By: Josh Brown
BOSTON- Heading into Saturday’s game against Merrimack riding a seven-game unbeaten streak, the contrast in Northeastern’s first half of the season up until now has been stunning for most, but for Huskies fans just another case of déjà vu.
With several parallels to last season’s 0-8-1 start present this season, one is particularly noticeable-balanced scoring among all four lines.
That trend continued Saturday night as four different players lit the lamp in Northeastern’s 4-1 win over the Warriors.
“That’s a hard team to play against,” said Northeastern coach Jim Madigan. “They’re strong, they’re physical, they come at you. You’re fighting for every inch of ice…and we had to do that. We had to stay with it.”
“We were really able to grind it out, which was a good thing for our team because those are the types of wins that build character in a team and we were able to in the third period nail it down.”
The loss is Merrimack’s (7-13-5, 2-7-5) ninth in a row, the longest such streak since 2008-2009.
That’s probably the best game we’ve played in three weeks,” said Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy. “No moral victories, we didn’t win the game, but we gave ourselves a chance to win. I tip my hat to Northeastern.”
“Our guys weren’t rewarded for tonight’s play, but to me, that’s an effort in the bank. Before you can make a withdrawal, you have to make some deposits and I thought tonight was definitely a deposit. We played hard, played smart and gave ourselves a chance to win. It’s been a while since we’ve done that.”
Northeastern (9-12-4, 4-8-3), whose next game will be a week from Monday in the Beanpot semifinals against Boston University, received 15 saves by freshman Ryan Ruck, who continues to be the backbone behind the Huskies recent success.
Unlike Friday where Northeastern relinquished the first goal, an occurrence that has been quite uncharacteristic during the team’s eight-game unbeaten streak, freshman Adam Gaudette extended his six-game point streak on the power play to put the Huskies on the board first.
With Ben Bahe off for tripping, the Huskies were cycling the puck around the blue line when finally Garret Cockerill sent a shot down on net. Despite the initial save by Merrimack goalie Collin Delia, Gaudette picked up the rebound and tucked it past the net-minder for his sixth of the year.
The penalty-ridden affair continued throughout the first period, with Merrimack taking three in the frame and Northeastern getting whistled for four, but the score remained 1-0 after 20 minutes.
Merrimack would control the tempo early in the second period, and finally capitalized at the 8:25 mark, tying the score at one.
Breaking up a pass in the Northeastern offensive zone, Mathieu Tibbet controlled the puck, skated into the Warriors attacking zone and fed Brett Seney who fired it over Ruck’s glove and into the back of the net.
Despite having a tough time getting extended possession in their own zone, Nolan Stevens put the Huskies up one just over three minutes later.
After Merrimack picked up the puck in their own defensive zone, the sophomore jumped the ensuing pass in the neutral zone, taking the puck from right to left before diving as he tucked it past Delia’s stick.
The power play would hurt the Warriors once again just a couple minutes into the third, all but putting the game away.
Following a face-off win by Mike McMurtry that found the puck right on the stick of Garret Cockerill, the defenseman passed it to Dylan Sikura on the left faceoff dot. After a quick stride towards the net Sikura fired a slap shot that soared over Delia’s glove.
“I thought in the third period we played really well,” said Madigan. “We gave them four or five shots, but we did a really good job of shutting them down through the middle of the ice and coming back we were above the puck a lot, and when Ryan Ruck was forced to make some saves, he stood tall.”
Adding insult to injury, the Huskies, who controlled much of the time-of-possession in the third, would tack one on with just 1:03 left courtesy of Zach Aston-Reese’s seventh of the season.
Parked up in the slot, Aston-Reese put a shot on net that was blocked by a Merrimack defender. Aston-Reese proceeded to follow his rebound and put another one on net that beat Delia.
“Sweep, four point weekend,” said Madigan. “We need it, trying to continue climbing up in the standings. I think we made a little bit of a move there today and we’ll get ready for this tournament in the Boston Garden called the Beanpot on Monday.”
This article can also be found on USCHO.