Story by Zach Lyons
The Northeastern Huskies came into tonight’s game ranked 13th in the nation and in prime position for a first round bye. However, the play of this past weekend was absent Tuesday in the Huskies’ 1-0 loss to the unranked Vermont Catamounts (7-23-2). The loss came as a shocker and made the Huskies playoff picture more complicated.
The Huskies began in a slump and weren’t able to shake it off over the course of the game. During the first period there were signs of life, but nothing stuck.
In the first period, their best chance came from a connection of breakout passes starting at their own blue line going from the stick of Aidan McDonough to linemate Ty Jackson, and quickly onto the tape of a breaking Gunnarwolfe Fontaine who managed to get behind the defense. Fontaine deked UVM goalie Tyler Harmon, putting it through the five hole as Harmon started falling back into the net. He put his glove down behind him to catch himself, stopping the puck in the process.
Throughout the first, UVM had the Huskies on their heels as they managed to maintain long stretches of offensive zone time, but were not able to generate any high-chance scoring opportunities against the Huskies’ elite goaltender Devon Levi. The Huskies forecheck in the period was aggressive forcing turnovers. However, their exits from their defensive zone through the neutral zone were sloppy, turning the puck over multiple times. This allowed UVM to have extended time in the Huskies’ defensive zone. The Huskies were out shot by UVM 9-5 after the first period of play.
Going into the second period, UVM came out hot again, quickly entering the Huskies’ defensive zone and going to work. UVM forced Huskies defender Jeremie Bucheler to take a tripping penalty 10:39 into the second, leading to the most crucial play of the game by UVM.
UVM’s power play started off hot, tallying a couple of shots on goal, and managing to keep the puck in the offensive zone from the faceoffs.
The lethal moment of the power play though was set up with a drive from the point by defender Carter Long. The shot produced a rebound out front, which Levi went to cover. As he laid out to cover the puck, UVM forward William Lemay beat him to it. He tapping the puck over to a cutting Zapernick, who then approached from the inside of the left faceoff circle and shot at the open net as Levi was still laid out on the ground.
When Catamounts head coach Todd Woodcroft spoke about the power-play goal, he attributed the performance to the “reset day” the team had taken after their brutal back to back blowout losses to UMass.
“We did a power play component day where we worked on the exact positions on the power play and every forward had chances to play at every single position,” Woodcroft said.
He went on to say the goal Zapernick scored was “a direct result” of the power play drills they ran in practice that day.
UVM carried some momentum and got a few more high quality chances after the power play that were shut down by Levi. However, Northeastern started pushing back, drawing a penalty against forward Philip Lagunov at 16:44 into the third for tripping. Shortly after, due to a sloppy turnover by the Huskies power-play unit, forward Sam Colangelo would go to the box for tripping, causing 4-on-4 play to happen on the ice.
Towards the end of 4-on-4, Levi had to make a flurry of saves in a scramble in front of the net. The sudden pressure led to defender Jordan Harris taking a boarding penalty right as the Huskies had killed the last penalty. The constant penalties during the second period, as well as a couple of bad turnovers further lead to the final score of this game.
Going into the third, the Huskies were able to kill off the time left in the penalty from the earlier period. They got a shot at a legitimate power play when Zapernick was called for interference against Husky forward Jakov Novak 9:29 into the third. The Huskies best shot on the power play came off a cross ice one timer from McDonough that missed just wide of the net.
In desperation to at least send the game to overtime and get a crucial point in the standings, the Huskies pulled Levi with 2:17 left to play in regulation. They put some pressure onto UVM, but a lack of clean faceoff wins as well as some misplays amounted to the Huskies best chance to tie it coming in the final seconds. Unfortunately for the Huskies, Harmon made a small scramble save to end the game. Harmon registered his only win and shutout so far this year against the Huskies in Vermont’s 1-0 victory.
After today’s loss, the Huskies will need significant help to capture the Hockey East regular season title. The Huskies will need Boston College to sweep UMass in their weekend series. BC has been struggling greatly throughout this season, unlike UMass who is currently 10th in the Pairwise rankings. On top of BC needing to sweep, the Huskies also need to win their next two games against Merrimack College, who is tied for second in the conference with Northeastern.
With Tuesday’s loss the Huskies have a degree of uncertainty since they could fall as deep as No. 6 in Hockey East depending on the outcome of their next two games, as in addition to other results from the last weekend of regular season hockey. Currently the Huskies are sitting at 16th in the nation, just behind Boston University and UMass Lowell. Even with Tuesday’s loss slimming the odds for the No. 1 seed greatly, it is still possible for the Huskies to obtain.
The Huskies next game is Senior Night on Friday at 7 p.m. against Merrimack at Matthews Arena. WRBB will have coverage with Mike Puzzanghera, Emma Sullivan, and Rae Deer on the call.