Simply Business: Free Joe Manno
With 50 seconds left in the second period on Friday, Joe Manno was called for boarding. It wasn’t a stupid play by any means. It was a hard hit by one of the few guys in a Northeastern jersey willing to hit somebody. The call was borderline, helped in part by the Merrimack player going down to the ice and staying there for a few seconds. The next night Manno found himself demoted to 4th line. That line did not see the ice for the entire period and Madigan indirectly acknowledged after the game that they had in fact been benched.
So what exactly was Manno’s crime? Giving too much effort? Being one of the select few players to actually put up some points? The best guess I can make is that Manno was blamed in part for the ensuing 5-on-3 goal that allowed Merrimack to push their lead to 3-1. So in essence, Manno was benched because someone picked up a penalty right after him and the penalty kill unit couldn’t kill it off.
Everything about that logic seems wrong. The penalty was just the second one called on Manno, who is second on the team in goals, all year. He has been great this year. If the first penalty had been a Kevin Roy tripping penalty, would Roy have been benched for the first period? I really doubt it.
Also, this is not the first time an incident like this has happened. In the loss at BC, Cam Darcy picked up an interference call. Dax Lauwers was called for roughing just 10 seconds later. BC then scored on the 5-on-3, making it a 3-0 game in the closing minutes of the second. In the next game, Darcy was actually moved up to play second line.
The Huskies have not played with an edge this year. And benchings like this will practically ensure that they never will. The team needs guys like Manno to be physical and make this a team people hate to play against. Instead, he find himself shackled and forced to play with a focus on avoiding penalties. Manno isn’t exactly Randy Guzior or Dennis McCauley out there, but he is probably the closest thing the Huskies have. His freshman year earned him a reputation as a hot head, but that hasn’t been the case this year. He has been disciplined and better offensively, while still playing physical. Now he must dial it down in fear of another benching.
You could argue Cody Ferriero’s benching too. He is hardly the first guy to take a dumb penalty this year. Lets not forget, captain Vinny Saponari took a 10 minute misconduct for unsportsmanlike conduct in a loss against BC and was not punished. And if Ferriero’s penalty occurs while the Huskies are up 3-1, then he probably gets a stern talking to and nothing else. The interesting part about Ferriero is that he was benched for the remainder of the 3rd period after his penalty. But when Northeastern pulled their goalie, it was Ferriero who was used as an extra attacker. So what kind of message does that send to Ferriero and to the rest of your team?
That leaves us with the worst offender, Braden Pimm. The hit that earned Pimm a 5 minute major was stupid and completely unnecessary. At a time when the Huskies need to be composed and get back into the game, Pimm let his frustration taking him out of it. Now if Madigan wanted to bench him, that is completely understandable. Despite being the team’s best forward so far, this momentary lapse really cost the team and put a comeback in doubt. But if you decide to bench him, do it right. Put him in the stands and throw Zak Stone in the lineup.
Instead, Madigan chose to bench Pimm for one period, while lumping Ferriero and Manno in with him. Despite having a self-imposed short bench in the first, the Huskies jumped out to a quick lead. But in the second and third, lines were being changed and fatigue was catching up, allowing Merrimack to win the third period and the game. Saturday’s game was one of the least physical games I’ve seen from a Northeastern team. Outside of Josh Manson (3 penalties, no benching), no one looked interested in taking the body. You can draw your own conclusions as to why that is, but I will say this: if you are a Hockey East team not named BC, you better be physical if you want to win games.
This whole thing was about sending a message and after this weekend, there is one that is ringing loudly: things are not looking good right now.