Tag Archives: Chris Rawlings

The New Era of Northeastern Hockey

April 2, 2012

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When Greg Cronin left last summer, he left behind a program that was trending upwards.  The team was coming off a strong second half that included a huge playoff victory at BU.  The overtime loss in the Beanpot and the 1 goal loss in the Hockey East Semifinals, both to BC, were tough to swallow, but it was hard not to be proud of the team for really turning it around after a rough start.

Fueling the optimism was the fact that the recruiting class coming in was considered to be Cronin’s best yet.  Despite losing the top scorers to graduation and early departures, people were definitely excited about this team and the future of Northeastern hockey.

When Cronin left, that optimism took a hit.  No matter who they brought in, the new coach was going to have to steady the ship and keep all of the recruits on board before anything else. Unless they hired from within (Sebastien LaPlante), that was always going to be a tough task.  Even with LaPlante, they likely would have lost one or two.  But overall, it seemed like the next coach that came in would have a solid base and they would pick up where Cronin had left off.

When Jim Madigan was hired, he decided not to take that course. He chose to blow up the foundation Cronin built and start down his own path.   Most of the time when a new coach comes in, they do clear out memories of the old regime and craft the team into their own model.  Madigan’s supporters this year have been quick to point out that Cronin did the same thing when he came in.  To be fair though, the situation Cronin walked into was a far cry from the one Madigan did.  Unlike when Cronin came in, Madigan had plenty of talent to work with.  Still, he decided that he was better off doing things his way and getting his guys in.

Was this the right move by Madigan? We can’t say.  Not now at least.  If Madigan brings in his guys and can get a Beanpot or an NCAA tournament win, I don’t think anybody is going to still be upset about missing the playoffs this year.  But if Madigan’s plan can’t take the program to new heights, then it will probably feel like he did waste what Cronin left here.

Either way, its too early to tell if this the right course of action or not.  But its the course Northeastern is on.  For the second year in a row, its been a difficult summer for Northeastern and when the team takes the ice next season, it will be one major step closer to a Madigan-designed team.  “Cronin’s guys” have been heading for the exits: some by their own will (Bitetto), some because they had no reason to stay (Dongara).  There will be more departures before this summer is over.  Besides Chris Rawlings, Luke Eibler will probably be the biggest reminder of Cronin next year.  Look at the likely Top 6 forwards

1. Ludwig Karlsson (never played for Cronin)

2. Vinny Saponari (never played for Cronin)

3. Braden Pimm (3rd/4th liner under Cronin)

4. Garrett Vermeersch (Member of Cronin’s Doghouse.  4th liner in Cronin’s last season)

5. Cody Ferriero (President of Cronin’s Doghouse.  Suspended once, benched multiple times in just 1 year under Cronin)

6. Adam Reid or Joe Manno (never played for Cronin, Manno committed to Madigan)

Defense isn’t much better.  Just Drew Ellement and Luke Eibler will have played under Cronin.  And of course, Madigan has gotten commitments from his own recruits and let some of Cronin’s go (McKee, Renz).

Its a bit shocking when you look at it.  Obviously Madigan was going to mold the program in a way that suited him, but it is surprising just how quickly he has cleared out Cronin’s guys.  And for fans who watched Cronin turn this program around, that can be a little hard to swallow.  All will be forgiven if Madigan can win, but right now it feels like Northeastern hockey is back to square 1 and it might take a few years for this plan to get going.

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Who is Clay Witt?

February 27, 2012

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Photo Courtesy of Dave Luca

When Brad Thiessen turned pro after the 2008 season, Northeastern had a bit of a goalie crisis.  So Greg Cronin turned to the BCHL player of the year, Chris Rawlings.  Rawlings was undrafted and the BCHL isn’t the best junior league out there, so expectations varied, but with no other options the #1 job was his.  His freshman season was one you’d expect from a freshman.  He had some big performances, but overall it was just a middle of the road year.

So when Clay Witt was recruited to come in the following season, it was unclear how the playing time would be split.  Witt went undrafted, despite being mentioned on the NHL’s Central Scouting list before the draft.  Witt was coming off a good season in the USHL, so it seemed reasonable to expect him to challenge Rawlings for the #1 spot.

