Men’s hockey: Ninth place finish for NU

By Jared Shafran, News Staff

With four games left in the Hockey East regular season, the Northeastern men’s hockey team sat in fifth place in the conference. Although they had tough opponents on the schedule, a look at the standings with two weekends left to play would show that the team would most likely finish in the top eight, qualifying for the Hockey East playoffs.
But after going just 0-3-1 in those last four, the Huskies dropped all the way down to finish ninth, missing the playoffs and ending their season.
“It’s obviously not a good feeling,” Huskies head coach Greg Cronin said. “I feel bad for the guys, I thought they played hard, I thought we deserved it with the second half we had.”
The chances were there for NU to secure points in all four of their final games, but they let opportunities pass them by and lost their last three contests.
In the first game in the series with UNH at Matthews Arena, the Huskies had a 3-0 lead in the second period behind goals from freshman twins Justin and Drew Daniels and senior forward Kyle Kraemer before losing the lead and allowing UNH to get back into the game.
Blake Kessel scored a goal for the Wildcats with just 13.3 seconds remaining in the game to tie things at 4-4 and nothing was able to be settled in overtime.
“We had plenty of chances to put the game out of distance for them and we didn’t do it,” Cronin said. “They’re a good team, they battled back, and they deserved the tie.”
After the loss, the Huskies took the short bus ride to Durham, N.H. to play UNH at the Whittemore Center. Once again they came away with a disappointing result as they led for almost the entire game and surrendered goals late.
Kraemer scored just 38 seconds into the first and that 1-0 lead carried the Huskies all the way into the third period.
With just 5:02 remaining in the game, Dalton Speelman tied the score and completely changed the momentum. Only 12 seconds later, UNH struck again as Paul Thompson put one past Huskies freshman netminder Chris Rawlings, giving the Wildcats the lead for good as they would tack on an empty net goal later in the period.
Although they dropped two games, BU’s simultaneous pair of losses to Vermont kept the Huskies in fifth place, allowing NU two more games to redeem themselves and clinch a playoff spot. Their opponent for the home-and-home series was none other than those same Boston University Terriers who were also looking to avenge a tough weekend.
While the Huskies were competitive at Agganis Arena, coming from two goals down to tie it at 4-4 at the end of the second period, BU scored with 9:29 left in the game and that was all they needed.
“The game-winning goal was a bad breakdown when we had full possession of the puck,” Cronin said after the game. “We had the puck on our sticks on 3 of their 5 goals with full possession, no pressure, and they end up in our net three seconds later.”
Finally the Huskies losses were catching up with them. In one of the tightest Hockey East races in league history, NU needed to get a win in the final game of the regular season when it hosted BU, or else be in jeopardy of missing the playoffs.
Although the game started out looking good for NU as junior Wade MacLeod scored his fourteenth goal of the season a minute and thirty-six seconds into the game, it was another classic seesaw battle between the two Boston schools.
A 3-3 tie was broken in the third period by Kevin Gilroy of the Terriers, who found the back of the net with less than seven minutes to go in the game. Despite a few late power play chances and a bunch of desperate last second shots on net, the Huskies could not find a way to get even.
The two Northeastern losses combined with two UMass wins in the last weekend was just enough for the Huskies to finish in ninth place, one point outside of the playoff picture.
“I would take any of the last four games and if someone was to say we were only going to get one point in any of them I would’ve been shocked,” Cronin said. “These games could have gone either way. It’s a tough way to end.”
Led by Kraemer who ended up scoring seven goals in his last seven games, finishing with 17 on the season to lead the team, NU finished with an overall record of 16-16-2. In Hockey East play, an 11-14-2 record was not good enough in one of the most competitive seasons in Hockey East history.
NU loses six seniors who were all honored in their final home game on Saturday. Among them are Kraemer, forwards Chris Donovan, Greg Costa, and Dylan Wiwchar, and defenseman Jim Driscoll and David Strathman.
“[BC, UNH, BU] have been at the top for a decade and if it’s any consolation, we were nose-to-nose with every team and we just came up short,” Cronin said.
“It’s a young team, we had eight or nine freshman in the lineup, and despite the fact that it’s a sad way to end the year, you gotta give the other teams credit, they won when they had to win and we didn’t.”