Men’s Hockey: Wildcats halt NU’s momentum

Men’s Hockey: Wildcats halt NU’s momentum

By Matt Nielsen

Recruiting paid off for the 2006-07 Northeastern men’s hockey team (2-5-1, 0-4-1). It is apparent in head coach Greg Cronin’s freshman class, like forward Chad Costello and goalie Brad Thiessen, and returning players such as former first round NHL draft-pick and team captain Mike Morris.

Most observers agree this year’s team will be more successful than last year’s. However, this weekend showed there is more to winning Hockey East games than talent alone.

“We’re still learning how to win,” Morris said after back-to-back losses against conference rival New Hampshire (4-2-0, 2-1-0) this weekend.

The Huskies had their chances in both games, leading after the first period in each, but the No. 13 Wildcats displayed poise and experience in overcoming both deficits and keeping NU from its first conference win of the season.

In the first game of a home and home series, Northeastern traveled to the Whittemore Center in Durham, N.H. Friday night coming off last weekend’s upset of then-No. 6 Michigan. The Huskies appeared to have kept their momentum, scoring the first goal of the game before five minutes elapsed. Sophomore forward Ryan Ginand passed to senior forward Morris, who ripped a shot at UNH junior goalie Kevin Regan. The shot was blocked, and it trickled to Costello, who beat Regan for the early 1-0 lead and his second goal of the season.

New Hampshire didn’t take long to even the score. At 7:23, sophomore forward Trevor Smith beat senior goalie Adam Geragosian with assists from junior forward Matt Fornataro and junior defenseman Brad Flaishans.

A few minutes later, sophomore forward Joe Vitale won the face-off and got the puck to junior forward Jimmy Russo in the corner. Russo fed freshman forward Kyle Kraemer who deposited the puck in the UNH net for his second tally of the year and the lead.

The Wildcats scored twice in the first 12 minutes of the second period to take the lead 3-2 off Smith’s seventh of the season and senior defenseman Chris Murray’s first. However, NU came back to tie the contest just before the second intermission. At 18:19, Costello scored for the second time, again assisted by Morris and Ginand.

After hanging with UNH for 40 minutes, the Huskies fell two goals behind just 45 seconds into the third period. Senior forward Brett Hemingway and Fornataro each scored their first goals of the year.

The Wildcats scored for the last time five minutes later when, with Bryan Esner in the penalty box for slashing (one of 11 NU penalties Friday), senior forward Josh Ciocco scored on the power play, with assist from Hemingway and senior forward Jacob Micflikier.

New Hampshire’s six goals are the most the Huskies have allowed in a game this season.

The teams made their way to Matthews Arena for the second half of their weekend series Saturday night, and the game started much the same way as Friday’s.

Halfway through the first period, with NU on the power play, Morris got the puck from Costello at the side of the net. Morris took a shot that bounced off a defender’s skate and into the top of the net for the early advantage. It was Morris’s third goal in the last four games.

“Even though we got one today, our power play has got to get a lot better,” Morris said.

The Huskies outshot the Wildcats 18-6 in the first period, but couldn’t find the net again.

“The bottom line is that when you get 18 shots in a period, some of them wide open, you have to put them in,” Cronin said. “We had a few guys by themselves in front of the net who couldn’t score point blank. I can’t explain it.”

NU held onto the lead until 15 minutes into the second period. The puck bounced back toward the Northeastern zone while the Huskies changed lines. However, the puck got away from freshman defenseman Jim Driscoll and the Wildcats gained possession behind the net. Smith then scored his third goal of the weekend with a wrap-around shot.

New Hampshire added two more goals before the end of the second period. At 17:57, Murray’s shot deflected off a Northeastern stick in front of the net and past Thiessen for the lead. As the period wound down, Hemingway took a shot from near the blue line, which deflected off sophomore defenseman Jamie Fritsch’s stick for UNH’s third and final goal of the night.

There was no scoring in the third, despite some good chances for both teams, and the game ended 3-1.

“I was disappointed that we didn’t score in the third period,” Cronin said. “The crowd was really into it, and we had some chances.”

UNH head coach Dick Umile said the Wildcats were lucky to get two wins against Northeastern.

“We beat a good team this weekend,” Umile said. “They’re fast and well-coached. These were good wins for us.”

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