But that never really happened.  Rawlings was the guy and Witt was given just 3 starts on the season, plus 4 relief appearances.   Witt took full advantage of every chance he got, posting 1.86 GAA and .940 save percentage, albeit in very limited action.  But his play down the stretch is what his season was remembered for.  In the finally game of the season, he made 41 saves to lead the Huskies to a 4-3 victory over BU at Agganis Arena.   7 days later, he put in another great performance at Agganis, this time in the playoffs.  After jumping out to a quick 1-0, Northeastern found themselves down 3-1 just 12 minutes in.  Rawlings was pulled and Witt came in.  The Huskies couldn’t comeback and win the game, but Witt saved 29 out of the 30 shots he face and kept his team in the game.

His performances were so good that there was talk among the coaching staff about letting Witt start the deciding Game 3 of the series the next night.   Cronin decided against this though and Rawlings led the team to a huge win and a spot in the semifinals.  In the semifinals, Witt would once again get called into action.  With Northeastern down 4-2, it was Witt who started the 3rd period.  He gave up a goal to make it 5-2, but then the Huskies mounted a comeback.  The comeback would ultimately fall short, but Witt finished the night with 5 saves on 6 shots and another impressive performance.

Though used sparingly, Witt’s late season performances made it seem like he was a lock for more playing time this season.  Even when the coaching staff changed, it seemed reasonable to believe that Witt would challenge Rawlings for the starting gig and at least get the occasional start.

The season did not go as planned though.   Witt’s first action of the year came when he entered the exhibition game in the second period.   In his 20 minutes of action, Witt allowed 6 goals on 14 shots and just looked lost.  After the game, Madigan dismissed the performance and admitted it was hard for a guy to come into the middle of the game cold.

But just a week later, that was what Witt found himself doing once again.  In the second game of the season, the Huskies were down 6-2 in Maine and Rawlings was pulled for Witt with 10 minutes left.   Witt saved all 11 shots he faced and it seemed an awful lot like the end of last season.   Witt could still not get a start, but it wouldn’t be long before his next action.   Just 2 weeks after the Maine game, Rawlings was once again pulled in favor of Witt.  And once again Witt saved all the shots he faced.  (7 in 12 minutes).    This was enough to finally get Witt a chance to start.

The following week, Witt started for the Huskies as they traveled up to UNH to face the Wildcats.  The team did not perform well and Witt was no help.  Despite making 33 saves, Witt allowed 5 goals and made several mistakes.  And that was basically it for Witt.  The team soon turned it around and went on a long winning streak that Chris Rawlings was a huge part of it.  Witt found himself relegated to the bench.  His next chance would come in early January in another exhibition game.  Witt played the second half of the game, and allowed 3 goals on 18 shots.  But once again, he just seemed shaky.

He would wait a month for his next action: relief in the first round of the Beanpot.  With the Huskies down 5-1, Witt started the third period.  The sophomore made 15 saves, but allowed 2 goals.  And with the team in front of him basically quitting, it was tough to really gauge his performance, but at the same time.

He would get his second start of the season the following week in the consolation game.  Another unimpressive performance by the team and by Witt, saw his take the loss after giving up 3 goals.  He did make 36 saves, but once again there was some shaky moments.

This past weekend, Witt once again found himself in mop up duty.  After entering early in the first, Witt made 14 saves, but allowed 4 goals.

So who is Witt?  Is he the guy who stepped up back time last March? Or is he the guy who just looked off everytime he has come in this season?   Madigan has said all the right things and has given Witt credit for coming in cold, but obviously part of his extreme reliance on Rawlings is a lack of faith in Witt.  I think part of Witt’s struggles can be blamed on a lack of playing time, but he hasn’t really earned any additional playing time with any of his performances lately.   Its always tough to find games to test your backup goalie in a conference as deep as Hockey East, but this guy has been here two years now and I don’t think anyone really knows how good he is.  Thats on the coaching staff.  Both the previous one and the current one.   And now we could be looking at a situation where Rawlings leaves and Gillies goes to Major Juniors, which would mean Witt is the guy next season.  So the coaches have really handcuffed themselves here.  I wouldn’t say it is likely, but it is definitely a possibility that Northeastern will go into next season relying on a Junior goaltender that may not even be good enough for this level.   That would be a disaster.  And since no one ever took the time to find out, the coaches have no idea if they should be looking to bring some in.  Hopefully it all works out: Gillies comes here and takes the #1 role from the get go and Witt can get some work in occasionally.    But this is Northeastern we are talking about, so its best to prepare for the worst.  And the worst is a very scary possibility.

