COLORADO Springs, Colo. - The 20th-ranked Northeastern men's hockey team faced an early deficit and was never able to escape Colorado College’s grasp in a 4-2 loss at the World Arena in NU's season opener on Friday night.
Freshman Garrett Vermeersch, who notched his first collegiate goal in powerplay fashion, breathed life into the Huskies' comeback in the third period. The Tigers played keep away in the final few minutes to spurn any thoughts of a Northeastern comeback.
Sophomore Alex Tuckerman registered the Huskies' first goal of the season on a breakaway at the 10:06 mark of the first after senior defenseman David Strathman delivered a pinpoint pass from the defensive zone. Strathman logged his 40th-career point on the helper.
Sophomore blue liner Drew Muench tallied an assist in his first game back after missing all but eight games last season. Muench aided on Vermeersch's marker while senior assistant captain was awarded the second assist for first point of the year.
Freshman goaltender Chris Rawlings was tested in his first-ever appearance for the Huskies by earning the start in net. Rawlings made 33 saves on 37 attempts in his rookie debut. The last time Northeastern called upon a rookie goalie as the starter was when Brad Thiessen staffed the pipes at Boston College on Oct. 10, 2006. NU lost, 5-2.
"We had a lot of quality shots and had a lot of attempts we didn't convert," head coach Greg Cronin said. "I thought our work ethic was good, but Colorado College is a solid team and they did a good job of protecting the middle of the ice."
Senior forward Kyle Kraemer raised some pulses early by almost picking a corner on CC's netminder Joe Howe, but it was Colorado College who struck first on the board.
After a few exchanges, CC's Doug Leaverton grabbed a loose puck in NU territory and carried it through the neutral zone. Without much pressure, Leaverton unleashed a slapshot just passed the blue line and beat Rawlings farside on CC's first shot of the game. The Tigers took the lead, 1-0, at 2:56 of the first with assists from Brian McMillin and Ryan Lowery.
On Colorado College's next full possession, the Tigers worked the puck down low and had a good look directly in front of Rawlings. William Rapuzzi hammered home CC's second tally of the contest at 5:54 to extend the margin, 2-0. Bill Sweatt delivered the precise pass to allow Rapuzzi to sneak it by the freshman on the nearside.
The Huskies stopped the bleeding in the defensive zone and turned it into a transitional goal at the 9:54 mark of the first stanza. Strathman thwarted CC's advances and sent a beautiful pass to a wide-open Tuckerman right on the blue line. Tuckerman and Howe were all alone and Tuckerman snapped a crisp wristshot in the top right corner for NU’s first tally of the season to cut the lead, 2-1.
Junior forward Wade MacLeod created the first scoring chance for either team at 3:15 of the second, but Howe made the point-blank stop from 15 feet.
CC's Tyler Johnson made it a two-goal game again at 9:16 of the second. Rawlings made the save on Rylan Schwartz's initial attempt, but Tim Hall grabbed the carom, wheeled into the corner and tried another shot for the side. Rawlings blocked it again, but the puck got away and Johnson flicked it over the outstretched glove on the nearside for the 3-1 edge.
Sweatt added to Colorado College's cushion, 4-1, at 3:26 of the third on a backhand tally. Rapuzzi attacked first directly in front of the cage and forced Rawlings out of position. Sweatt was in the right place at the right time to chip in the rebound.
Leaverton was sent to the box for cross-checking at 7:48 of the third. In the waning moments of the powerplay, Vermeersch discharged a laser from the center of the blue line over Howe’s left shoulder to cut the deficit, 4-2, at 9:17. Muench discovered the freshman wide open and sent the pass right on his stick for Vermeersch to unload on. Donovan also received credit for the assist on the scoring play.
Northeastern had a great chance to slice CC's grip to one with a five-on-three situation starting at 11:56 of the third. Andreas Vlassopoulos and Sweatt shared a seat in the box, but over half a minute later, Donovan took a tripping call at 12:31 to alter it to a four-on-three advantage for NU. The Huskies were not able to convert on either attempt.
It should be noted the dimensions at World Arena are 200 x 100 while the measurements at Matthews Arena are 200 x 90. The corners are exceptionally wider and deeper on Colorado College's home ice.
The Huskies return to World Arena for the second installment of the two-game set tomorrow, Oct. 10. Game time is set for 9:07 p.m. Tomorrow's contest marks Cronin's 150th game as the Huskies' head coach.