Huskies and Black Bears battle to a stalemate

The Huskies looked to earn two big points against fellow cellar-dwellers Maine Friday night, but inconsistencies plagued them once again on the way to an underwhelming tie at Matthews Arena, 1-1. After a bit of a hesitant start on both sides, Northeastern gradually came to life and began to pepper Maine goalie Martin Ouellette. The Huskies created several grade-A chances in the first period, including a 2-on-1 breakaway with Josh Manson and Braden Pimm. With 3:54 left in the first period, Northeastern finally broke through. Kevin Roy managed to tap his own rebound past Ouellette, with the assists going to Cody Ferriero and Mike McMurtry.

The second and third periods offered more of the same for the Huskies. After taking a definitive hold of the game to end the first, Northeastern came out flat and Maine did its best to take advantage. With a flurry of offensive chances for the Black Bears, it didn’t take long for them to find a score. Five minutes into the second period (5:27), Bill Norman was left wide open in the high slot, a clear defensive breakdown by the Huskies reminiscent of last week’s game versus Bentley. Norman, assisted by Adam Shemansky, snuck the puck past goalie Chris Rawlings on the blocker side, knotting the game up at 1. Northeastern had few chances the rest of the way. The Huskies had difficulty setting up on offense and were unable to convert when they did. Backdoor opportunities for Vinny Saponari and Steve Morra were broken up as neither could quite corral the puck, while Kevin Roy couldn’t convert on a breakaway all by himself in front of Ouellette.

In overtime, both teams came up and down the ice several times. Each had their chances, but could not convert, leading to a fitting 1-1 final for the two worst offensive teams in Hockey East.

Observations:

Kevin Roy certainly seems to be hitting his stride as Northeastern heads into the second half of the season. The Roy that we’ve seen the past few games has shown the grit, physicality, and confidence that the freshman lacked at times in the first few months of the year. Roy’s first period goal was evidence of this, as he chipped away in front of the net to pot his own rebound. That kind of goal is exactly the kind of dirty goal that Northeastern has been missing this year, and the kind of goal the team is going to need to score to get the struggling offense rolling.

The penalty kill has come into its own as well. While the offensive struggles and the 5-on-5 defense have drawn most of the attention, the Huskies have quietly killed off 26 of the past 28 opposing power plays. For a squad that’s so inconsistent, it’s encouraging to see the penalty kill unit taking care of business on a regular basis.

Any recap of tonight would be seriously misguided without mentioning the play of Chris Rawlings. The senior goaltender was the reason Northeastern was able to pull out the lone point. Stopping 42 of 43 shots on goal, Rawlings tracked the puck well all game and helped the defense withstand a heavy Maine attack in the latter two periods of the contest. Rawlings can be as up and down as the rest of the team’s play is shift to shift, but when he’s on, he can single-handedly steal points for the Huskies.

Northeastern will face tough challenges next week as they travel across town to play Boston University at Agganis Arena on Friday before returning to Matthewsa to take on defending national champion Boston College on Saturday.