Home Wreckers: Merrimack Spoils Huskies’ Perfect Record at Matthews
Boosted by the return of Kyle Bigos, Merrimack got back to their preferred style on Friday as they gave the Huskies a 5-2 beating. Bigos, who had not played since being injured in the first game of the season, was the story all night for various reasons in a game that showed he has not changed a bit.
It started in the first period when he was called for an interference penalty. Nothing new for the guy who looks likely to break the all-time penalty record for Merrimack this season. When the play was blown dead, Bigos finished his check on Cody Ferriero and then dropped the oncoming Braden Pimm with a cross check to the face to earn himself two more minutes. He spent his time in the box jawing with his former Juniors teammate Pimm, who was in the box as well.
He would get out of the box, but it wouldn’t last long. When some pushing and shoving happened after the whistle, Bigos would make by far his dumbest decision of the night. For once, he wasn’t in the center of an exchange, instead, he was actually pulling a teammate away from one. A linesman tried to say something to Bigos, but the big defenseman was having none of it. He pushed the linesman away from him and skated off. That stunt earned him a 10 minute misconduct.
In the second and third period, we saw the other side of Bigos. He blasted shot after shot from the point before picking up a huge goal to put Merrimack up 3-1. And then to complete the night, he got tied up with Cody Ferriero behind the play, and ultimately drew a penalty when Ferriero tried to free himself with a cross-check and Bigos crumpled to the ice. He was fine, and he jumped up and skated off the ice immediately after the call had been made. But once again, he had gotten under someone’s skin and created an opportunity for his team because of it.
Bigos is reviled among Northeastern fans, like he is among most Hockey East fanbases. But he was exactly what the Huskies needed last night. Merrimack plays a physical game, that often crosses the line, leading to tons of penalties and after the whistle scraps. Northeastern tried to match this style, but they just couldn’t pull it off. For everything Bigos did, he remained in the game, and scored what ended up being the winning goal. On the other hand, Northeastern’s best player on the night, Braden Pimm, found himself ejected after deciding to nail a Merrimack player into the boards from behind.
Merrimack gets under people’s skin. Thats their game plan. And time after time, the Huskies took the bait. When you struggle on special teams as much as this Huskies team does, there is really no way to win games that feature a ton of penalties. The Huskies are strong in 5 on 5 (usually. They weren’t last night) but Merrimack made into a special teams contest that the Huskies had no chance of winning.
Last night was disappointing for many reasons. The special teams looked poor again. The first goal was a huge defensive breakdown that should not be happening. The fourth goal was a soft one that will likely give Chris Rawlings the start tonight. The fifth goal, an empty netter shot literally the length of the ice, sealed the game and proved once and for all, it just wasn’t the Huskies’ night.
The offense struggled again. Its a group full of individual talents,but so far it has not been a group. No matter what line combinations are used, it seems like the inclination is for whoever has the puck to try to do it all on their own. That just hasn’t been working and it probably never will.
The game wasn’t all bad, it was just frustrating. The Huskies had plenty of possession, but they just seemed dead. The Roy-Darcy-Karlsson line spent more time cycling than Lance Armstrong, but they couldn’t turn it into anything.
The best line might be the third line because they actually play like a line. Garrett Vermeersch and Robbie Vrolyk continue to impress as seniors. Those two were amazing on the forecheck, which is basically an every game thing these days. The third member of that line, Joe Manno, also has looked much improved this year.
Merrimack played harder than Northeastern all night. It was as simple as that. The Warriors block shots like no other and they really just dominated a Huskies team that never got out of first gear until it was too late. Kevin Roy’s goal made it 4-2 with about 6 minutes left and they began to play with some urgency. But the Warriors continued to clamp down defensively and block every good shot Northeastern attempted before icing the game with an empty netter.
So now its 0-3-1 since winning the first two games and the Huskies once again must regroup and trying to fix a multitude of problems. They need to control their frustration and their tempers, or at least express it in a way other than taking boneheaded penalties.They need to start shooting the puck. Quicker. Especially from the point guys. They need to play with an edge. And as crazy as it sounds, it seems like what they are missing is basically a Kyle Bigos.