Northeastern came into this weekend’s road non-conference series against St. Cloud State with an undefeated 3-0-1 record, but had many questions still unanswered after they looked far from impressive in doing so. They eked out a pair of 2-1 wins over a winless Union squad, and followed up a nice win over Massachusetts with a 2-2 tie against Holy Cross. On Friday night, they made a statement defeating St. Cloud State 4-1, handing St. Cloud State their first loss at home since the 2017-2018 season.
Northeastern was good from the start, and a strong first period in which they outshot St. Cloud State 13-6 yielded a 1-0 lead on a goal by senior John Picking.
St. Cloud State would tie the game early in the second period on an impressive individual effort from Sam Hentges to skate the puck down the ice and force a backhand shot through Northeastern goalie Craig Pantano.
But Northeastern would get a pair of goals from top line center Tyler Madden later in the second period. Madden finished off a nice 2-on-1 pass from Matt Filipe for the first goal, and took a pass in the slot from TJ Walsh for his second to take a 3-1 lead after two periods.
St. Cloud State could not mount the offense to make a come back in the third period and Biagio Lerario added an extra insurance goal into an open net late in the third period.
The two teams will complete their two-game series tomorrow evening at 6:07 CST.
Notes and Thoughts:
-Northeastern did a terrific job with their forecheck early in the game, which really kept St. Cloud State bottled up in their own zone for long stretches. They weren’t overly aggressive in terms of scheme, but the one forward they were sending deep in the zone was coming hard and forcing turnovers.
-Once St. Cloud State was able to get the puck out of their zone, Northeastern was content to line up three across the blue line, trying to slow up any potential rushes from St. Cloud State. That’s how teams are going to line up against SCSU, and last year, while it was sometimes effective on smaller ice sheets(see: American International), teams weren’t able to hold the blue line on the big ice surface here in St. Cloud. Tonight, the Huskies couldn’t find a way to crack it though, and it resulted in a poor offensive performance.
The crisp, clean puck movement just wasn’t there for St. Cloud State tonight like it was last season. Maybe it will come with time. Maybe it’s not to expect it to considering all the talent they lost last year. But tonight, they looked like a team with a lot of work to do.
-On the flip side, I was very impressed with Northeastern tonight. I’ll give them another night, but my initial impression is that they’re going to be a really tough team this year. I know they were picked fourth in the Hockey East preseason poll because they brought in so many new faces, but there’s a lot of talent there. I loved the young guys they have on the blue line. They could be scary if it comes together at the right time.
-Speaking of Northeastern’s new faces, one of their big questions was who would replace Cayden Primeau in goal. They brought in grad transfer Craig Pantano from Merrimack, who had kind of meh numbers last year(albeit numbers that were slightly less meh than the other goalies on their roster), and so far, he has been fantastic.
He stopped 19 shots tonight, and now has a save percentage of .950 to start the year and looked calm and steady all night. It’s a small sample size at only five games, but you only need four great games at the right time for it to be a great season.
-Sam Hentges had a terrific game in a losing effort. He scored a pretty goal and almost had a couple others in the third period, including play where he crossed over Northeastern’s Jordan Harris pretty badly and almost scored on a clear shot. The Huskies had maybe six or seven decent chances all night, and it felt like Hentges had five or six of them.