into the game, as Grant Jozefek scored on the team’s first shot on net, beating surprise BU starter Max Prawdzik through the legs. Not long after that, Austin Plevy made a beautiful pass from the side boards right onto the stick of Bobby Hampton, who was streaking towards the net and tipped the puck past Prawdzik, doubling the Huskies’ lead and sending the BU netminder to the bench in favor of BU uber-goalie Jake Oettinger.

The Huskies had BU reeling for the better part of the first period, but an penalty taken by Paddy Schule and then a too many men on the ice penalty by Northeastern tipped the ice back towards the Terriers, slowing the Huskies’ momentum. BU added a shorthanded goal later in the first (more on this later), before tying the game early in the second right after a Terrier powerplay ended. The Huskies regained the lead shortly after when Schule came back with a vengence and rifled a shot bar-down and in that was initially ruled no goal, and play continued for over a minute before video review counted the goal and added the time back on the clock.

After two BU goals from right in front of the net, on a one-timer and a tip, Grant Jozefek would score on a 5-on-3 powerplay to erupt the DogHouse and tie the game again. Feeding off that energy, the Huskies would storm back soon after when Biagio Lerario forced a puck out of the zone at the NU blue line, and Schule, fresh off showing his new sniper skills, displayed some soft hands as well as he skated in on a breakaway and tucked the goal through Oettinger’s pads to give the Huskies a 5-4 lead. On a personal note, I haven’t reacted to a goal that intensely in a long time, and seeing the DogHouse respond after it was something special; legit one of the louder goal chants I remember hearing in the last 5 years or so.

Seriously. Listen to this crowd react to this goal. Just, wow.

BU would tie the game on a powerplay later in the period after an atrocious roughing penalty called on Zach Solow where Solow ended up on the ice with a BU guy on top of him, and that goal would prove to be the last one of the night. The teams would trade chances and puck possession through overtime, with BU seeming to hold onto the puck more than NU for most of the last 15 minutes of gameplay, but the score would stand tied. In all, Cayden Primeau would make 45 saves on 50 BU shots on net, a heroic effort that helped the Huskies salvage a point in a game where they led three different times.

Saturday Recap: I’m going to shoot straight- this was one of the worst games I’ve seen in a while from Northeastern, which is disappointing after the team came off such a good win against St. Cloud and also showed great offensive production two nights prior against BU.

The Terriers struck first in the opening period shortly after Northeastern killed off a penalty, when some nice BU passing as Northeastern went for a line change led to defenseman Dante Fabbro going in all alone on Primeau, and beating him with a quick wrist shot. The parade to the penalty box continued throughout the game from both teams, and while Northeastern’s powerplays early in the game generated some good looks both in front of the net and from the point, they couldn’t solve Oettinger. The 1-0 lead would continue until the third period, which is where the Huskies’ wheels started to spin and fall off.

Brandon Hawkins was called for an interference penalty in the first minute of the third, and less than five seconds into that powerplay Fabbro scored again, a crippling blow to the Huskies. The Huskies then had a chance to slice into that lead when BU defenseman Cam Crotty took a five minute major after checking from behind, but Northeastern could not score on the major powerplay. The first two minutes or so of the powerplay were good, with solid puck movement and chances on net, but the rest of the powerplay was riddled with difficult zone entries and a lack of movement in the offensive zone. At one point, I even noticed two Huskies down near the crease, but with the puck off to Oettinger’s right, he had a clear view of the skater and the puck, even with two Huskies near him who could screen him! Good goalies like Oettinger will make saves every time if they do not get screened on shots from a distance, and that’s exactly what happened on that major powerplay.

The Huskies had flashes of life, including Lerario hitting a post on a backhand, but after not scoring on that backhand the Terriers would score shortly thereafter off the stick of Bobo Carpenter, which to me was the nail in the coffin for the Huskies, a true two goal swing that crushed fans like me and I’m sure depleted energy in the players.

To add insult to injury, Northeastern would get a powerplay with 4 minutes left, and would promptly give up another shorthanded goal, their FOURTH IN EIGHT GAMES, this time to Patrick Curry off of a turnover caused by Cockerill and a beautiful saucer pass from him to set up Curry.

To save some face for the Huskies, Matt Filipe scored on a late powerplay to ruin Oettinger’s shutout bid, his first goal of the season. Hopefully it will be the trigger Filipe, who has been snake-bitten in the goals department since last year but has shown flashes of brilliance, needs to break out and become a major force for the team.

Thoughts There was a lot of good that was happening on Thursday. The Huskies came out and played like their hair was on fire, and really smacked a talented BU team in the mouth. Early starts would go a long way to helping the team this year, especially one who still will take time searching for their identity and top producers. Grant Jozefek and Patrick Schule have both impressed this year with their offensive contributions, and also the ways that they are scoring; Jozefek has scored both in close to the net as well as sniper shots from the outside or a one-timer position, and Schule, who has been a net-grinder for three years, has really developed some impressive shooting skills and some soft hands that could be key to being a bottom-six point producer for the Huskies.

I also thought that on Thursday, Bobby Hampton impressed, John Picking and Biagio Lerario played extremely well, frustrating BU on the forecheck and Lerario throwing his weight around frequently, to the delight of a roaring home crowd; Eric Williams was a calming defensive presence, breaking up BU rushes multiple times; and Ryan Shea did well to control play in transition. Cayden Primeau also had a good game despite allowing 5 goals, none of which could be described as soft or “on him.” Any time you make 45 saves, that’s a solid day at the office for a goaltender.

However, frustrations from Thursday persisted into Saturday. In his postgame comments, Coach Madigan described the team “not being heavy enough” around the net defensively, which could mean not boxing guys out well enough or tying them up, among other things. BU’s fourth and third goals were from guys right in front of the net, so Coach may have an excellent teaching point there. From an observation perspective, Jeremy Davies really seemed to struggle, at times causing offensive-zone turnovers and while he is skating as well as ever, it appears he may be attempting to do a little too much in the offensive zone, causing him to lose control and the team to ultimately lose possession. This has been a multiple-weekend trend now, and is something we will keep watching as the games continue.

I am also concerned about the powerplay, not only the four shorthanded goals in eight games, which is an absurd phenomenon, but even when set up, there is a lot of passing around the perimeter and holding of the puck, rather than moving skaters to loosen the defense and move things around. I don not know the system well enough to know if this is the same setup and pattern that they’ve used in the past, but it at least appears to be similar to the one run the last few years. After historically being one of the better powerplays in the nation the last 3-4 years, this year’s unit sits at 15% successful and 44th in the nation, 8th in the conference; that is a distinct underperformance given their track record. With talented players such as Jozefek, Solow, Davies, Hawkins, and Pecararo (when healthy), plus the mastermind that is Coach Keefe, I expect the powerplay to start clicking eventually.

We’re on to homecoming week, with two games against UConn and Lowell on Friday and Saturday, respectively. The Huskies dropped only a couple of spots in the USCHO poll this week, and sit at #15 as they look to rebound from a tough weekend and seal four crucial Hockey East points.

Featured image courtesy of @GoNUmHockey on Twitter, unsure who the photographer was. Will update when we learn who took it.