November 7, 2009 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Rawlings Catches 'Em All

Northeastern Freshman Trying To Make Everyone Forget Brad Thiessen

by Joe Meloni/CHN Reporter

BOSTON — When Chris Rawlings committed to Northeastern, he thought about this game. A packed Matthews Arena and defending champions of everything Boston University on Huntington Avenue for Northeastern’s first home conference game of the season.

He wanted this one for a few reasons. The ghost of Brad Thiessen still roams Matthews and the memories of a sudden end to the 2008-09 season eat at the NU faithful everyday.

Tonight’s win doesn’t exorcise much from a year ago. It does, however, mean two points for Northeastern – its first of the 2009-10 season. Of course, Rawlings wasn’t the only player in uniform for the Huskies. Junior Wade MacLeod scored the game’s lone goal at 12:37 of the third period.

At times, though, Rawlings was the only one that mattered.

“It’s right up there. I’ve never experienced anything like this in my life,” Rawlings said of the 1-0 win. “I can’t even explain it. It’s such an unbelievable feeling. I couldn’t have picked a better time to get my first career shutout.”

“I’ve been thinking about [this game] all week. We went over so much in practice – me and my goalie coach. They shoot from everywhere. I know that this was a big game.”

NU coach Greg Cronin can’t take too much from the 43-save effort, though. Rawlings backstopped the Huskies to a 2-3 record through their first five games.

“[Rawlings] has gotten better every game. He’s 6-foot-5. He’s a super athlete, and he’s starting to get into a rhythm psychologically,” Cronin said. “This position is such a mental position. I was more nervous about him before the game than the rest of the players.

“There were a boatload of [shots] on the power play – point blank shots – and he was terrific,” Cronin continued. “Somebody made a joke that they should call this game goaltending. Tonight, I think that was appropriate.”

Rawlings' inexperience has resonated at times this season, but Friday it looked like he’d been here for years. He read the minds of Terrier forwards: spotting cross-ice passes to stonewall hopeful Terrier forwards on stuff shots and fighting through screens as Kevin Shattenkirk and Colby Cohen aimed slap shots at the scoreboard.

Rawlings’ displayed the kind of poise that wins conference championships, and it only swelled as the clock dwindled and the Terriers sense of urgency grew. November hockey is hardly playoff hockey; but should the Huskies host a Hockey East quarterfinal for the second consecutive season, the environment won’t be much different from tonight. And neither will Rawlings, according to Cronin, who compared the North Delta, British Columbia native to Thiessen.

“He’s got a little bit of Brad in him,” Cronin said of Rawlings. “He never gets too high, and he never gets too low. That’s a good thing for a goaltender.”

The remaining six freshmen in uniform for Northeastern on Friday night left a slightly different impression on their coach. Northeastern hosted Bentley on Oct. 16, and the Matthews crowd that the freshmen experienced in their first game at home didn’t adequately prepare them for what Friday night brought.

“We had some freshmen that were uncharacteristically nervous and measured,” Cronin said. “There wasn’t a lot of snap to our game.

“We need our younger guys to pick up the pace a little bit. I just thought we were way too measured out there tonight.”

Freshmen netminders led the last two Hockey East champions; it’s too early to assume any team is destined to claim a conference championship, let alone a 3-3 team, with one win in conference. Rawlings showed in Friday night that he is talented enough to get his team there and win it if it needs him to. Cronin suspected that before Friday’s win – in four seasons in the British Columbia Hockey League prior to coming to Northeastern, Rawlings established himself as one of the best goaltenders in the Canadian Junior A hockey – but it’s impossible to tell if a player will develop until you see him on the ice.

The final 4:30 of the game quelled any concern anyone involved with Northeastern hockey had about the backbone of their team.

Junior defenseman Mike Hewkin received a 5-minute major and game misconduct for hitting from behind. Killing a major penalty is never easy. For a freshman goaltender protecting a 1-0 goal lead from the defending national champions, it’s just plain scary. Maybe he channeled some of that Brad Thiessen his coach says he’s got in him, or maybe the Terriers just couldn’t do it tonight like they have so many times in the past. Either way, Rawlings showed the 4,666 in attendance and all of Hockey East that “inexperienced” doesn’t mean much.

If 2009-10 is to be another step in the ascension of Northeastern hockey, the remainder of Cronin’s newest class must develop – and fast. At least, for now, they know Rawlings is there to bail them out when they look like pups rather than Huskies.

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