Jacob Ohsinsky/WRBB Sports

ORONO, Maine — After a split weekend with last-place UMass Lowell, Northeastern traveled north to Maine to begin their two-game series at Alfond Arena. After topping the Black Bears in a 6-3 home victory just three weeks prior, and having played well against highly-ranked Hockey East opponents in recent weeks, Northeastern should have felt confident about their chances for Friday’s game. 

Furthermore, it seemed that the Huskies were hitting their stride at the right time and catching Maine at the right time, after they had been swept by New Hampshire the weekend prior and in the midst of a three-game losing streak. However, on Friday, Maine capitalized repeatedly on the Huskies’ mistakes while Northeastern failed to execute on their chances, leading to a 5-1 loss. 

Though the Huskies came out looking strong in the beginning of the first period, dictating the pace of play and out shooting the Black Bears 3-1 in the first five minutes, things quickly took a turn for the worse with a missed opportunity by the Huskies. Six minutes into the first period, on a penalty shot by star senior Alex Campbell, which was easily turned aside by Maine’s Freshman goaltender, Albin Boija. 

Following the penalty shot, Northeastern’s Gunnarwolfe Fontaine got a quick shot off the draw that whistled past Boija and sprung a 3-on-2 fast break for the Black Bears. On the rush, star freshman Josh Nadeau delivered a crisp pass to his brother Bradley Nadeau for an easy middle lane drive backdoor goal past the glove of Northeastern’s Freshman goaltender, Cameron Whitehead. The goal was Nadeau’s 15th on the season and first of two on the night. 

The trend of Maine’s skillful offense man quickly taking advantage of opportunities continued less than 90 seconds later, when a defensive zone turnover created by Maine’s relentless forecheck immediately led to Sully Scholle to bury the game’s second goal. Fast breaks and sloppy play in defensive transition along with their own end plagued the Huskies throughout the night and were ultimately among the key reasons for their downfall. 

The lone goal for the Huskies came at the 11:51 mark of the second period when Cam Lund was able to snipe a shot from the low circles over the glove side shoulder of Boija, making the score 2-1 Black Bears. The great thing about the goal was that it came after multiple odd-man rushes for both the Huskies and the Black Bears, and the Huskies were the team to capitalize.

The third period of this game was disappointing to say the least. Coming into the third the Huskies were down 3-1 after a seemingly momentum-deflating goal by Maine’s Lynden Breen at the 15:51 mark of the second period. However, rather than coming out and playing with urgency, Maine dictated play and eventually potted their fourth and fifth goals which sealed the deal. Moreover, the Huskies were unable to keep their composure later in that period — for their sake, it was good the referees were trying their very best to swallow the whistles throughout the entirety of the game, even to the audible dismay of the sold-out crowd at Alfond Arena.

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While it was a disappointing result for the Huskies, here’s some good and bad takeaways. Starting with the negatives.

1. Defense looked outmatched for Maine’s offensive speed. 

Overall, the team looked like they could match up pound for pound and stride for stride with the Black Bears; however, on multiple occasions, most notably the goals mentioned above, Northeastern’s D-core looked helpless against the pace Maine was pushing in transition. This led to opportunities for Maine that either resulted in a goal or, in the best cases, a high-pressure save for Whitehead. 

2. Whitehead looked uncomfortable at times. 

Whitehead has been outstanding in recent weeks; however, this was not his night. It’s impossible to know what was the reason behind his ‘struggles,’ be it the environment, two early goals, or just plain being left out to dry, but regardless something was not right. 

Obviously, he was not the reason for the loss, but he did nothing remarkable to help the team and he had some difficulty locating and collecting rebounds, his positioning was slightly off, and he looked almost surprised or just nervous, potentially, whenever a shot came his way. It doesn’t help that he got little help in the defensive end and was forced to fight through screens from Maine’s forwards all night, but, regardless, he wasn’t the cool, calm, and collected Whitehead we have gotten used to seeing over the last month. Whitehead stopped 30 of the 35 shots he faced. 

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3. Alex Campbell struggled to score in tight. 

Similar to the Whitehead criticism, it feels unfair to dump on one player exclusively, and Alex Campbell is one of Northeastern’s top scorers and has been a great offensive weapon for the Huskies all seasons — but Boija had his number on Friday. Campbell had six shots on net, all of which came from the top of Boija’s crease and three of those were on the breakaway and then, most notably, the penalty shot. 

In all of his breakaway opportunities and the penalty shot, rather than mixing in a move of some sort, Campbell resorted to the same predictable forehand shot to Boija’s blocker side, which was easily stopped each and every attempt. It would have been nice to see him try to diversify his repertoire with the 1-0 opportunity, but he chose not to and the generic shot did not catch anyone off guard, especially not Boija. 

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With most of the negative takeaways out of the way, let’s go over the positive takeaway:  

1. Offense looked strong. 

Despite Campbell’s missed breakaway opportunities, he and the all four offensive lines of the Huskies played decently well. For long portions of play they seemed to dictate the game and were very easy able to keep up with Maine’s stars. They also were able to actively create constant pressure and various golden chances. Unfortunately, they were met by a goaltender who played out of his mind and was able to stop 32 of the 33 Northeastern shots. Regardless, it is promising to see how the Huskies’ healthy offensive core was able to keep up with one of the best offenses in the nation. 

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While it would be unreasonable to expect Northeastern to travel to Orno and sweep the Black Bears in a building they were 9-1-1 in this season, the Huskies were right in the game, save for a handful of fixable mistake

Yes, they had their struggles, I certainly pointed them out, but they also had many positives that they can be proud of and are good signs for the second game of the series. Who knows what the results of that game will be, but they did show some promising signs that as long as they clean up a few things they can compete and beat a team like Maine in their building. 

Northeastern returns to the Alfond tonight for their rematch against the Black Bears. Matty Wasserman, Khalin Kapoor, and Luke Graham will have the call on WRBB Sports+ at 7 p.m.