 

 

 

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Final: Huskies 4, Maine 2

February 25, 2012

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With their backs to the wall, Northeastern pulled out a huge victory last night over Maine, 4-2

Photo Courtesy of Dave Luca

The Basics

  • Garrett Vermeersch, Justin Daniels, Vinny Saponari and Adam Reid had goals for Northeastern.
  • Anthony Bitetto, Joseph Manno and Justin Daniels had 2 points.  Steve Quailer and Luke Eibler also had assists.
  • Chris Rawlings made 29 saves and didn’t allow any soft goals.
  • The Huskies were outshot 31 to 28.
  • NU 2-5 on the PP.  Maine was 0-2, but got 1 shorthanded goal.
  • Mike McLaughlin and Alex Tuckerman both sustained concussions.
What You Need to Know
  • The Huskies came to play right from the get go.   And Garrett Vermeersch scored on their first PP of the game to give them an early lead.
  • The second period got off to a bad start.  Maine grabbed a goal 15 seconds in to tie it.
  • Then the Huskies reverted to their old habits when Maine gave them a 5 minute major.  NU couldn’t get the puck of their own zone and Maine scored eventually to take the lead.  NU looked to have tied it, but after a lengthy review, it was ruled McLaughlin kicked the puck in.
  • Justin Daniels, who picked up 3 points, tied it up for a real a minute later on a tough angle shot.   
  • The game looked destined for OT until Joe Manno found himself on a breakaway.  His attempt was saved, but Adam Reid was there to put home the rebound with just 1 minute left.
  • The Huskies then sealed the deal with an empty netter.  Steve Quailer broke in, but then in an unselfish move, passed it to Vinny Saponari.
Lines:
Karlsson-McLaughlin-Saponari
Quailer-Vermeersch-Pimm
Reid-Daniels-Tuckerman
Manno-Stone-Morra
 
D:
Bitetto-Manson
Eibler-Cornell
Ellement-Daniels
 
 
Thoughts
What a game and what a win.  With Steve Quailer back in the lineup, the Huskies actually came to play.   Every line had some chances and the Huskies actually looked like a team that wanted to be there for the first time in a while.
 
Chris Rawlings finally played like a guy who plans on being a pro.  He was moving well and made some big saves.   But most importantly, he didn’t let in any soft goals.  The defense helped him out by limiting chances for the Black Bears.
 
It looked like another game that NU was going to blow after wasting multiple PP chances late in the game, but they pulled it out.
 
Manno may not be able to score, but he just keeps getting breakaways.  And Adam Reid always seems to be in the right place and the right time.  Just a great sequence of events to get the game winner.  Both of these freshman are going to play a huge role next season.  
 
I was ready to write this team off, but this was very encouraging.  In a must win game, they came to play.  And they came back from a deficit for once.  It was an impressive win and it gives the team and the fans some hope that playoffs may be in sight.  
 
 
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2012 Recruiting Class: Projecting Next Year’s Roster

February 23, 2012

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Incoming: 6

Jon Gillies, Goalie, Indiana Ice (USHL), 18 years old

Mike Gunn, Defenseman, Youngstown Phantoms (USHL), 20 years old

Colton Saucerman, Defenseman, Lincoln Stars (USHL), 20 years old

Cam Darcy, Forward, US National Team Development Program, 18 years old

Ryan Belonger, Forward, Youngstown Phantoms (USHL) , 20 years old

Michael McMurtry, Forward, Gloucester Rangers (CCHL), 20 years old

This class is not without its question marks.   Jon Gillies will be picked in the NHL Entry Draft this summer and Patrick Roy’s QMJHL team (Quebec Ramparts) owns Gillies rights.  The team that drafts him could try to push him down that road.  But really it all depends on Chris Rawlings.  If he leaves, Gillies will be here next year to take over.  If he stays, Gillies will probably go the MJ route and Northeastern will miss out on one of the best goaltenders in this group.  Colton Saucerman suffered a serious knee injury in December and he is out for the rest of the season.   I have no idea if he will be ready for the start of next season, but I would guess no.   Since he is already 20 years old, Saucerman will be here next season, but he may be redshirted.   Cam Darcy is also eligible for the NHL draft, but he is a local kid and since he will probably be a later rounder pick, there won’t be much pressure from an NHL team to go MJ.   Ryan Belonger will definitely be here along with Michael McMurtry, who was recently announced.  Belonger will be a lower line guy most likely, but he will be in the lineup.  McMurtry is by all indications a recruited walk-on.

