Northeastern took to the ice for the first time on Sunday, falling to St. Francis Xavier 4-3 at Matthews Arena.
BOSTON – It was a cool autumn afternoon in Boston on Sunday and while that description usually describes football, it was time for hockey season inside the doors of Matthews Arena as the Northeastern Huskies opened 2012-13 by entertaining the St. Francis Xavier X-Men in an exhibition contest.
It was a back-and-forth affair with numerous momentum changes and many good opportunities that could have very well equaled a much higher score when the horn sounded. The X-Men tallied the winning goal midway through the final period to steal the 4-3 win from the Huskies, despite a 40-26 disadvantage in shots on goal.
"When you are practicing [against yourself] for three weeks, you don't get a good feel - at times - for where you are at," Huskies second-year head coach Jim Madigan stated. "So when you come out and play against a team like this that has played a little more hockey and maybe a little tired for this game but have four or five under their belt. They are a smart hockey team. They have a lot of experience on that side. It was a good test for us just to see how we measured up."
With the loss, the Huskies dropped their third Canadian scrimmage in the last four years and have not emerged victorious in such a game since beating St. Thomas in 2009. NU is 13-10-0 all-time against our neighbors to the North.
After shaking off some of the rust in the opening minutes of the first period, the Huskies were able to crack the scoreboard first at the 7:23 mark to take a 1-0 lead on the visitors from Antigonish, Nova Scotia.
Senior captain Vinny Saponari cut into the left side of the offensive zone to open the play and fed sophomore defenseman Josh Manson for his first-career goal, beating X-Men freshman keeper Drew Owsley.
The teams traded goals on the man-advantage to close the scoring in the period and allow the Huskies to enter the break with a lead for the first time on the season. At 10:21, Ludwig Karlsson returned to his freshman form by snapping a shot through traffic on the assist from rookie Kevin Roy on the goal line.
Roy, the reigning United States Hockey League Player of the Year who broke his commitment to Brown in order to join the Huskies for his freshman campaign, played a very strong period and registered a pair of shots as well as the primary assist on Karlsson’s tally.
At 12:28, St. FX beat senior Chris Rawlings for its first goal of the contest as veteran defenseman Spencer McAvoy tipped in rookie Bronson Maschmeyer’s low shot from the point. The Huskies held a 16-6 shots advantage in the first period and got back on the scoreboard just 35 seconds into the middle stanza as senior Garrett Vermeersch beat Owsley off a second primary assist from Saponari.
Freshman Derick Roy, a Lac-Beauport, Quebec native and the twin brother of forward Kevin, replaced Rawlings in goal for the second. After struggling early on, he recovered to make 11 saves on 13 shots.
The X-Men tallied their two goals on Roy in quick succession to tie the game at 3-3 heading into the third period of play. At 4:21, freshman Brad Cuzner potted a one-time shot off the goal-line feed from McAvoy to make it 3-2, while classmate Cory MacIntosh beat him over the high blocker on a shot through traffic from the right side.
Senior Bryan Mountain, who has appeared in just one game over each of his last two full seasons, played the third period in goal and six shots but surrendered the game-winning goal to senior Josh Day at 10:23 of the third as he poked a rebound across the goal line.
The Huskies enjoyed the majority of the chances in the third period with a 31-11 advantage in total attempts, despite a 7-6 disadvantage in shots on goal. NU held the final edge, 40-26.
"One of the things that came out very clear is that we need to clean up our D-zone," said Madigan. "There were too many breakdowns there [not coming strong to pucks]...so we'll raise that bar in our own zone and some other things. I liked the way we moved the puck a little bit on the power play, we killed penalties fairly well for our first time at it but we have a lot of work in a short period of time."
After graduate student Joseph Perricone dropped the 5-2 decision to New Hampshire on Saturday, Owsley picked up the victory with a 37-save effort as the X-Men won their fourth game in a row to improve to 5-2-0 on the season. As he allowed the final tally, Mountain (six saves) suffered the loss.
NU returns to the ice on Wednesday for the season opener against Merrimack and two big Hockey East points will be on the line for the first time.
Follow @JoshuaKummins on Twitter for Hockey East news and updates all season long.