BOSTON- With the women’s basketball team falling to Michigan State Friday night, and the men’s basketball team doing the same against the #1 ranked Spartans earlier that afternoon, Northeastern wanted to give their faithful something to hang their hat on going into 2016 on Saturday night.
Behind 26 saves by Ryan Ruck, the Huskies did just that, defeating Michigan State 2-1 in the final leg of the self-proclaimed ‘Winter Showdown’ at Matthews Arena.
“It’s a great weekend here at Northeastern,” said Northeastern coach Jim Madigan, “with Michigan State and the whole showdown with women’s basketball last night, men’s basketball today and then obviously our game here tonight. Thrilled for our win and being able to get Northeastern on the winning column in this weekend.”
“Hats off to our Athletic Director, Peter Roby, and the Athletic Director at Michigan State (Mark Hollis) for putting this together,” Madigan continued. “Typically these types of events and venues go more to the BCS schools, and it was great Michigan State came up here for the first tour. We’re obviously going to return there next year, but this was just an awesome weekend.”
“And then to cap it off with the win here tonight for our hockey club going into the break. Not having the success in the first half of the year that we wanted we’ve been playing better of late, and it was nice to get the win and create some momentum for the second half of the year.”
Jake Hildebrand got the start in net for the Spartans (5-11-2), stopping 29 of the 31 shots thrown at him in the defeat, just the seventh game played all-time between the clubs.
A fast-paced, up-and-down first period did not see any scoring until the 18:07 mark when Northeastern (3-12-3) forward Mike McMurtry lit the lamp, sending the Huskies to the locker room with a 1-0 lead.
Playing just below the goal line, Brendan Collier took an Eric Williams pass and found a cutting McMurtry who backhanded it past the glove of Hildebrand.
It was not all good news in the first period for Northeastern though, who lost defenseman Matt Benning after taking a hard hit behind the Huskies goal.
“It was a blow to the head,” said Madigan. “Not concussed but to the point where just for precautionary reasons it just made more sense to keep him out of the lineup.”
“He’s fine now, we’ll obviously continue to monitor him but I thought our D because of that stepped up really well. We were rotating five defenseman, and Matt Benning is obviously our go-to guy in every situation defensively so it was a big loss for us.”
Continuing the momentum from the late first period goal, the Huskies kept the pressure mounting in the second period, and were able to get a power play goal at the 8:14 mark to extend the lead to two.
With Travis Walsh off for hitting from behind, John Stevens collected a rebound off of a Nolan Stevens shot, and fed it to Aston-Reese on the doorstep who was able to jam it home.
The goal extends Aston-Reese’s point streak to a career-long five games.
Back down the other end, Ruck, who earned his first collegiate victory Saturday night, stood on his head for Northeastern, stopping all 13 shots he faced in the second period.
“It feels pretty good to get your first win,” said Ruck. “We’ve been working pretty hard all year, myself and as a team to get that, so that’s pretty good. It was a really good team effort tonight. Everyone played pretty well and made my job pretty easy and it starts with the coaching staff and down to every player so it was a good game.”
Michigan State would not go down without a fight though in the third period. With Northeastern largely keeping the Spartans out of their offensive zone, Tom Anastos’ squad was able to get one back at the 12:53 mark of the period.
Battling in front of the net, Thomas Ebbing was able to get his stick on a Mason Appleton shot from the blocker side of Ruck, and tip it into the back of the net to cut the lead to one.
Despite getting a power play opportunity late in the third thanks to a McMurtry hooking call it was too little to late, with the Spartans unable to get the equalizer, sending Michigan State back to East Lansing with a 2-1 record in the ‘Showdown’ between the three sports.
“I thought it was a hard played game,” said Michigan State coach Tom Anastos. “We had lots of respect for their team coming in. I thought they played a tough schedule and didn’t think their record was indicative of their team, and I thought they played real hard tonight. I like how hard we played and special teams became a difference in the game, and [it was a] tough college hockey game.”
“I thought our goalie played excellent tonight. So they had to earn their goals, and for us, we’re snake bit offensively. I thought our power play, we moved the puck around great. I thought we had a lot of good chances, I thought we had a lot of good looks. We just didn’t score.”
This article can also be found on USCHO.