Nothing that happened Monday night is new to Huskies fans. Northeastern struggled to control passes, couldn’t score early, grew impatient with their passing which led to more errors and eventually frustrated penalties. Boston University meanwhile played a patient, error-free game, demonstrating once again that they save their best hockey for February. Familiar, yes, but still a rough night for supporters of the Huntington Hounds.
To say Northeastern played poorly on Monday night would be harsh. The Huskies played a good hockey game for the most part. Goaltender Chris Rawlings did everything expected of a freshman goalie and then some, keeping a game close in score when it was not always close in momentum. Northeastern also did an admirable job of sticking to a game plan when it wasn’t working early on, trusting strategy over immediate results. The penalty killing units were fantastic, especially during a critical stretch after a five minute major was assigned to Alex Tuckerman in the third period. (Tuckerman was also ejected as part of the game misconduct call for checking from behind.) Until that penalty, Northeastern played rather disciplined hockey as well, keeping out of the penalty box up until frustration set in during the third.
This is a rebuilding team, without star netminder Brad Thiessen (on to bigger and better things in the professional ranks), and missing a couple of key players due to injury.. Championships are not expected.
None of that makes the 2-1 loss to BU any easier. Nor does it make it easier to point out that the Terriers as usual are playing their best hockey in early February. Boston University lives for the Beanpot Tournament, and they will not be caught with their pants down on the big stage. It’s hard to be mad at a team for dropping a Beanpot game to the Beanpot kings.
When the Huskies came into the second period tied, it would be understandable for Huskies fans to have That Feeling in the pit of their stomach. Everything seemed familiar. Tuckerman’s penalty seemed to put the nail in the coffin early in the third.
Oh, but Northeastern doesn’t lose that way. Not in the Beanpot, to Boston University. Chris Rawlings held the Terriers without a goal on that five minute major penalty, helping to create enough frustration that the Huskies drew a penalty, then a two-man advantage, and before the teams were back to even strength the game was tied. After trailing by a large amount in terms of shots and puck control, the Huskies evened the one category that mattered. That led to another familiar Beanpot sight: Northeastern and BU tied in the third period.
Huskies fans are all too familiar with how that turned out. Boston University took a lead. Northeastern hit a post. A frantic late attack ended without a goal, and the final moment of the game was a mishandled pass. That same scenario has played out before, in finals and in semifinals. Not only did the loss hurt, it brought back bad memories of other Monday nights in February.
Northeastern travels to North Andover on Friday night to take on Merrimack College in a game with Hockey East implications. An NU win would put them five points ahead of the Warriors in the conference standings, which would put them safely in position for a conference playoff spot. A loss brings that gap down to one point. They’ll then play Harvard at 5:00 on Monday, who had a slightly worse semifinal than Northeastern. (Boston College tallied six goals on the Crimson in the early game. BC has the best record of any team in the tournament.) The Huskies are tied for seventh place in Hockey East with Vermont.