By: Jeremy Leopold
A disciplined Northeastern hockey team showed up at Mathew’s Arena Saturday night to take down a red- hot Merrimack team, and split the season series, after loosing to the Warriors 4-2 on Saturday.
First period goals from John Stevens and Dalen Hedges proved to be the difference for the Huskies en route to the 3-1 win. Northeastern controlled the pace of play for most of the game in large part to staying out of the box. Northeastern, who coming in to the game led Hockey East in penalty minutes, only committed one penalty the entire game.
“There’s been a major emphasis the past few weeks on [not taking penalties] and last night it just got to a point where, you know, ‘enough is enough boys’ and the guys responded… I thought we had [discipline] tonight in our systems and in our actions,” said Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan.
In addition to playing a more disciplined game, the Huskies dominated the dot, winning the face off battle 49-23.
“I think for the majority of the game it looked like the refs were throwing the puck back to their d’ on face offs. Obviously they weren’t, but our centers weren’t really doing a great job, our wingers weren’t doing a great job, and we’re losing a lot of draws, I mean that’s as bad as we can be in face offs,” said Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy.
John Stevens got things started for the Huskies just 2:14 in to the game. Stevens received a pass from his brother Nolan in the slot and beat freshman goaltender Colin Delia high to the glove side for his first goal of the season. Delia was playing in place of Rasumus Tirronen who was pulled just 20 seconds in to Friday night’s game and did not dress for this game.
Eight minutes later, on a Northeastern power play, Dalen Hedges added to the lead. Hedges corralled a rebound on his backhand in the slot, spun back to his forehand and wristed it by Delia high on the blocker side to notch his team leading ninth point of the season.
Merrimack got on the board early in the second when Justin Mansfield took a pass in the slot from Hampus Gustafsso and eeked it past Clay Witt off the left post for his fourth goal of the year.
Merrimack played well for the rest of the second as well with a few good chances. Mathieu Tibbet rang post halfway through the period after a flurry of shots from Merrimack and later missed an open net on a two on one rush.
“They’re playing desperate hockey. You know whether it’s a tug here, beating us in a foot race there or a block shot there,” said Dennehy. “We did it in spurts and I thought we had a really good second period and I thought parts of the third were good. We didn’t do it consistently enough.”
Madigan agrees that Merrimack had a better second period but he thought Northeastern really played well in the third.
“[The] second period wasn’t a great period for us. Then I thought in the third period that we played really smart, did a lot of little things well,” said Madigan.
The line that played especially well throughout the game, but the third period in particular, was the third line of John and Nolan Stevens and Ryan Rosenthal who had only had five shots on the night combined but all were good scoring chances.
“We’ve definitely been clicking as a line and finding some chemistry,” said John Stevens. “It’s a lot of fun.”
Mike Szmatula netted an empty netter with 1:22 remaining in the third period to push the lead to the final tally 3-1
For Merrimack the loss drops them to 8-4-1 (4-3-0) on the season.
On the flip side, Northeastern’s win moves them to 2-9-1 (2-5-1) on the year. With the rough start they still have quite a mountain to climb the rest of the year. A win at Matthew’s against a Hockey East opponent is a good way to start.
“We’re certainly coming from a little bit behind because of our poor start but you got to get points each and every weekend series, and, you know, I was happy with the two points here tonight,” said Madigan “We will get back to work on Monday or Tuesday. There’s a lot of things we can do to sure up our game.”