Third Period Collapse Dooms the Huskies in Lowell
For 41 minutes, Northeastern played like a team that wanted to get back to winning ways. They had jumped out to a 4-1 lead on the road against a Lowell team that was riding a 10 game unbeaten streak. Northeastern had a chance to end that streak on Friday, but they couldn’t close it out. The Huskies blew a 2 goal lead in the third period and ended up with a tie. They had an even bigger lead on Saturday, but once again, they could not finish it off. Lowell scored the final 4 goals of the game, including an overtime winner from Christian Folin, leaving the Huskies grasping for answers, just a point out of last place.
On a night when Kevin Roy was kept relatively quiet (1 shot, 1 assist), the Huskies got scoring from unlikely places. Ryan Belonger scored just his second goal of the season. Senior Steve Morra scored the second goal of his career. And Garrett Vermeersch scored his second goal of the weekend, after breaking a 20 game scoreless streak in Friday night’s game. The Huskies even scored on the power play through a Braden Pimm rebound.
But Northeastern seemed to let up after Morra’s goal gave them a 4-1 lead with 19 minutes to play. The rest of the game was a frenzied attack by Lowell as they attempted to comeback in front of a record crowd. The Huskies were hindered by a short bench and it showed as they wore down throughout the 3rd period. Ludwig Karlsson and Dustin Darou are still out of the lineup with injuries. Senior defenseman Drew Ellement was injured in the first period. He returned for a shift, but he was unable to continue. He left the bench and did not return. His defensive partner Dan Cornell remained on the bench, but did not see the ice. Defenseman Ben Oskroba was dressed as the 4th line center, but did not play a single shift. The Huskies used just 4 defenseman for the majority of the game, rather than shuffling the pairs and using all 6 of the defenseman they had on the bench.
Bryan Mountain was impressive for the first two periods in net for Northeastern, coming up with some huge saves to bail out the defense. But as Lowell turned up the pressure in the third, they were able to create more rebounds off the pads of Mountain. Joe Pendenza cut the lead to 4-2 around the 12 minute mark. Derek Arnold skated through what seemed like the entire Northeastern team before beating Mountain from a bad angle. And then Riley Wetmore finished the comeback with less than a minute to go and the Lowell net empty when he capitalized on a rebound through a crowd in front of the net.
At no point during this Lowell comeback did Northeasten coach Jim Madigan use his timeout.
The teams would trade chances in overtime with Lowell landing a finishing blow on a Christian Folin one-timer from the point.
In the past two weekends, Northeastern has blown three 3rd period leads. Last Friday, they blew a 3 goal lead against BU, before ultimately pulling out a win. On Friday, it was a 2 goal lead that ended up as a tie. This game was a 3 goal lead that turned into a loss.
When teams blow leads consistently, you hear things like “they don’t know how to win” or “conditioning killed them”. With this team, its pretty simple: they stop attacking. Its been happening since the first game of the season when Merrimack almost came back from a multiple goal deficit. It’s a combination of factors: Madigan loves to use a short bench, which inevitably leads to tired players and the style of play changes. When Northeastern gets a big lead they stop attacking. Instead they dump the puck, retreat back into their own zone and try to just soak up the pressure from the opponents. It doesn’t work. On Saturday, Lowell’s talented offense went to town on a defense that has been sub par all year and was tired from overuse in the game. If Northeastern plays like this, no lead is ever safe. And they learned that the hard way on Saturday.