Men’s Hockey: Trip to Grand Forks a true test

Men’s Hockey: Trip to Grand Forks a true test

Tell an interested audience that you’re traveling to Grand Forks for a weekend of hockey with the state of North Dakota’s pride and joy, the Fighting Sioux, and you’ll surely be met with deep apprehension from even the least observant hockey minds.

Add to this that your team is regrouping from an offseason of change and an overhaul in its coaching staff and your audience may just tell you to give up and make new plans.

The Northeastern men’s hockey team made the often-fateful trip to the upper Midwest this past weekend to start off the Greg Cronin era, and after a 6-0 loss in front a usually-raucous Engelstad Arena crowd of 10,491 on Friday, the Huskies could have given up.

They didn’t, and behind a dynamite goaltending performance from junior Adam Geragosian the next night, NU kept a speedy, strong Sioux offense in check during a 2-1 loss.

Geragosian, who started after Doug Jewer stepped in between the pipes on Friday, dealt with a whopping 13 North Dakota power plays while receiving no help from his offense, as the Huskies managed just two shots to the Sioux’ 11 in the first period.

“Adam is an unbelievable goalie,” Husky junior defenseman Steve Birnstill said. “He’s worked real hard over the last two years [at backup]. Not too many people are going to play over Keni Gibson.”

North Dakota, last year’s national runner-up, featured a frightful blend of physicality and speed on its constantly-rushing offense, scoring both goals on the power play as Kyle Radke and Ryan Duncan tallied their points in the second period.

“We have a lot of young guys on this team and it certainly wasn’t an easy rink to just walk into and play in,” Birnstill said. “After the Friday game, we went over a lot of things and we got more prepared and controlled. We played the game we wanted to play.”

Billerica product and freshman forward Dennis McCauley scored NU’s first goal of the season at the 13:16 mark of the second period, and from there the Huskies had the dubious task of putting together a capable offense while dealing with an overwhelmed defense.

NU, however, dug its own grave in the third with three penalties of its own, including a Ryan Ginand roughing the goalie penalty in the final minute after Cronin pulled Geragosian. Added to the Huskies’ woes in trying to form a comeback was a five-minute major called on forward Carter Lee 4:18 into the second for hitting from behind. Then, at 7:39, the Huskies were called for too many men on the ice.

“We had a very tentative, passive almost fearful existence during the first night,” Cronin said. “On the second night, though, we focused on the fundamentals. We couldn’t worry about the crowd, the fans or the first-round draft picks. We had to just play hockey.”

On Friday night, freshman goalie Doug Jewer started and was bombarded with strong offensive opportunities from the Sioux all night.

“The biggest thing for us was taking away their cycle game,” Birnstill said. “Coach gave us a stat. They had eight chances off the cycle on Friday and only two on Saturday. They were very fast and big so we had to take away [that part of their game].”

North Dakota scored two goals per period, using slick passing around its offensive zone.

“I didn’t like our offense,” Cronin said. “We were way too loose with the puck. We should have been more responsible and more intelligent on our line rushes. We were playing it safe and I don’t like playing it safe. That’s why you play, to do something with the puck.”

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