By: Josh Brown
BOSTON- With No. 11/8 Minnesota leading Northeastern 4-2 after two periods at Matthews Arena on Friday night, it looked like it would be old friend Mike Szmatula getting the last laugh.
Returning to Matthews Arena for the first time since transferring to Minnesota at the conclusion of the 2014-2015 season, the undersized yet pesky forward saw his team dominating on all fronts, culminating in four goals on just 22 shots.
But the second period intermission ended up being a time of reflection for Northeastern (5-5-4).
“We were just not in sync,” said Huskies coach Jim Madigan. “we weren’t generating much offense and then in the third period we just said ‘hey, you know what, we haven’t played well, and let’s admit it and let’s say we have 20 minutes here to go.’”
Although the message may be simple, it was all the Huskies needed. Scoring four unanswered goals in the game’s final 20 minutes, Northeastern shimmied away from Matthews Arena with a 6-4 win.
“I credit the players,” said Madigan “they came out and they stuck with it and they battled, and for me this is a real character win for our hockey club. Probably our biggest win this year.”
“When you score four goals in the third period against a team like Minnesota, who’s a nationally ranked team, well coached and highly skilled, it says something about your hockey team that their resiliency and their resolve was there tonight.”
The star for Northeastern was Dylan Sikura, who shot the puck often and from rather unusual angles to net his first career hat trick. Linemate Adam Gaudette chipped in with a goal and two assists as well.
“It feels good,” Sikura modestly put it, “got that one out of the way.”
“They played last year together,” Madigan said of Sikura and Gaudette, “they’re finding each other a lot more this year. We’ve been on Dylan to shoot the puck more and he certainly has tonight.”
“I don’t have to tell Gaudette to shoot the puck, he’s [going to] shoot it which is great cause we want the puck in both their hands. Sikura, it’s an accurate shot. Those goals weren’t heavy shots but he gets it off the stick, and he’s so smart to be able to thread the needle in through traffic and that’s what he did. He can place the puck in a pretty good spot, he’s got an unbelievable pair of hands and you saw that here tonight.”
Northeastern got it going just 35 seconds into the game courtesy of Garret Cockerill’s third goal of the season. A Patrick Schule pass found the junior defenseman in the high slot, and he proceeded to one-time it past Minnesota netminder Eric Schierhorn (21 saves).
Minnesota came roaring back scoring a pair of goals two minutes apart midway through the period. Kloos started the rally redirecting a Tyler Sheehy past Northeastern goalie Ryan Ruck (27 saves), and Vinni Lettieri converted a nifty wraparound to make it 2-1.
As he did all night, Sikura would not let the Huskies roll over. Collecting a turnover in the neutral zone, Gaudette found Sikura who fired a shot from the left faceoff dot that willed its way in between Schierhorn’s left pad and the goalpost to tie the game.
The back-and-forth first period found Minnesota with a 3-2 advantage after the first 20, as with 2:28 left in the period Kloos picked up a puck that ricochet off the boards and sent it under the pads of Ruck.
After Kloos scored the only goal for the Gophers in the second period, completing a hat trick, Sikura got his second of the game less than two minutes into the third period. With an Adam Gaudette faceoff win landing cleanly on his stick, Sikura shot a slow but accurate puck past Schierhorn to cut the Gophers lead to 4-3.
Less than two minutes later on the power play Sikura and Gaudette reversed the roles. Floating on the weak side, Sikura fired a cross-ice pass to the sophomore who easily sent it home to tie the game.
Exactly ten minutes later Sikura ensured that the spotlight was back on him. Using a ferocious forecheck to keep a play alive in the offensive zone, he collected a loose puck and threaded a shot through traffic that found the back of the net. A Zach Aston-Reese empty net goal with 32 seconds remaining sealed the deal.
The Huskies will be back in action Tuesday night when they host crosstown rival Boston College at 7 p.m. WRBB will have full coverage beginning at 6:45.