March 20, 2009

Courtesy of Northeastern

Northeastern came up short in its bid to reach its first Hockey East Final since 1988, falling to UMass Lowell in overtime at the TD Banknorth Garden Friday. Northeastern took a 2-1 lead into the third period, but surrendered a third-period goal while playing four-on-six, and gave up the overtime game-winner three minutes into the extra frame.

Northeastern falls to 25-11-4. The Huskies' next game will be in the NCAA tournament, against an opponent to be determined on Sunday's NCAA Tournament Selection Show, which airs on ESPN2 at 11:30 a.m.

Northeastern saw a couple of good chances in the game's first minute, the best on a pass from Alex Tuckerman through the crease to Mike McLaughlin, but McLaughlin couldn't get a stick on the bouncing puck.

An early hooking call on Tyler McNeely tested the Huskies' penalty kill. Brad Thiessen made several big saves from close range, the first on the River Hawks' Scott Campbell after he walked in on net, and the second on Kory Falite after a pass from the Lowell zone sprung him in behind the Northeastern defense for a breakaway.

Both teams got the puck on net early and often, managing 27 shots between them and each side saw some close moments. Midway through the period, Tyler McNeely sent a shot from the right point rocketing just wide of the net.

Wade MacLeod almost got the Huskies on the board late in the period when his stick check on a Lowell skater on the goal line knocked the puck loose, and almost sent it past River Hawks' goalie Carter Hutton. Moments later, Lowell came close to netting the game's first goal when the rebound from a Mike Potacco shot settled right in front of Nick Monroe in the slot, but the Northeastern defense collapsed on Monroe and tied up his stick, allowing the puck to slide safely away.

UMass Lowell saw a golden opportunity off a three on-two early in the second period, when the rebound off a Michael Budd shot drifted past Thiessen, and towards the River Hawks' Konathan Maniff. Maniff managed to get a stick on the puck, but couldn't make enough contact to put the puck over the redline, instead sending it bouncing off the outside of the cage. Joe Vitale took a penalty for hooking on the play. On the ensuing penalty kill, Thiessen made a spectacular save on Lowell's Ben Holmstrom. Lowell found Holmstrom with a pass through the middle of the NU defense, giving Holmstrom a clean look at an open net, but Thiessen got from post to post in time to stuff Holmstrom's shot with his right pad.

Kyle Kraemer finally got Northeastern on the board with 11:16 left in the second period. David Strathman controlled the puck on the neutral zone boards, sending it to Wade MacLeod on the blue line. MacLeod played the puck into the zone for Kraemer, who skated onto the pass, carried the puck in on goal, and beat Hutton over his left shoulder.

Rob Rassey extened Northeastern's lead just 25 seconds later. McNeely sent the puck in behind the net, where Dennis McCauley controlled controlled it, and curled around for a wraparound shot. Hutton made the intial save, but could not freeze the puck, and it drifted out into the slot. Rassey charged in hard and roofed the loose puck to give Northeastern a 2-0 lead.

Ryan Blair drew the River Hawks within one with his first goal of the season with 1:16 left. Scott Campbell sent the puck from the right side to a streaking Blair, who one-timed the puck past Thiessen before the NU goalie could get there to make the save.

Both teams continued to generate a lot of offense in the third period, with Lowell firing 16 shots in the period, and Northeastern managing 7, but both goaltenders were up to the task, and kept the score at 2-1.

Northeastern almost got a third goal with less than ten minutes to play when Steve Silva carried the puck in on Hutton, and snapped off a quick backhand. Hutton made the save, but the rebound fell in front of a hard charging Chris Donovan. Donovan got three rapid-fire shots on the cage, but couldn't manage to get the puck past Hutton.

NU saw another good opportunity go by with just over six minutes left when McNeely carried the puck in on an odd-man rush. McNeely sent a pass to Rob Rassey in the slot, but Rassey was wrapped up from behind by a River Hawks' defender. A minute later Ryan Ginand threw a backhanded shot on net from just outside the crease, but Hutton was in position to make the save.

Northeastern was called for too many men on the ice with 1:05 left. Lowell pulled Hutton for the extra attacker, forcing Northeastern to play the final 65 seconds at a two-man disadvantage. With less than 30 seconds left, Jeremy Dehner took a shot from the point. Thiessen made the pad save, but the long rebound found Campbell, who potted his 14th goal of the season to draw Lowell even and force overtime.

Early in the overtime, Dennis McCauley almost potted the game winner when McNeely found the unmarked McCauley with a cross-ice pass. McCauley's shot went wide on the short side.

Minutes later, Lowell moved the puck into the Northeastern zone, and Ben Holmstrom took a shot from the slot. Chris Auger got a stick on the puck and deflected it past Thiessen for the game-winner. Thiessen made 41 saves on the night.