The Takeaway: Northeastern gets lucky with return of Quailer, shaky UNH defense

Posted by: Jill Saftel

Northeastern surprised Friday night, shutting down New Hampshire, 4-0 — a score not many were expecting from the matchup.

The Huskies opened their scoring with a goal by Braden Pimm followed by two more quick ones from Zak Stone and Justin Daniels, all three goals within three minutes of each other. Mike McLaughlin sealed it for Northeastern when he put the team up by four in the final period. This offensive success only further aggravated an already frustrated UNH, and the tension started to show with a few scuffles late in the game.

What I saw

The defensive pairing of Luke Eibler and Josh Manson was crucial for Northeastern. The defensemen were plus-3 and plus-2, respectively, making several of the blocks that helped Chris Rawlings in goal and boosted the Northeastern’s offense.

You can depend on UNH to be fast, you can’t really say the same for Northeastern. But the Huskies kept up with the Wildcats’ speed, looking like a quicker and more determined team than the one who barely tied Massachusetts in their home opener last week.

Rawlings made 27 saves across the three periods. With the help of his defense, he looked more like the goaltender we saw in his first year at Northeastern rather than the goaltender we saw in the team’s losses to Boston College in last season’s Beanpot and Hockey East semifinals.

What I thought

Northeastern was solid. With four goals and a shutout against a team like UNH, you’d think they must have been stellar, but I’ve got to think this game was more about UNH’s weakness than any strength of Northeastern.

What did improve was Northeastern’s defense. Rawlings was much better in goal than he was last weekend at Maine, but a lot of the credit for the shutout has to go to the guys blocking in front of him. Head coach Jim Madigan switched up his defensive pairings and it worked.

Northeastern needed Steve Quailer. He brings something to the team on and off the ice and they had a different look with him back. I’d love to see what they will look like when they finally get all of their strong players out of suits and playing together on the ice — Cody Ferriero is still serving a suspension and dynamo Rob Donagara seems to have lost favor with Madigan.

What they said

“They could’ve taken the other guys, but we’ve got to keep it simple on the bench, keep the emotions down.” – Steve Quailer on his teammates Joseph Manno and Josh Manson after a post-whistle scuffle.

“Obviously a great win for our team. We competed hard. We had a good week of practice and just bringing the game back to its simplest form in all three zones.” – Jim Madigan

Simplicity seems to be key for the Huskies, Madigan and Quailer both mentioned it, as did goaltender Chris Rawlings in reference to preparing with the goalie coaches for Friday night.

What they didn’t say

You’ve got to wonder the real reason Dongara was scratched Friday night. Madigan called it a “coach’s choice,” but that doesn’t say much. Whatever Dongara did didn’t warrant a suspension, but it surely didn’t please the coaching staff. Whether or not he’s on the ice next weekend will probably be an indicator as to the severity of his misconduct or his effort level in practice.

Same goes for Ferriero, he’s still holding out on a suspension from last season, and Madigan said both he and Dongara will find themselves back on the ice “when it’s appropriate,” whatever that means.

What else you should know

This is Northeastern’s first victory over UNH in about three years, totaling three ties and three losses since their last win against the Wildcats in November 2008.

The Huskies are technically first in Hockey East rankings after Friday night’s win, but they’re also the only team in the conference to have played three games so far.

While their offense looked good Friday, it probably won’t be enough against Merrimack and Boston University next weekend. UNH was already battling frustrations from being shutout against Boston University, and Northeastern was able to capitalize on their defensive weakness – chances are the Huskies won’t be able to count on that against either of next weekend’s competitors.

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