BOSTON — Offensive opportunities were few and far between on Friday night as the Northeastern Huskies and Vermont Catamounts skated to a 2-2 deadlock, their second tie with that score this year.
The Catamounts took the early two goal lead but the Huskies came back adding two of their own, one each in the second and third. Shots and penalties were both low, but hitting was high in a physical match between the two schools.
Vermont (11-8-2 overall, 6-4-2 in Hockey East) head coach Kevin Sneddon seemed a little disappointed with the tie.
“I thought we played well for stretches, but I thought Northeastern was able to out work us in our on zone at times, and played a great hockey game,” Sneddon said. “Obviously when your up two-nothing on the road, you hope you can finish the game, but we made a couple of big mistakes and gave them a few key opportunities.”
Both Northeastern (6-10-4, 3-8-4) and Vermont came out hitting, the game was not chippy, all the hits were clean, and little pushing and shoving after the whistle, but many of the Huskies and Catamounts found themselves lying on the ice after a big hit.
The tone of the physical game was set early when Northeastern forward Dennis McCauley laid out Chris Myers in front of his own bench, sending the door open and the crowd into a frenzy. The big hits continued through out the first and well into both the second and third periods.
Vermont opened the scoring at 15:04 when Dean Strong took a second chance opportunity to get the lead. Torrey Mitchell made an aggressive move towards the net and Northeastern goalie Brad Thieseen was just able to get a pad on the puck. As the rebound sailed away Colin Vock grabbed hold and passed it to Strong who made almost and identical move to Mitchell yet this time was able to find the back of the net.
Northeastern then committed what Northeastern head coach Greg Cronin called “the cardinal sin of hockey”, giving up a goal with less than a minute to go. Viktor Stalberg took a misfired Northeastern pass and skated down the left wing, making his move towards the center he found the only open space in the net, banking the shot of the far post. The red goal light came on with only 9 seconds left to play in the first.
As the teams made their way to the locker rooms the mood of the 3,152 at Matthews Arena seemed a little depressed. Much like the Boston College game a week ago, Northeastern came out much stronger in the second and seemed to find their skating edge yet still got few shots on net.
“We’ve changed things up a little bit since the break, we are trying to encourage puck possession, sustained cycles, and quality shots, as opposed to quantity shots. That’s why you’ve seen the shot total go down,” Northeastern coach Greg Cronin explained.
“I’ve said this since I’ve started coaching, shots on net are the least reflective part of the hockey game. You can take ten shots that are well outside the dots and they count, and they go up on that board and they are ten shots but the goalie didn’t even sweat stopping one of them.”
Continuing, he added: “When you’re in these tight games when you don’t have to throw a lot of pucks at the net it creates a steady rhythm and that’s what we’re trying to encourage.”
Northeastern mustered two shots in the second, but Randy Guzior tallied his fourth goal of the season when a put a shot right beneath the blocker of Vermont goalie Joe Fallon. Fallon saved the only other shot he saw that period.
The final score was settled less than a minute into the third, after successfully killing of a UVM power play Bryan Esner came flying down the right side, turning the opportunity into a 2 on 1. Esner took a shot that was turned away by Fallon, but right on the stick of junior Jimmy Russo who backhanded the puck into the open net.
“The goalie was pretty much down and out and it actually handcuffed me a little so I backhanded it in” Jimmy Russo explained.
The rest of the game went on without either team generating quality offensive chances. Northeastern got three shots in the second and UVM got eight. In the OT Vermont dominated play early but Brad Thieseen turned away all he saw as did Joe Fallon.
NU ended the night with 14 shots, giving Joe Fallon 12 saves. Vermont was able to get 27 on net with Northeastern tender Brad Thieseen turning away 25 of them. Northeastern was 1-3 on the power-play and UVM was 0-5. Guzior’s goal marked only the 12th power-play goal allowed by Vermont on the year.
The two teams meet again tomorrow night at Matthews Arena at 7:00 P.M. The game can be watched on CN8 on the Eastern seaboard.