AMHERST, Mass. - Adam Reid scored the lone goal of the night for Northeastern, but it was just enough to hang on as Chris Rawlings made 31 saves to lift the Huskies to a 1-0 win over Massachusetts Friday night at the Mullins Center.
Rawlings pitched his second shutout of the season, while his counterpart Kevin Boyle was solid as well, making 16 saves on 17 shots faced.
What I Saw
- While UMass had a majority of the chances throughout the first two periods and seemed to dominate play, it was the Huskies that found the back of the net in the most unusual of circumstances. The goal by Reid came shorthanded 17 minutes, 13 seconds into the second period in a moment of indecisiveness by NU coach Jim Madigan. The Huskies had only three men on the ice in the defensive zone for the first few seconds of the shift as Madigan and his staff were deciding to put Reid out on the ice. As NU was was left with those three players on the ice, Reid hopped over the boards and found himself wide open in the neutral zone. Dustin Darou obtained possession of the puck and skipped it to the sophomore forward right away, who proceeded to skate into the Minutemen zone untouched and slipped the puck past Boyle after faking right and going left to beat the sophomore goaltender’s outstretched pad. It was Reid’s first goal of the season and third point total.
- This game was all about goaltending and defensive play, plain and simple. Rawlings couldn’t be beat all night long as UMass continuously got quality chances on him, especially in the first two periods. Troy Power was the first player to get a puck past the senior net minder in the second period when his shot from the right circle dinged off the crossbar and fell behind Rawlings, who quickly covered the rebound. Colin Shea also had a quality chance in the first period when his first shot attempt deflected off Rawlings and back onto his stick, and his next shot attempt went across the crease but no one was there to put it home. The third period saw the Huskies really lock down defensively, frustrating the Minutemen with numerous blocked shots and breaking up passes. UMass was also strong defensively, which is apparent from NU’s mere 17 shot attempts. Junior forward Conor Sheary said after the game that he didn’t remember spending much time in the defensive zone, which came as a result of continued strong defensive play by the Minutemen. Other than that one goal in which Boyle appeared completely hopeless, the sophomore was solid in net and made a number of decent saves with the glove.
- While Reid’s goal will go down as the difference in the game, Friday’s contest really came down to a five minute man-advantage for UMass 13:52 into the third period. NU sophomore defenseman Josh Manson was sent off for a five minute major and game misconduct for kneeing on Power, who left the game in obvious pain as a result of the play. The Minutemen had numerous opportunities in the five minute stretch, but simply couldn’t solve Rawlings, who was clearly the Huskies’ best penalty killer throughout. UMass thought it had a goal midway through the power play when Sheary’s shot hit off the top of the crossbar, then appeared to deflect off the back right skate of Rawlings and scooted by the net. The horn went off while the referees signaled no goal, so the officials had to go to the booth to review the play. But it was clear there was no goal on the play and the Minutemen lost all of their momentum on the power play following the missed opportunity.
What I Thought
- One of the most glaring improvements UMass has made to its game since John Micheletto took over as coach this summer was the special teams play. After ranking in the bottom half of the Hockey East in both the power play and penalty kill, the Minutemen came into Friday’s game with a much improved, 21.4 percent conversion rate on the power play and 86 percent on the penalty kill. However, it was the power play that inevitably failed UMass in Friday’s loss. Not only did the Minutemen blow a huge opportunity with the five minutes with an extra man late in the third period, but they also gave up the only goal of the night on their second of four power plays. While the improvement of the power play is certainly an encouraging sign for UMass, it has to be a little concerning that it has only scored three more goals even strength (15) than on the power play (12). As it showed in Friday’s game, on nights when the power play is off the Minutemen need to be able to step up in the 5-on-5 game. It is also worth noting that UMass was without two of its regular starters on the power play in Darren Rowe and Power, who both left the game with injuries, for that final five minute power play.
- It’s no question that Rawlings was the story of the game for the Huskies. He stood tall in the first two periods as the Minutemen fired 21 shots on him in the first 40 minutes, making his fair share of big saves and robbing UMass of any good rebound opportunities by securing the puck well. But the defensive play by NU in the final period can’t go under the radar. It made life very difficult on the Minutemen, who had a hard time getting to Rawlings thanks in large part to blocked shots and breaking up pass attempts that may have led to some Grade A chances in front of the net. The Huskies were also up for the physicality that UMass came with as well, and that led to more plays broken up in the defensive zone and more opportunities to clear the puck at critical points in the game.
- There’s not too many negative things that can be said about the way the Minutemen played out there. They were clearly the better team. They dominated a majority of the contest, outshooting NU 31-17 in the game, including a completely one-sided first period which UMass outshot the Huskies 14-4. Micheletto said after the game that he was happy with how well he felt his team played, but they simply didn’t get the breaks they needed to win. It was apparent that the Minutemen were pressing and getting frustrated after carrying play in the first two periods. That led to poor chances and sloppy execution of the offensive end despite spending a majority of the time with possession of the puck. It looked like one of those games where if Rawlings had not put his team on his back, the outcome may have been a little different.
What They Said
“Obviously we’re pleased with the win tonight. I thought our kids competed hard. There was a little adversity that we had to entertain towards the later part of the third period in the way we killed that five minute major off, and I thought we showed some resiliency. I thought our (penalty kill) did a good job and Chris Rawlings was fabulous in net tonight.” -Northeastern coach Jim Madigan.
“A good effort in execution tonight for our guys. Obviously we would’ve liked for one of those 31 shots to go in, and one of their 17 to not. Other than that I don’t have anything but positive things to say about our play tonight.” -UMass coach John Micheletto.
What Else You Should Know
Both Darren Rowe and Troy Power left the game with injuries for UMass on Friday. Rowe’s came in the first period, when he appeared to have suffered a forearm injury trying to brace himself against the boards before getting hit. Micheletto said after the game that the team was hopeful that he could get back out on the ice by the second period, but concluded it was safer to leave him out for the rest of the contest. Power’s injury appeared to have something to do with the lower body, but Micheletto had no word on his status other than the fact that he was concerned with the way Power went into the boards as he took the knee. It is unsure whether either will be able to take the ice tomorrow night when the two teams meet again, this time for a 7 p.m. tilt at Matthews Arena.
Rowe and Power are the fourth and fifth Minutemen to be banged up and potentially out of the lineup for tomorrow’s game. UMass also went without freshmen Shane Walsh and Evan Stack, as well as backup goaltender Steve Mastalerz, who have all missed the last few games due to undisclosed injuries.