BOSTON — The cold, un-cooked hot dogs that littered the Matthews Arena ice Friday night signified one thing: the end of a Northeastern scoring drought that lasted more than three games — 209:11 to be exact. They did not, however, signify the end of another, more painful Husky trend. Visiting UMass-Lowell won its third straight, 2-1, and kept NU winless in its past 13 games.
“It’s getting kind of old now that we’re getting results as far as how we compete and how we get more chances than other teams, but it just seems like we’re not getting the results we need,” said Northeastern assistant coach Brendan Flynn. Head coach Greg Cronin was unavailable for comment, having gone to his office to look at tape. “I think the moral victories, this time of year, they don’t make it any easier. So, it’s frustrating.
“I think tonight was a bit of a ‘who’s gonna get that bounce,’” Flynn, a former River Hawk himself, said later. “Both teams work hard, it was pretty much a 1-1 game ”
In fact, it was a 1-1 game. That is, until UMass-Lowell “got that bounce.”
Down a man due to a five-minute major and game misconduct to freshman center Joe Vitale, the Huskies faced a lengthy and crucial penalty kill to end the second period.
They almost did it, too.
After gaining control of the puck, a Northeastern defender attempted to clear the zone. His blast, however, slammed into teammate Steve Sanders at the blueline, stayed in the zone, and landed on the stick of Lowell’s Jeremy Hall. The winger’s shot whistled wide of the net, but senior Danny O’Brien corralled the loose puck behind the goal, spun around and fired it towards the crease, where freshman goalie Doug Jewer (23 saves) had just enough time to watch it carom off his skate and into the net.
Northeastern (1-16-4, 1-11-4) regrouped and outshot Lowell 14-6 in the third period, but couldn’t squeeze one past River Hawk sophomore netminder Peter Vetri (36 saves). For the game, NU outshot UMass-Lowell 37-29, but Vetri was equal to the task each time breakaways, two-on-ones, one-timers, heavy slap shots through traffic, sneaky wrist shots in the slot you name it. He was there. Still, despite improving to 9-13-0 overall, 6-9-0 HE, River Hawk coach Blaise MacDonald seemed less than thrilled after the game. Following a spirited pep talk to his group in the locker room, the fifth-year coach met reporters by tossing his jacket in frustration at a nearby chair.
“Give Northeastern credit, they’re a very tough team, a very gritty team,” MacDonald said. “They play hard, they play the game the way it’s supposed to be played. They’ve been a little bit unfortunate scoring some goals and getting the breaks that they need. I think we did enough to win the game, but also did enough to almost lose the game. Maybe some of that was us, maybe a lot of it was Northeastern’s determination.
“We need to find ways to put teams away,” he added later. “We’ve had too many good opportunities we haven’t converted on.”
UML opened scoring halfway through the first period. Senior forward Matt Walsh carried the puck up the right wing before feeding Elias Godoy, who lost the puck. Todd Fletcher pounced on it, found Jewer without a stick and flailing in the crease to get back in position, and shot it high for his first goal of the year.
Midway through the second period, Northeastern tied the game and ended its scoring drought (in which the Huskies were shut out against BU once and Vermont twice), and did it on the power play, no less (they had gone 0-18 during the scoreless streak, managing just 11 shots). Junior Steve Birnstill fired a shot towards traffic in front of the net, where freshman Ryan Ginand deflected it home for his team-leading eighth goal of the season.
In all, three players were ejected from the game Bobby Robbins of UML and Denis Chisholm of NU following a first period check from behind and subsequent scrum and Vitale.
Both teams lost a player to injury during the game. Lowell junior defenseman Clive Kinley left the game in the second period, seemingly favoring his right arm or shoulder. MacDonald after the game called it an “upper body injury” and said the 6-0, 190-pound rearguard would be out a month. Jewer, playing in his sixth straight game (one of them when he relieved Adam Geragosian in a 4-0 loss to Boston University) was helped off the ice less than a minute into the third period. As a dump in reached the NU net, it took a funny bounce and jumped to the netminder’s right. He twisted and leaned down to cover it and as the whistle blew, lay flat on his back. Trainers assisted what looked like a back injury, and he was helped off. No timetable has been set on his recovery.
Godoy returned following a three-game absence for a groin injury, and Northeastern forward Josh Robertson, a fifth-round draft pick of the Washington Capitals in 2003, made it into the lineup after being a healthy scratch in the previous 13 contests. The teams play again Saturday night, in Lowell this time, at 7 p.m.