Definitely Outgoing: 1

Mike McLaughlin, Graduation

The Captain is the lone senior on the team.   He will graduate in May and plans on attending Grad School.  McLaughlin has been named to the Hockey East All-Academic in all 3 of the previous seasons.

Possibly Outgoing:

Steve Quailer, Graduation

Alex Tuckerman, Graduation

Vinny Saponari, Jets

Anthony Bitetto, Predators

Ludwig Karlsson, Pros

Chris Rawlings, Pros

Luke Eibler, Pros

Braden Pimm, Pros

Joe Manno, Pros/MJ

All of these guys are not leaving, but its pretty likely that some of them will.  Thats just the way it goes in college hockey.  You could put almost the whole team on this list, but I would say these are the guys that are the most likely to either receive offers/consider offers.

Quailer and Tuckerman are an exception however.  Both have only used 3 years of eligibility due to missing a full season with an injury.  Both should be graduating this May, which leaves them with a decision.   They could stay and enroll in Grad School in order to play one more season or they could just get on with their careers.   Quailer is a Canadiens draft pick. And if the Canadiens do not sign him this summer, then they will lose his rights.   Quailer has been much better this season and the Canadiens are probably going to want him.  So while he is not officially gone, it seems like a near certainty.   Tuckerman, on the other hand, is not drafted by any NHL team.  If he leaves he will likely find himself playing in the ECHL, so there is a chance he stays and enrolls in Grad School.

Bitetto would be a Junior next year, but he could probably play in the AHL next year if he wants to. The soon to be 22 year old has had an up and down, but the Predators like him and he did attend their Rookie Development camp this past summer.  If he does go, lets hope he takes his buddy from Comm Ave, Garrett Noonan (also a Predators draft pick), with him.    Saponari is the other guy on the list that has already been drafted.   The Georgia native was drafted by his hometown Trashers, but they now moved to Winnipeg.  This is his first year at Northeastern after playing two at BU, but he is already 22, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he were to begin his pro career after this season.  That said, he may have unfinished business in the NCAA and he worked hard to return to Hockey East after getting kicked out of BU, so he may stay and finish his degree/eligibility.

The next group is a little different.  None of them were drafted but all could sign with any NHL team as a free agent if they want.  Rawlings, 23, seems most likely to leave.   There was been speculation after each of his first two season that he would leave and sign a pro deal, but each time he has returned.  The rumor mill suggests that he stayed this year since his girlfriend was still in school.  She is graduating this year and it seems like this is the year Rawlings finally makes the jump after attending multiple NHL summer training camps the past couple of season.  Next is Karlsson, who just turned 21.  The Swede has had a tremendous freshman season that will have likely earned some offers.  The situation will remind fans of Brodie Reid and Jake Newton, who both left after good freshman campaigns.   Karlsson has been much better than Reid was, and Reid’s stats were boosted by his great play on the PP unit.  Karlsson will get these offers, and since he is unlikely to stay 4 years and graduate at 25, he will be seriously considering those offers.  Eibler would be a 22 year old Junior next season.  The Capitals were interested in him last summer, but he decided to stay.   He has been a solid presence for Northeastern and I wouldn’t be shocked if he decides to leave.   I wouldn’t consider it very likely though.   Pimm would also be a Junior next season, and he is already 22.  He has been great so far this season and I am sure a few teams will be interested.  Pimm is a bit of a wild card on and off the ice, so there is no use in speculating what he may do.  But he will be given the chance to leave, if he is interested.

The last guy on the list is Joseph Manno.   Manno is draft eligible this summer.  He has had a quiet season, but he projects to be a late round pick this summer.  Depending on who drafts him and how he has enjoyed his first year of college, Manno could choose to return home to his native Canada to play Major Juniors.   After decommitting from UMass last summer, he went that route and he has many friends that play there.   NU fans will be hoping he stays though, as he has shown some potential this season and could be in line for Top 6 time next season.

