By: Dan McLoone
The Northeastern men’s hockey team continued their torrid pace on Saturday night, completing a sweep of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Hockey East Quarterfinals. After a 3-1 win in game 1, the Huskies came away with a 6-4 victory to advance to their first semifinals appearance since 2011.
One night after taking just 22 shots, the Huskies (20-13-5) peppered Irish goalie Cal Petersen with 34 shots and forcing the sophomore to the bench late in the third period.
Despite the offensive barrage from the Huskies, it was Notre Dame who controlled the pace of play early on. The Irish struck first, as Luke Ripley smashed home a shot from the crease with just under six minutes left in the first period. After some back and forth play, Colton Saucerman leveled the score with 1:10 left in the period, wristing one from the blue line over Petersen’s shoulder.
“I thought, in the first period, we didn’t get a sustained fore-check going because of Notre Dame,” said head coach Jim Madigan. “They came at it…we knew they were going to have that approach. I thought we got off our game a little bit by getting worried a little too much about the over-aggressiveness. I like when our team plays aggressive but I thought we were a little over-aggressive and we were out of sync.”
As they have done so many times, the Huskies shifted into another offensive gear in the second period. Over a span of 3 minutes and 20 seconds, Northeastern added three goals to jump out to a 4-1 lead. After coming out of the locker room with a new burst of energy, Northeastern took the lead with Kevin Roy’s ninth goal of the year. In a 2-on-1 break, Sam Kurker patiently waited to draw over his defender before threading a pass to Roy, who slotted it past Petersen for a 2-1 lead. Just 1:07 later, Garret Cockerill sent home a loose puck in front of the net to extend the lead to two.
Just two minutes later, Irish forward Anders Bjork went to the penalty box for taking down Cockerill. Northeastern capitalized mere seconds afterwards, as Dylan Sikura took a pass from Saucerman and fired it past Petersen for a 4-1 lead.
The Fighting Irish got one back with five seconds left in the period, as Mario Lucia’s shot was blocked by Ruck, but deflected off of a Husky defender and into the net to bring the deficit to 4-2.
Notre Dame came out strong to start the third period looking to cut the lead in half, but the Huskies struck first. Kevin Roy netted his second goal of the game during 4-on-4 play, poking home a centering pass from Saucerman to extend the lead to 5-2. Northeastern made it 6-2 10 minutes later when Tanner pond scored his second goal of the weekend on a turnaround wrister in the crease.
“I thought our guys in that between periods were really composed and knew ‘hey it was a fluky bounce, it didn’t go our way,’” said Madigan. “But they showed a lot of poise and composure in the locker room and we got going in the third period quickly there.”
The Irish did not surrender, scoring two goals in the last four minutes to put some pressure on Northeastern. Thomas DiPauli took a gorgeous feed from Justin Wade and sent it past Ruck, while Lucia later netted his second of the game off of a face-off after Mike McMurtry was sent to the penalty box for hooking. The late surge was not enough, however, as the Huskies held on for the win.
“It’s a good group of young men and a group that has a strong quiet inner confidence,” said Madigan. “We’ve got some characters like any team does, but they just go about their job in a businesslike fashion. And you build confidence by having great habits and details and obviously preparation, and when [you do], that leads to wins like it has the last couple months here.”
John Stevens left the game with a lower body injury in the third period and did not return. He will be reevaluated once the team gets back to Boston.
The win was the 11th straight for Northeastern, who are 18-1-2 over the last 21 games after starting the year 2-12-3. The Huskies will move on to the Hockey East Semifinals next Friday at the TD Garden next weekend, where they will meet either Boston College or UMass Lowell depending on the result of Sunday’s matchup between BC and Vermont. Coverage of the semifinal matchup can be heard on WRBB.
Josh Brown contributed to this article.