Northeastern dropped another game in overtime at Matthews arena Saturday night, this time to the Merrimack Warriors in a 3-2 overtime loss, bringing the team to 1-5-2 on the season.
The Huskies gained an early 2-0 lead, but weren’t able to follow through despite seven power play opportunities. They were also significantly outshot by Merrimack, 31-19.
What I saw
After disturbing Merrimack’s winning streak in a tie Friday night, the Huskies looked strong out of the gate, but it didn’t last. Northeastern went 0 for 7 on power play opportunities. You can’t do that when you’re playing the No. 7 team in the country, and definitely not when that team goes 2-5 on their power play chances in the same match. The Huskies played almost all of the last 5 minutes of the game on the power play and just couldn’t capitalize to end the game in regulation and avoid overtime, which has proven to be deadly for them.
Penalties were big in this game, and Northeastern spent a combined 21 minutes in the penalty box due to some undisciplined play, handing Merrimack chance after chance to even the score, which the Warriors did.
What I thought
Having Rob Dongara back on the ice is just huge for this team. I had forgotten what an impact he could have after that little disciplinary absence. Madigan never did say exactly what he had done to get the scratch, but regardless Dongara was plus-2 last night and scored one of Northeastern’s two goals when he got around Merrimack goalie Joe Cannata on a beautiful short pass from Mike McLaughlin. It was McLaughlin who first put Northeastern on the board, when he took a pass from Joe Manno he made Cannata act first and was able to find the back of the net when Cannata made a move. Both of these goals showed off some of the real skill these guys have, they weren’t made by chance.
That being said, if Northeastern wants to have a chance at success this year, they’ve got to stop blowing games they have every chance to win. It feels like déjà vu at Matthews every time they gain a lead and choke. Sometimes it looks like when they’ve gained a lead they come out in the third period playing not to lose rather than playing to win, and sometimes it just seems like once their opponent lessens the Husky lead or ties it up, they completely lose confidence. Whatever it is, head coach Jim Madigan needs to address it quickly and make adjustments if need be.
What they said
“I thought we started off really well, obviously with the 2-0 lead and we had all our lines going. What happened in the first period was going to be our downfall as the game went along, we were just too undisciplined with too many bad penalties. It happened last night with a five minute major, happened again tonight. They’ve got a good power play and we were too undisciplined so that’s something we’ll have to address to the team.
“When you’re struggling frustration sets in, and certainly that’s happened. Sticks are a little tighter, the way they’re clutching them, so the puck moving isn’t as fluid. We’re a little rigid just because they look at the percentage and they know were struggling on the power play. It’s something that we’ll have to get better at. You win in this league when your special teams are better than the opposition and right now that’s not happening for us. For us it’s not a matter of personnel, it’s a matter of executing or not executing.”
– Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan
What they didn’t say
It wasn’t specifically addressed, but Chris Rawlings looked shaky at times tonight and Madigan hasn’t said whether he plans on giving Clay Witt more time in net. Rawlings has made it clear he probably won’t be sticking around in college hockey any longer than he has to and it seems silly to wait for Rawlings to leave to find out just how good Witt can be.
What else you should know
This is Northeastern’s second straight overtime loss at home, the last one being two weeks ago against rival Boston College.
Defenseman Anthony Bitetto left the game in the second period due to a lower body injury that needed tending to, but returned from the locker room after about a period and a half absence and rejoined the game. His return seemed to boost a Northeastern defense that was working with just four players after Josh Manson was ejected.