2012 Projections

Theses are purely speculative.  Everything I know and have heard is written above.  These are just my guesses/gut feelings.

Goalies: Gillies, Witt, Mountain

Defenseman: Eibler-Manson, Ellement-Daniels, Gunn-Cornell  (Oskroba, Hoeffler)

Forwards: Saponari-Daniels-Manno, Vermeersch-Pimm-Ferriero (when healthy), Vrolyk-Darcy-Reid, Dongara-Stone-Belonger (Morra, McMurtry)

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Who Should Start in Goal This Weekend? (Poll)

February 22, 2012

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As we enter the penultimate weekend of Hockey East play, points are at a premium for Northeastern who is currently tied with UMass for the final playoff spot.  So as they prepare for two must-win games, there is a decision to be made (or at least there should be):  Who should get the call in net?

Photo Courtesy of Dave Luca

Photo Courtesy of Dave Luca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Case for Rawlings

He has been the guy all year.  He has put up decent numbers.  During the win streak, he was rock solid and he was a big part of the team’s success.   Witt has had chances this year and he has not forced Madigan’s hand.    Rawlings has been The Guy for 3 years now, you aren’t going to sit him with 4 games left and your playoff lives hanging in the balance.   He does let up some shaky goals, but he usually settles down after that and makes a ton of saves.    You stick with the guy that got you there.

 

The Case for Witt

Here are some interesting stats for you.  Chris Rawlings in February (career) 7-6-3, .9191 save percantage, 3.03 GAA.  In March 2-5, .8800 save percentage, 4.25 GAA.    So in 23 career games in February and March, Rawlings has a 9-11-3 record, a .9095 save percentage, and a 3.35 GAA.   I understand its a bit of a small sample size, but thats not exactly reassuring.  And since he has been letting up soft goals every game lately, why not sit him down for one game?  Rawlings has played the 2nd most minutes among Hockey East goalies this season.  Only Joe Cannata has more.  That tells me that other teams are willing to give their goalies a night off every now and then.  Why hasn’t Madigan done that?  Rawlings looks worn down and he seems to have regressed as the season has gone on.  Maybe all he needs is a night or two off.   Witt hasn’t looked great this year, but he proved in his freshman year that he has a capable goalie.  With Rawlings on his annual decline, maybe its time to give Witt a shot.

 

 

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Final: Huskies 2, Providence 2

February 19, 2012

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Yet again, Northeastern skated to a tie last night against Providence.  This one finished 2-2.

Photo Courtesy of Dave Luca

The Basics

  • Alex Tuckerman and Adam Reid had goals for Northeastern.
  • Mike McLaughlin, Drew Daniels, Garrett Vermeersch, and Drew Ellement all had assists.
  • Chris Rawlings made 47 saves, a career high.  But the two goals he let in will be what this game is remembered for.
  • The Huskies were outshoot 49 to 35.
  • NU 1-6 on the PP.  PC was 1-7, both teams had 5 minute majors.
  • Robbie Vrolyk was injured late in the first and did not return.
What You Need to Know
  • Northeastern took an early lead, but couldn’t hold on for long.
  • With the game tied at 1, Ben Oskroba was sent off for a 5 minute major.   NU did a great job killing the penalty, but they allowed a goal when Kevin Hart shot a puck in from the neutral zone and Rawlings deflected it top shelf.   I know I have said this a few times this season, but this was without a doubt the softest goal Rawlings has given up.  Especially when you consider it was probably going wide of the net before he touched it.
  • Adam Reid tied it up on a great move when Vermeersch sprung him on a partial breakaway.
  • Speaking of breakaways, Joe Manno had 3.  The first two he shot way over the net and the third Beaudry was not fooled on.   Manno was really flying last night, but his missed chances proved costly
  • More missed chances: NU had a PP late in the third and early in OT.  They managed just 1 shot between the 2.
  • 1 Shoe OT is still undefeated.
Lines:
Karlsson-Daniels-Saponari
Reid-Vermeersch-Pimm
Manno-McLaughlin-Tuckerman
Stone-Morra
D:
Bitetto-Manson
Eibler-Oskroba
Ellement-Daniels
Cornell
Thoughts
Robbie Vrolyk did not return to the lineup on Saturday after leaving Friday, but even that couldn’t get former fan favorite Rob Dongara back in the lineup.   Madigan went with 11 forwards and 7 D and it actually paid off.  Dan Cornell left the game in the first to get stitches, then Ben Oskroba was tossed for contact to the head.   Cornell eventually returned and the Huskies finished with 6 defenseman.
Once again, offense was an issue for the Huskies.   Since Ferriero and Qualier got hurt, the Huskies have scored just 11 goals in 6 games. Pathetic.  If Robbie Vrolyk is out for an extended period of time, the Huskies may not score another goal all season.   Pimm has been working hard since losing his linemates, but it just hasn’t been working for him.  Karlsson has been skating well, but just can’t find the net.   And where is the Vinny Saponari that scored goals for BU as a freshman?  Its not like he isn’t playing with quality guys.   Manno and Reid looked good though.  Unfortunately Manno couldn’t finish the way Reid did or else it might have been a different result.
Going into this weekend, everyone knew they needed 4.   They got 2 and UMass matched them.  So they have made it very difficult on themselves.   They do have 3 out of their last 4 games at home, but picking up points against Maine and BU is going to a very big ask.
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Final: Huskies 1, Providence 1

