DURHAM, NH – Northeastern entered its first Hockey East matchup of the season against New Hampshire with high hopes, after encouraging wins against Stonehill and Bentley to open the year. But the Huskies early-season momentum would come to a screeching halt on Thursday, as the team fell to UNH 4-1 at the Whittemore Center.
Northeastern came into the contest plagued with injuries, missing two of their top-four defenders, Hunter McDonald and Jackson Dorrington, first-line center Justin Hryckowian, and fourth-line winger Billy Norcorss. And while the injuries did leave major holes in the lineup, the overall effort level and attention to detail evident in Northeastern’s past few contests was absent across the board on Thursday.
“We got some work to do after watching that, we weren’t sharp tonight from the get go,” said Northeastern coach Jerry Keefe. “We didn’t have many guys going tonight, it’s as simple as that.”
The blaring fault that the Huskies had throughout the entire game was an inability to maintain the puck in the offensive zone. One of the very few times the Huskies managed to maintain the zone, freshman defender Michael Fisher netted his first collegiate goal, the lone goal for the Huskies. That shift was one of t the longest Northeastern had in the O-zone — and it was no more than 30 seconds.
UNH and Northeastern entered the third period tied at 1-1, but UNH’s ability to maintain consistent O-zone time eventually led to the Huskies demise.. UNH’s sophomore winger Stiven Sardarian netted two scrappy goals early in the third and senior defender Nikolai Jenson added the cherry on top with a wrister at the midway point of the period.
A large factor that contributed to Northeastern’s inability to have offensive zone time was how well UNH neutralized Northeastern’s speed, hardly ever allowing the Huskies to enter the offensive zone with pace. UNH’s consistent execution in the neutral zone impressed their coach, Mike Souza.
“I thought we did a good job tonight, I think all systems work, all systems don’t work, some nights you execute on them, some nights you don’t, and I thought we executed on what we do defensively in the middle of the rink,” said Souza.
When watching you could see that UNH, who has now pulled out three wins against ranked opponents – Boston University, Quinnipiac, and Northeastern – wanted to win more. Every shift there was a UNH player either hounding the puck, trying to get it back at any given moment, or controlling the puck in the offensive end, putting non stop pressure on the Huskies. There were times you could see a UNH skater at the end of his shift, full out sprinting to get a substitution, whereas the Huskies crawled through the doors of the bench.
Souza described that the moment he is most proud of from this game was when one of his defenders with 15 seconds or less left, up 4-1 in the third, went all out to block a Northeastern shot attempt. On the other end Keefe said that his team was “one and done” when it came to checks and second chance efforts. Those two descriptions alone tell the tape of how this game played out for both sides.
The Huskies are back in action at Matthews Arena this Saturday at 7 pm against Merrimack. Khalin Kapoor and Zeno Minotti will have the call for WRBB Sports.