Men’s Hockey: Huskies can’t clinch playoff spot, look to be spoiler

Men’s Hockey: Huskies can’t clinch playoff spot, look to be spoiler

The Huskies were on the short end of a 4-2 score against UMass-Amherst, after extending their playoff hopes a day earlier with a hard-fought 2-2 tie in the first game of the home-and-home series against the Minutemen. Northeastern got scores from junior forwards Yale Lewis and Bryan Esner and 29 saves from junior goalie Adam Geragosian.

The two teams were evenly matched on Friday, playing good defense in an overtime tie. Freshman forward Dennis McCauley and junior forward Joe Santilli scored for the Huskies (3-22-7, 3-15-7 HE) while Geragosian made 28 saves in net.

It appeared the extra frame might have tired Northeastern, as they were quickly down 3-0 Saturday until Lewis scored with 16 seconds remaining in the second period on a 6-on-5 power play. Lewis’ fourth goal of the season came on a deflection of freshman defender Louis Lotti’s shot from the point with junior defender Brian Deeth also assisting on the play.

“We just kept possession of the puck in the UMass defensive zone and made some good passes,” Lewis said. “It gave the guys a little hope, we were down three nothing at that point and any goal would’ve helped out the team.”

The playoffs appeared within reach 15:57 in the final frame when Esner scored his sixth goal of the season on assists from Santilli and freshman forward Rob Rassey to bring the Huskies within one, 3-2.

“It was a do-or-die game for us with the playoffs depending on us winning,” coach Greg Cronin said. “I felt good about it with 16 minutes to go, we made it close at 3-2 but we never got any rhythm going into the third period.”

The Minutemen (13-18-1, 10-14-1 HE) stopped any Husky rally short at 15:28 in the third on sophomore forward P.J. Fenton’s goal off assists from freshman defender John Wessbecker and senior defender Marvin Degon, who collected three assists in the game, making the score 4-2.

The momentum and post-season dreams of Northeastern ended in a dreadful third period filled with Husky penalties, including three after the Minutemen went ahead for good.

“When you take penalties, it’s not good,” Cronin said. “We gotta get players who can play on special teams, you can practice all you want but we need guys who can make plays and think under pressure. We gotta block shots and get shots through, we have to have the courage to get into their shot lanes.”

The playoff spot was the last chance for redemption in what has been a disappointing season for the young team.

“I thought we put ourselves in the position to get into the playoff hunt despite the number of critical injuries we’ve had,” Cronin said. “The team has to learn to put points in the bank earlier in the year. But I’m proud of my freshmen, they really stepped it up this year after all the injuries.”

Lewis once was on the long list of players injured, a place that all athletes dread spending time.

“Anytime you have an injury is the toughest time, you just want to be a part of the game and on the ice even if the team is losing,” Lewis said. “And when you come back you just want to bring something to the table and hopefully help the team get a win.”

The Huskies will have their last chance of the season to win next weekend as they take on Boston University in a home-and-home series on Friday at Matthew’s Arena and Saturday at Agganis Arena.

“They should be exciting games,” Cronin said. “BU should be fighting for a position, and our players will be working hard to carve out a role for themselves next season. I’ll address us playing the spoiler role later in the week. We just gotta get wins, I don’t care what role we’re playing.”

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