February 18, 2012

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Northeastern skated to a 1-1 tie last night against Providence in what might have been the most boring game of all time.

Photo Courtesy of Dave Luca

 

The Basics

  • Garrett Vermeersch scored the lone goal for the Huskies
  • Josh Manson and Adam Reid picked up assists on that goal.
  • Chris Rawlings saved 22 out of 23 shots, after allowing a terrible goal on the first shot of the game.
  • NU had 21 shots to PC’s 23.
  • Both teams were 0-4 on the PP.
  • Robbie Vrolyk was injured late in the first and did not return.
What You Need to Know
  • PC scored on a shot from the corner 30 seconds in and it looked liked the same old story for Northeastern.
  • But for once the Huskies didn’t fold up after a soft goal and Vermeersch tied it up 5 minutes later.
  • Then everyone fell asleep and when we woke up the game was over, still tied at 1.
  • 1 Shot OT is still undefeated.
Lines:
Karlsson-Daniels-Saponari
Reid-Vermeersch-Pimm
Vrolyk-McLaughlin-Tuckerman
Manno-Stone-Morra
D:
Bitetto-Manson
Eibler-Oskroba
Ellement-Daniels
Thoughts
The Huskies were the better team for most of regulation, but that isn’t saying much because PC was pretty bad.  Their gameplan was a smart one: shoot pucks from weird angles and try to get some cheap goals off Rawlings.   Northeastern figured it out pretty quickly and after that PC had almost no chances.
On the other hand, Northeastern was doing an ok job of getting the puck in the zone but as usual no one wanted to shoot.  So instead of challenging Beaudry to make a save, they just pass it back to the point.  The defenseman make the forwards look trigger happy.  They just wait and wait and wait until an opponent comes to them.  When that finally happens, they fire a shot right into their legs.  Absolutely brutal.   If the Huskies had just taken a few more shots, they probably would have won last night.  But I suppose that has been true for more than a few of their losses.
But then came overtime where the wheels just fell off.  The Huskies didn’t manage a shot on net in the 5 minutes, but they almost gave the game away plenty of times.   Rawlings came up with a couple big saves, but also had some shaky moments, including one with about 30 seconds left where the puck trickled through his legs and went just outside the post.   It seemed like Northeastern was just daring PC to score on them with countless neutral zone turnovers and when that didn’t work, Alex Tuckerman decided to up the ante and do it in his own zone.  Somehow they survived with the point.
Power Play was beyond brutal.  Again.   Just unacceptable, but its not going to change.    Justin Daniels actually played pretty well on the first line.   And Josh Manson saw more ice time than he has seen all season and he handled it pretty well.   He is still getting a bit risky when he tries to rush the puck, but he was impressive last night.  Ludwig Karlsson also looked good after being a bit quiet lately.
With other results going NU’s way, the point was big, but they will need 2 more tonight to make it a good weekend and keep themselves in the playoff hunt.
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