Huskies Falter in First Road Test
After watching Boston College raise their 2012 Championship Banner, the Huskies saw just how much they will have to raise their play if they want to be one of the best teams in Hockey East. In their first road game of the season, the Huskies were dealt their first loss after being dominated by Boston College, especially on special teams. The Eagles scored 2 power play goals en route to a 3-0 win, but also kept the Northeastern power play scoreless on eight chances.
Conte Forum was understandably packed for the Banner Night, but unlike the usual Conte crowd, there was a massive student turnout by BC. You would think the perennial top team in the conference would be well supported among its students. but in recent years that hasn’t been the case. It was a tough test for a young Huskies team playing their first road game in a building where wins have been hard to come by.
It’d be the Huskies that would have the first chance of the game, though. Ludwig Karlsson broke into the BC zone and found himself 1 on 1 with BC goalie Parker Milner. He was dragged down before he could get a shot off, but the play earned the Huskies a power play. The ensuing power play was ugly and short lived. After repeated failures to establish possession inside the offensive zone, Garrett Vermeersch took a questionable slashing call that seemed to arise more of frustration than anything else. This would becoming the theme of the Huskies’ night. Vermeersch’s penalty would be followed up quickly by a cross-checking call on Colton Saucerman helped out by the type of theatrics the Eagles have become known for in recent years.
The fast starts that the Huskies had use to win their first two games was clearly not on the table here.They found themselves down 2 men not even 5 minutes into the game, facing the daunting task of killing off 52 seconds of a 5 on 3 against one of the best power plays in the country. But the Huskies were up to the task and managed to kill off the 5 on 3 portion thanks to a great effort by Braden Pimm, who has quietly emerged into one of the best penalty killers on the team.
The work was not done yet, as Saucerman’s penalty still had time to run. The Eagles would not be held at bay any longer and Kevin Hayes, on a feed from Teddy Doherty, would put them on the board after sneaking it through Chris Rawlings. The Huskies would get the chance to answer when they were given another power play, but they failed to even register a shot.
They were punished again soon after, when Pat Mullane poked the puck by the Northeastern defenseman to Johnny Gaudreau, who raced in on a breakaway that brought the crowd to its feet. Gaudreau made it look easy as he beat Rawlings five-hole to double the Eagles lead and send Conte into delirium.
Its weird. Gaudreau is obviously a very special player, but the fawning over him among BC fans is beyond over the top. Guys like Bill Arnold and Pat Mullane are every bit as talented as Gaudreau, but they don’t even get 1/10th of the love he does. Maybe its because they love that they stole him from Northeastern, I don’t know. But I can tell you this: as full as Conte was last night, there were two things that brought the crowd far more enjoyment than anything else: 1) any mention, appearance or good play by Gaudreau and 2) the out of town scoreboard showing that BU was losing to UNH. Other than that, the crowd was pretty average. The banner raising drew some applause and the Eagles goals brought celebrations, but for a building that was packed full of Eagles fans and students, it was pretty quiet, except when Gaudreau was involved. Its only a matter of weeks before he is more revered than Jerry York over there.
The Huskies would squander another power play chance late in the period, once again failing to register a shot. The first period ended with them down just 2 goals, but very much on the receiving end of the Boston College battering ram that had destroyed any momentum or confidence from the 2 game winning streak.
The second period was a slight improvement for the Huskies. They began to settle in and were making smarter decisions with the puck. But the Eagles were giving them everything they could handle and still controlling play. It seemed like Josh Manson was out there for the entire second period, and without him the score may have been 10-0. Manson is still prone to the occasional bad decision, but he is clearly the #1 defenseman on this team and its not even close.
The Huskies were still playing too tentative and still struggling mightily on the power play. But down just 2 goals, they were not dead yet. Garrett Vermeersch and Joe Manno both worked hard and created chances, but the Huskies seemed unable to get a quality shot off their sticks. Their brief moments of offensive possession ended with an array of whiffs and misfires.
As the end of the second period approached, the Huskies discipline again let them down. Cam Darcy was sent off for
interference, giving BC their 4th power play of the night. Off the ensuing faceoff, Dax Lauwers stepped up and made a tremendous hit along the boards to break up an Eagles attack. Unfortunately for Lauwers and the Huskies, the hit was deemed too big and he was called for a rough. Sadly, this will likely be a common occurrence as, much like the Hockey Easy Special*, there is a long and deep tradition of calling roughing on big guys who hit little guys in this league. Lauwers is a big dude that loves to hit. This will happen again.
*The Hockey East special is when a penalty is called, with an embellishment called on the “victim” of the penalty. Like in the second period when BC’s Mike Matheson was called for Hooking and NU’s Joe Manno was called for embellishment. Amazingly, in the history of Hockey East, no one was ever embellished a non-penalty, they only embellish actual penalties in the hopes of drawing a super penalty.
So for the second time on the night, the Huskies were staring at the prospect of a lengthy 5 on 3 kill. This one would be short-lived, as Steve Whitney would light the lamp just 15 seconds into it, giving the Eagles a commanding 3-0 lead heading into the final period.
Madigan took the training wheels off in the third and the Huskies began to look like the team that had beaten the Eagles a week ago. The power play continued to struggle, but the Huskies looked solid in even strength situations. Shooting was still an issue, as once again, hard shots were just not coming off Northeastern sticks. The few that did were smother by Milner, who was relatively untested on the whole. The Huskies outshot the Eagles 8-4 in the final 20 minutes, but they were unable to score. As the minutes ticked by, frustration was clearly mounting. Midway through the period, Vinny Saponari was given a 10 minute misconduct for Unsportmanslike Conduct after complaining to the officials, who had been the subject of Northeastern ire for much of the night. With their captain in the box, any hope of a comeback seemed to die.Cody Ferriero let his frustration boil over with a hit from behind penalty in the closing minutes, but unlike the Eagles a week ago, the Huskies refrained from throwing punches at the final whistle.
The perfect season is over for the Huskies, but its hard to be too worried after a loss like this. Being second best against BC is a common occurrence for just about anyone who faces them. The real takeaway from this game will be if this young team can learn how to play on the road. They face another tough road game next Friday at a New Hampshire team that has gotten off to an impressive start. Playing conservative in the first road game against BC is one thing, but the Huskies won their first two contests by being aggressive and forcing the issue. They’d do well to get back to that, whether they are playing at home or on the road. This one loss doesn’t take anything away from the two wins. Its no secret there are things to work on. We will see next weekend how far along this team really is.
Lastly, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Steve Morra. Morra, the 4th line center, was injured on his way off the ice in his first shift of the game Saturday. We say this a lot, but only because it is true: he really brings 100% every shift and Saturday was no different. While the rest of the team was crumbling under the pressure early on, Morra worked the puck into the zone, fired off a good shot, got the rebound back and tried to rip another shot off that got blocked. He got his first chance at an extended run in the lineup at the end of last year and there is a reason he has been in it ever since. He works hard and hopefully he will be back on the ice soon.