Monday, March 16, 2009

Winning the Big One

Big games beget big games. Northeastern's exceedingly disappointing Friday night loss to UMass made Saturday's game their most important of the season, and their victory that night made yesterday's game of the utmost importance.

Somehow, they managed to win it. And sometimes all it takes is a freshman, somebody too young and too dumb to know better.

Saturday night's game was reminiscent of last season's game 2 versus Vermont. The Huskies had a strong edge in scoring chances and a much stronger goalie, walking away with a 4-1 win that ended on a gorgeous Costa empty net goal with under a minute remaining. Credit Coach Cronin with the decision to play Kyle Kraemer...Kraemer was the best player on the ice, scoring the first goal of the game and his first of the season on a nice jam shot inside the post. Thiessen stopped 32 of 33 shots to earn the victory.

Sunday night paralleled the first two games of the series in that neither team seemed particularly interested in scoring during the first period. UMass opened the first lead of the game with a goal during a 5 on 3 power play. JP Maley was inexplicably called for interference while the Minutemen had the man advantage, setting up a point shot from Matt Irwin that got blocked in front before James Marcou knocked it in.

The Huskies killed off the second half of the power play and then absolutely caught fire. They were unable to find the back of the net for eight minutes, until freshman Alex Tuckerman sniped the back of the net from near the circles. It was a beautiful goal, the kind that happens when you get players in front of the goalie, something NU has been reluctant to do as of late.

38 seconds later, the Huskies were ahead 2-1, as IPNO-sponsored player Ryan Ginand faked a pass on a breakaway and then went top cheese (you've gotta love hockey terms) on Dainton. Another great goal, and Ginand's 20th of the season. My bill is up to $121.

Northeastern continued to dominate the game. They clanged more than a couple posts and a crossbar, and had a couple shots hit Dainton and tumble just over the net. With a little over a minute left, the Minutemen pulled Dainton. On their first drive into the Northeastern zone, UMass fired an ill-advised shot at Thiessen, who gloved it down and gave it to Chris Donova, who sped all the way into the UMass zone with just a single defender between himself and the empty net. He waited. Deked. Waited. And was stripped of the puck. On the ensuing charge into the Huskies' zone, the Minutemen passed the puck out to Irwin.

I looked over at Jeff as the pass was being made and we both said "Oh, fuck."

Oh, fuck indeed. Irwin's shot rocketed 4 inches off the ice and into the back of the net with 34 seconds left in the game. If not for the contingent of UMass fans, you probably would've been able to hear Cronin cursing.

Overtime in the playoffs is a messy affair. It's a 15 minute break, then a 20 minute period. They will play overtimes until the ice melts. I, on the other hand, am exhausted from my third hockey game in three days.

Regardlss, the OT period was pretty back and forth. Both teams had some quality chances, with the Huskies watching yet another shot nick the crossbar and flop over the net and the Minutemen failing to get the puck off the ice with Thiessen on his stomach.

Then Tuckerman happened. Alex Tuckerman, already with a goal and another goal the previous evening, wrapped around the UMass net and snuck the puck between Dainton and the post short-side. It was a surprising goal. I noticed it was going in about a half second before the light game on, my seat providing a head-on angle for probably the first time ever. Matthews pretty much exploded, the players piled on each other, and Cronin smiled, something he doesn't seem to do very often.

More interesting was the reaction of the UMass players. The goal was so weird, and they were so amped after scoring to force overtime, that they sorta just collapsed. Goalie is a funny position. Your job is to spoil the days of others, and oftentimes the reaction you see from a goalie is disbelief. Rarely do they get angry. Dainton stayed in his attempted save position for a while, still with the couple inches of room between his body and the post. Defensemen huddle around him, watching the Huskies celebrate before lining up for the post-game handshakes.

Assistant Coach Sebastien Laplante, Coach Cronin, and all the players emphatically waved to the Doghouse as they skated off the ice to a "Huskies!" chant. It's things like that which remind us that sometimes, the players care just as much as we do.

Northeastern plays UMass-Lowell at the Garden on Friday at 5 PM.


  • There's been a lot of Rivers/Cutler debate in the AFC West. But while Rivers is definitely an asshole, at least he's not a whiny bitch.
  • The Angels are 12-4 in spring training, but suffered a relatively bad loss to Oakland yesterday. Jered Weaver is going to need to be a strong #3 guy this season regardless of his actual position in the rotation, and results thus far have not been encouraging.
  • The Northeastern men's basketball team, having detonated their chances of playing meaningful postseason basketball, will instead be playing Wyoming in the CBI. What a waste of a season.
  • If you had told me two years ago that the Kings would be at .500 this late in the season, I'd have laughed while walking away in my Cloutier jersey. (Note: I do not own a Cloutier jersey. Does anyone?)
  • “It’s the same thing. When I was going to the line to cut off the ball on the double, I tried to push it and I felt it,” Ramirez said before reciting a line he’s been using all spring. “Maybe age is catching up with me.” No shit. Maybe that's why asking for a 4-year contract was insanity, sir.

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