March 28, 2009 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Northeastern Suffers Last In Line of Crushing Big-Game Losses

by Jared Shafran/CHN Reporter

Cornell scored the winning goal with 17 seconds left in regulation. (photos: Mark H. Anbinder)

Cornell scored the winning goal with 17 seconds left in regulation. (photos: Mark H. Anbinder)

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — As the long 2008-09 season came to a close for the Northeastern Huskies on Saturday, the season as a whole can be looked at in two ways.

On one hand, Northeastern, three years removed from a three-win campaign, finished with a 25-12-4 record, matching the most wins in the program’s history. The Huskies spent most of the year in the Top 10 and in first place in Hockey East. Head coach Greg Cronin has now put the program on the map nationally within the college hockey world, recruiting big name players and showing that his team can play with almost anyone in the country.

And then there’s the other side of the coin, which comes down to this — Northeastern squandered opportunity after opportunity this year to win the big game.

On numerous occasions, namely the Beanpot, Hockey East tournament, and now the NCAA tournament — the Huskies blew leads late, and found ways to lose some heartbreaking games. Three in-season tournaments, and now two postseason tournaments, Northeastern came away empty.

Also see Cornell story

That was fully apparent Saturday — and now the Huskies will not get any more chances. Northeastern, No. 2 seeded in the Midwest Regional, took a 2-1 lead over No. 3 Cornell into the third period, but lost on a last-second goal, 3-2. Cornell dominated the entire period, with Husky goaltender and Hobey Baker finalist Brad Thiessen putting the team on his back to keep them in the game.

That is until a goal by Big Red captain Colin Greening tied it at 16:04. Greening had the OT game winner last week in the ECAC semis, when Cornell rallied in similar fashion.

It was déjà vu for the Huskies, who managed to lose their Hockey East semifinal game last week to Mass.-Lowell also when leading 2-1 in the third. Lowell was able to tie the game with 19 seconds to go, and then finished off NU just three minutes into overtime.

Now in the NCAA tournament, a place where Northeastern hadn’t been since 1994, the Huskies were on the verge of the same collapse.

This time, with 17 seconds to go, Evan Barlow scored the game winner for Cornell, sending the Big Red into a frenzy and on to the second round.

“We accomplished a lot of things as a team that hadn’t been done before at Northeastern but we put ourselves in a lot of opportunities to win big games and just never seemed to be able to pull those out, so I think that’s kind of what will stick with us after this,” said Thiessen.

Just like last week back in Boston, the Huskies got out to a 2-0 lead.

Senior defenseman Louis Liotti scored his fourth goal of the season in the closing minute of the first period and then halfway through the second, Steve Silva took a feed from Chris Donovan, skated in on Cornell keeper Ben Scrivens, and beat him up high.

The momentum started to turn when the Big Red got on the board at 17:58 of the second period when Blake Gallagher put one past Thiessen.

After that, everything unraveled for the Huskies, who ended up getting outshot 32-21 in the game.

But Cronin chose to focus on the positives.

“When you step away from it, we’ve moved Northeastern into a level of visibility that it hasn’t enjoyed since the early 80’s. I think there is credibility behind what we’re doing obviously there has been a steady movement up the ladder in the win column,” said Cronin. “I think this will really launch us to the level we really want to get at.”

There’s always next season for Greg Cronin’s Huskies, but now with seniors Joe Vitale and Ryan Ginand gone, one may wonder when the next time the Huskies will have an opportunity like this on the table for the taking.

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