Huskies Drop Second in a Row, Despite Quick Start
It was a smart play by Cody Ferriero, one of many he made on the night. With the game tied in the final minute, Ferriero, who had the puck in the corner, looked up and saw defenseman Josh Manson at the point. Manson got ready to one-time the pass before his shooting lane closed down. But his shooting lane would immediately become the least of his worries. Manson failed to connect with the puck and his miss gave UNH the chance they need. Casey Thrush picked up the puck and came down on a 2 on 1. Drew Ellement played it perfectly and forced Thrush into a pass. Manson, to his credit, was skating back as hard as he could and he was able to meet the pass’ recipient, John Henrion, just as the puck got to him. But the Huskies were not out of the woods yet. Jeff Silengo came flying in to pick up the rebound as both Ellement and Thrush tumbled to the ice. With bodies flying all around him, Bryan Mountain, who replaced Chris Rawlings halfway through, stood tall and made the save. But even that was not enough. Henrion did not quit and he was able to poke the loose puck through the carnage to give the Wildcats the 4-3 lead that would see out in the final minute.
It was certainly a tough loss for the Huskies in a game where they jumped out a lead just a minute in and led 3-1 after the first period. Losing in the final minute is a terrible way to go down, but it hurts even more when the goal comes off a weird play like this one did. But a bad bounce and a tough loss cannot take away from an encouraging performance from the Huskies, a lot better than we are used to seeing on the road from this team.
After an uninspired performance at BC last Saturday, the Huskies got back to their strengths on Friday. With revamped lines and a few changes on defense, the new-look Huskies took the ice looking for the first goal. And it wouldn’t take long for it to come. Dustin Darou made a good breakout pass to Cody Ferriero who was skating down the right side. Ferriero carried the puck into the zone, before firing a pass all the way across the ice to Braden Pimm. Pimm found himself 1 on 1 with UNH goalie Casey DeSmith and the junior ripped a shot right by him, giving the Huskies the lead just 33 seconds in. That shift would be a sign of things to come for the new first line featuring Pimm, Ferriero and captain Vinny Saponari. This shift was just one of many good ones for these guys. Pimm was his usually self, making things happen in all 3 zones. Ferriero had one of his better games in an NU sweater that didn’t come against BC. Known more for his shooting, his night was highlighted by some great passing. Thats not to say he didn’t shot though. Ferriero led the team with 4 shots on the night.
Unfortunately for the Huskies, special teams have not been eradicated from the game of hockey yet. And just minutes after getting the lead, the Huskies all-too-familiar inability on special teams would let UNH tie the game. A Drew Ellement tripping penalty would give the Wildcats their first of 4 power plays on the night. UNH showed the Huskies what a power play looks like, controlling the puck and getting a ton of movement, before Trevor Van Riemsdyk blasted a slapshot from the point that beat Rawlings. TVR, as the kids call him, was excellent all night. He isn’t the best defenseman in Hockey East like his coach said after the first weekend, but he isn’t very far off either. He had an incredible spin move to keep the puck in the zone and then beat an oncoming Husky. It looked straight out of a video game.
So the Huskies found themselves in their normal position: Playing very well 5 on 5, but poor special teams let their opponents back into the game. It would have been easy for the team to hang their heads and feel sorry for themselves. Its gotten to the point where the special teams are comically bad. But the Huskies took a different attitude. And 20 seconds after the UNH goal, the Huskies would get their lead back.
It came off an offensive zone faceoff for the Huskies. Garrett Vermeersch couldn’t win it cleanly and UNH defenseman Brett Kostolansky picked it up on the edge of the circle, attempting to go behind his own net. He wouldn’t get there. Forechecking maestro Robbie Vrolyk poked it off his stick. Joe Manno ended up with the puck a few feet from the net and he slid it through DeSmith’s legs before he could get down.
The Huskies would extend their lead as they continued to cause all sorts of problems for the Wildcat defensive pair of Kostoansky and Justin Agosta. Freshman Mike McMurtry, playing in his first career game in place of the injured Steve Morra, was able to win the puck behind the net after knocking down the UNH defenseman. Given time and space, he came around the net and hit Ben Oskroba with a pass. Oskroba, playing just his second game of the year, was already walking in. He had acres of space and he used it to get a shot off that went right by DeSmith and into the net. It all looked good for NU. Despite the special teams struggles, they had UNH on the ropes and had DeSmith looking rattled after the first.
The second power play for the Wildcats would give them their second goal on a play that reminded the Huskies just where their weaknesses lie. Austin Block had a bad angle, but plenty of room to shoot. Rawlings failed to cover the post and Block put it by him. It was a great shot, but there should have been no net for him to shoot it. The Wildcats would get another unfathomable goal just 4 minutes later when Rawlings just failed to get down despite Kevin Goumas having a great chance out front. Note, it wasn’t that he didnt get down fast enough. He just never got down. Just stood there staring as Goumas slid it in. That was enough for Madigan. And in a very un-Madigan move, he pulled Rawlings and sent out Bryan Mountain for the final 33 minutes of the game.
UNH had all the momentum now, having erased the 2 goal deficit. Mountain was tested early and often, facing 9 shots in just over half a period. But the senior, who has seen very limited playing time, was up to the task. He wasn’t just getting by, he was making some great saves. As the third period started, the Huskies began to believe in their goaltender and began to take some chances. After killing off a Dustin Darou tripping call midway through the period, the Huskies threw it into top gear and really went for the win. And they should have had it. Garrett Vermeersch went across the zone and hit Kevin Roy right on the tape. Roy made a quick move and then sent the puck to the back post where Adam Reid was all alone, staring at a wide open net. Reid put the puck on net. Literally. The outside of the net, though and the game remain tied. Minutes later, Vermeersch and Robbie Vrolyk would both have good chances only to be robbed by DeSmith.
NU continued to get chances into the final minutes and they were controlling the puck in the zone when the Manson whiff doomed them. The Huskies had 53 seconds to tie the game after the Henrion goal but they were unable to finish it. A UNH player dumped the puck from center ice towards the open net. It looked to be going in so he peeled off, raised his stick and started celebrating. The band began to play and it was a joyous occasion. The only problem was the puck didn’t actually go in. It had hit the post and stayed out. Now the Huskies had about 10 seconds with a 2 man advantage, maybe more with at least one Wildcat celebrating his no goal. But Pimm’s shot was blocked and the buzzer sounded.
The Huskies will not have long to dwell on this loss. They face the Wildcats again tonight, this time at home where they are 2-0 this year. They will be looking to build on the positives from last night, and there were many. Bryan Mountain was excellent and deserves the start tonight. The new lines seem to be a good decision, as the Huskies got some great chances from the all 4 lines. They have 3 very good scoring lines and a 4th that is very physical and works hard. The defense handled the big ice very well last night. For all the worrying about the youth and inexperience on the blue line, it really hasn’t been a problem spot at all for NU. In 4 games, they have allowed 4 even strength goals. Any team in the country can take that. Tonight, in front of a packed Matthews Arena, the Huskies will have to prove they can fix their special teams enough to make themselves competitive. That is the challenge, as it has been for a while now. Its about time they answer the bell.