ORONO, Maine — Dreadful. Treacherous. Frightening.
These words once described Maine at home inside the hallowed ranks of Alfond Arena.
Now, the Black Bears would be enough lucky if opponents even used those terms to describe the drive to Orono.
Friday, in a performance that rendered any Alfond mystique absolutely useless, Northeastern (9-11-4, 6-9-4) crushed Maine (15-6-2, 8-7-1), 6-1, to deliver the No. 6 team in the nation its third straight defeat at home, a feat not achieved since 2000.
“We’ve seen the recent scores in here,” said Northeastern freshman Matt Costa.
“We know BU came up here and beat them twice. We feel like we’re just as good a team as BU if not better. We hold them scoreless the last time we played them. We knew coming in here that if we played our system, we could win and we did.”
“They looked like a beaten team tonight,” said Costa.
Behind Costa’s first two collegiate goals and a thorough team effort, the Huskies joined the ranks of Boston University, Boston College, and University of New Hampshire, who each have beaten the Black Bears at home this season. In fact, Northeastern might have trumped them all. Winning by five goals, a total only bested by UNH who had a six-goal advantage, Northeastern embarrassed Maine in front of a home crowd, which has their team play .500 hockey in front of them.
“These outcomes are definitely surprising us,” said Costa. “We want the sweep this weekend. We want to move up in the standings. Since Christmas, we’ve had a great record and we’ve played great. We expect to win tomorrow. We’ve played in a lot of tough places Yost arena, up in Vermont and BU the crowd doesn’t phase us.”
By the time, the Huskies had booted netminder Ben Bishop from the game and scored their sixth tally, Alfond represented a crowd typical of a women’s basketball game. The emptying out of an arena filled entirely with disappointed and upset fans didn’t go unnoticed by the Black Bears, who have played their best games outside of the state.
“This is really tough,” said Maine captain Michel Leveille. “Every time you lose at home you feel like you let the whole state of Maine down. I definitely can’t stand that. It’s something I can’t explain. I don’t know why we’re coming out flat. All I know is that we have to get our stuff together.”
The victory was the Huskies’ first against Maine in 10 games.
“I’m not going to BS you, we played a heck of a game,” said Northeastern head coach Greg Cronin. “There is a fairly visible rhythm to how we play, when we play the system. When we played Lowell last week that rhythm was visible for about 40 minutes and tonight it was about visible for 55 minutes.”
With the loss the once mighty Black Bears, ranked 1st as late as mid-November, are now 1-4 in their last five games and rapidly falling out of the National Championship picture. That is if they are even considered to still be in it. The Black Bears have surrendered six or more goals at home three times this season. The mark breaks a streak that goes back all the way into the ’80s.
“We were thoroughly outplayed in every area of the game, every single aspect,” said Maine head coach Tim Whitehead. “Northeastern played like a team and we played like a bunch of individuals and we paid the price for it.”
Northeastern on the other hand is headed in exactly the opposite direction. While Maine continues to flounder, the Huskies have rattled off a record of 4-1-2 in their last seven games. With Friday’s win, the Huskies inched to one game behind the Black Bears for sixth place in Hockey East. After Northeastern’s performance, last night it doesn’t look like their prepared to let up any time soon.
“I think it’s obvious since Christmas that we’re a different team,” said Costa.
“We stick to our system and it seems to be working real well for us. It’s giving us a lot of offense. We’re not surprised that were getting a couple W’s. We are a recharged team. Everyone is doing their job. We feel like we can smoother teams on offense and on defense.”
Cronin was quick to echo the same sentiment.
“What we’ve tried to preach since the break is that everyone has to go in the same direction,” said Cronin. “Despite the score, despite the time on the clock, you have to play as a team and we’ve been doing that pretty consistently.”
On Friday, Northeastern made their move on Maine early in the second period. Despite pushing the puck throughout the first period on two-on-ones and three-on-twos, Northeastern entered the second trailing 1-0 after a Michel Leveille point shot that jetted pass freshman netminder Brad Thiessen. Undeterred by the tally, Northeastern stormed backed in the second with even more sustained pressure that went ignored by Maine.
That pressure paid off at 1:01 of the second when Jacques Perreault caressed the back of the mesh on Bishop.
“The first one just went off my glove; I wasn’t expecting them to shoot it,” said Bishop. “I thought he would go low and for the rebound and he went high for the glove.”
He was followed shortly after by Chad Costello. The eventual game-winner saw the accurate Costello smack home a sneaky little drop pass from Kyle Kreamer.
“I didn’t even see the shot or the pass,” said Bishop. “I couldn’t see the player that had the puck and they had the back door.”
Then with the floodgates open Northeastern proceeded to register four more scores. However, they didn’t take control of the game until Costa scored the biggest back-breaker at 18:36 of the second. With all the momentum in the world, Northeastern headed to the locker room in full stride, while Maine looked completely flustered.
The goal in arguably Northeastern’s biggest game this season was Costa’s first collegiate tally.
“It was unbelievable,” said Costa. “I went behind the net and after I scored no one was cheering but I was pretty excited. I thought I could jump over the net at that point. I had to try and act like I had been there before.”
Later in the game, Costa closed out the scoring when he banked in shot on backup goalie Dave Wilson. The two-goal night came courtesy of a performance the Huskies have started to expect from the speedy freshman from Maryland.
“Against Lowell, I looked like an imbecile for not playing him earlier in the year,” said Cronin. “I didn’t play him till after the break. The way he skates he plays with a pace and physicality. He’s got enough skill, which he shown tonight, that he can play offensively.”
In the third period, Costa was joined on the score sheet by Mike Morris and Randy Guzior who scored goals at 2:58 and 9:18 respectively.
Despite the outpouring of success in a building that has always been more like a fortress for them, Northeastern isn’t quick to jump to conclusions.
“This is just one game we won one game in a two-game series,” said Cronin.
“Obviously, it feels good. You beat a top-ranked team in their own building its going to feel good. But I’ve said it all along I have a tremendous amount of respect for Maine. I’m part of the tradition and part of the history.”
As for Maine, it may be time for dramatics and the players are aware of that.
“Our backs are against the wall right now,” said freshman Teddy Purcell. “This is do or die tomorrow night.”