Northeastern's Quailer Back at Right Time
by Jill Saftel/CHN Reporter
BOSTON With fewer than 21 seconds to play Friday night, junior forward Steve Quailer gained control of the puck in the Northeastern zone and took off toward the empty net awaiting him at the opposite end of the ice. His teammate Adam Reid had already clinched the win for the Huskies, netting the tie-breaking goal with 1 minute, 14 seconds to play, giving Northeastern a 3-2 lead over Maine.
With no defenders or goaltender in his way, all Quailer had to do was tap it in. After being sidelined with sprained knee ligaments for about a month, getting the final goal would seemingly be the cherry on top of his first game back. But Quailer didn't wind up for the slap shot. He looked to his left and found teammate Vinny Saponari, sent the puck his way and let him put that one away for Northeastern, 4-2.
"Might as well spread the love to Vinny," Quailer said. "He's a good guy, so I figured I should give it to him."
That play epitomizes Quailer's role for Northeastern: he's all about the team.
After an eight game unbeaten streak that included wins over Minnesota, Michigan, and a pair at Notre Dame, the Huskies started the second half of the season with five losses followed by two wins in Vermont, but the second game against the Catamounts would be the last Quailer would see for a while, as he suffered the knee sprain in the victory.
The Huskies went on to win just one of their next six games without the injured assistant captain, a run that included Beanpot performances that exemplified not just a lack of execution, but what head coach Jim Madigan called a lack of effort.
As a leader on and off the ice, Quailer said it was difficult to be sidelined watching his team go through a rough patch of games.
"It's hard, and it's not very fun, but I have faith in them," Quailer said of his teammates. "They did compete, they're good players, but it's tough, though."
Quailer was able to rejoin his teammates on the ice Friday night and his return seemed to spark a fire, with Northeastern looking the best they've been in more than a month, finally putting together a full 60-minute effort. According to Madigan, the renewed energy and Quailer's return are no coincidence.
"He adds so much to our lineup. Before we even get on the ice he adds an awful lot in our locker room, his leadership and his ability to say the right thing at the right time for us as a team," Madigan said. "He's strong on pucks. He's good in the defensive zone. He's good through the neutral zone, and he gets opportunities. He doesn't give up on pucks in the offensive zone, he keeps puck alive and going."
While Quailer stayed on top of the puck Friday night, he said there were a couple of issues he had to clean out and felt a little rusty, but was getting some chances. His return was made easier by being back on the same line with sophomore Braden Pimm, who along with sophomore Cody Ferriero and Quailer made up Northeastern's top line for much of the season. Ferriero underwent season ending knee surgery earlier in the month, so junior Garrett Vermeersch rounded out the line at right wing Friday night.
"I love playing with Pimm," Quailer said Friday. "He's a great player and Vermeersch is a great player, so they kind of helped me get back into the game tonight."
Unfortunately for Quailer and his teammates, their success didn't carry over into Saturday night, as Maine trumped the Huskies, 7-1. Northeastern now sits tied for eighth place with Massachusetts, with the Minutemen taking the tiebreaker for the final playoff spot. With next weekend's home-and-home series against Boston University determining Northeastern's playoff fate, Quailer's ability to say the right thing to his team at the right time could come in handy during this week.
"I just try to support them, be a good guy," Quailer said of motivating his team for the upcoming BU matchup. "It's all about the team. No one person can win it, we've all got to do it."
The left wing said being a veteran on the team, he's learned the ropes when it comes to supporting and motivating his teammates, but that the job is always made more difficult when the team is losing.
As for Quailer's coach, he said he's happy to have an integral part of his team back on the ice.
"He's a big part of our team and when he's in the lineup, well you saw what happened tonight," Madigan said after his team's Friday night victory. "If you look at his record when he's in the lineup and playing with Pimm, it's a pretty good lineup. We're happy to have him back and he gives a lot of versatility to the (power play, penalty kill and even strength.)"
"I'll take big No. 10 anytime."