Men’s Hockey Sweeps Merrimack

By Jack Sinclair

The Northeastern Huskies notched an authoritative come-from-behind win Sunday evening at Merrimack College, winning the second game of the home-and-home, 6–3.

The Warriors (1–3–0) hosted the Huskies (2–0–0) at Lawler Rink, marking the Huskies’ first away game this season. Merrimack, fresh off of a split series with UMass, lost the first game in Matthews Arena, 8–2, and looked to turn things around on their home ice.

Merrimack opened the scoring, as Alex Jefferies put the puck past a well-screened Connor Murphy off of a feed from Pat Holway. The opportunity came during the power play after a tripping call against the Huskies. The Northeastern penalty kill unit couldn’t clear the puck out of their own zone, allowing Merrimack to work the puck around the perimeter before Jefferies found an opening.

Northeastern continued their slow start, struggling to penetrate the offensive zone as Merrimack took the game’s first seven shots. The Huskies didn’t make things any easier for themselves, either, earning three minor penalties within the first 10 minutes.

Time in the box cost Merrimack the previous night’s game, as Northeastern logged four power-play goals. It looked like the same fate would befall the Huskies, as once again Jeffries struck on the power play. This time it was a Logan Drevitch shot that rang the post and bounced to Jefferies. Connor Murphy couldn’t get to the other side of his crease in time, and Jefferies put the Warriors up 2–0.

“We weren’t giving ourselves a chance,” Northeastern Head Coach Jim Madigan said. “First five minutes we had two penalties, and they had one power-play goal. Then the penalties just kept on coming . . . We needed to play smarter.”

Northeastern was still without a single shot on goal when they finally got a power-play chance with just under seven minutes left in the opening period. The Huskies established a rhythm in the offensive zone, and with 10 seconds left on the penalty, Riley Hughes broke through the neutral zone and buried his second goal of the season.

“It gave us some life,” Madigan said. “We needed that goal. We talked about it in one of the timeouts, about cutting the lead in half. Riley had a real second effort there to make it 2–1.”

The Huskies had another opportunity with the man advantage, but couldn’t beat Zachary Borgiel, who made a series of acrobatic stops on some excellent Northeastern shots. Soon before the end of the period, Drevitch found himself on the end of a hit from Northeastern’s Jayden Struble and had to be helped off of the ice by trainers, where he disappeared into the locker room. The Warriors had already lost Patrick Kramer to injury on Saturday night after an ugly collision with the boards. The period ended soon after, with Merrimack leading 2–1.

It didn’t take long before Northeastern ended up back in the penalty box. This time, It was TJ Walsh who was penalized for a slash. However, the Huskies penalty kill clearly made some adjustments during the intermission, as they were much more compact and effective at eating away the penalty time.

After NU killed off the penalty, Merrimack’s Ben Brar was sent into the box for slashing, giving Northeastern a third power-play opportunity. Aidan McDonough cycled the puck up to Jordan Harris at the point, who found a wide open Grant Jozefek lurking on Borgiel’s back post. Jozefek easily put the puck past a still-moving Borgiel, knotting the game up at two.

Just as they had the night before, Northeastern kept their foot on the gas and continued to pressure the Warriors. As a penalty against Merrimack’s Zach Lovett expired, Gunnarwolfe Fontaine dashed down the ice and cooly slid the puck to a following Zach Solow, who zipped the puck right through Borgiel’s five-hole. 

Zach Solow was rewarded with not only a goal, but with a 10-minute game misconduct penalty for his actions after the goal. Whether he said something to the referee or one of the Merrimack players was disputed, but regardless, Solow spent the rest of the period in the box.

Northeastern’s defense continued to show out, and used their size to effectively control the neutral zone and keep Merrimack in their own half of the ice. Jeremie Bucheler was a standout physical contributor for the Huskies, as he threw around his 6’1” frame with ease, pinning Warriors skaters against the boards and shunting them off the puck like they were nothing.

After another stellar penalty-killing effort from the Huskies, Steven Agriogianis slid the puck across the ice to Aidan McDonough wide open in the slot with seconds to spare in the period. The sophomore Canucks prospect sniped the top right corner of the net to beat Borgiel glove side.

Early in the third period, Merrimack’s Dominic Dockery took a nasty spill into the boards after a tussle with Gunnarwolf Fontaine for the puck. Dockery was helped into the locker room, and Fontaine was given a five-minute major penalty and an ejection from the game. Northeastern’s penalty kill took this as a challenge, and they were more than up to the task. The Huskies did not allow the Warriors to put a single shot on net for the first two minutes of their power play. Then Merrimack’s Ryan Nolan was sent to the box for interfering with Connor Murphy, leaving both sides with four skaters. Ty Jackson scored his first collegiate point after Agriogianis collected his own rebound and dished the puck to Jackson on the back post.

Merrimack, despite allowing five unanswered goals, proved they were not out of the game yet. Less than thirty seconds after Jackson’s goal, Merrimack’s Conor Lovett scored after the Huskies abandoned him in the slot. 

Merrimack sensed the Huskies sleeping on defense and upped the ante on their offensive efforts. Connor Murphy, still between the pipes for Northeastern in Devon Levi’s absence, stood on his head, keeping the lead at two. Merrimack pulled Borgiel with two minutes to go, and after a minute of offensive zone time, Aidan McDonough scored his second goal of the game on an empty net, icing the victory.

“I thought we played solid,” said Madigan of the third period, “Our lines were all jumbled up because of penalties . . . we killed off way too many penalties. We have to address that.” The Huskies were whistled for nine penalties overall, totaling 37 minutes in the box.

Northeastern’s success continues to come from all over the team. Senior captain Zach Solow is expected to produce, but players like Jackson, Fontaine, and Agriogianis, all freshmen, have been contributing too.

“[We were] down 2–0, there was no panic on the bench. The younger guys stuck with it, and the older guys led the way,” Madigan said. “From a coaching perspective, we learned a lot about our guys.”

Northeastern’s net scheduled game is an away series against Vermont on December 26 and 27, though it is possible a game is scheduled for this weekend.

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