BOSTON — After a slow start against Vermont on Friday night, the Huskies brought the heat from the very beginning of Saturday’s contest, defeating the Catamounts in a resounding 5-0 victory.
“I really liked how we came out,” Northeastern head coach Jerry Keefe said after the game. “We want to establish a certain kind of play, and I thought we did that in the first period, and I liked how we closed the game out in the third.”
In its four games so far, Vermont has split the net between junior goaltender Gabe Carriere and graduate student goaltender Oskar Autio. Autio started in goal on Saturday after Carriere’s Friday showing.
The first period opened with a boarding penalty against UVM senior forward Jacques Bouquot just 49 seconds in. While the Huskies failed to put the puck in the net while the Catamounts were short-handed, the early advantage gave them the confidence boost they needed to score when another Vermont penalty came seven minutes later.
Thirty seconds into the Huskies’ second power play, sophomore forward Justin Hryckowian stood in front of Vermont’s net surrounded by four Catamounts. Senior forward Aidan McDonough fed the puck to Hryckowian through Vermont’s defense. Hryckowian directed McDonough’s pass into the top right corner of the net, giving Northeastern the lead it would maintain throughout the remainder of the game.
Hryckowian’s goal was his first of the season, and one of two redirect goals he would score in the match.
With just under two minutes left in the first period, McDonough, after catching a pass from freshman forward Cam Lund, slid the puck across the ice from the left faceoff dot between Autio’s legs, increasing Northeastern’s lead to 2-0.
With three points in his first three games in a Northeastern sweater, Lund has proven himself a force to be reckoned with and earned a “special” place in the Huskies’ hearts.
“It feels a little weird because … he’s younger than my little brother,” Hryckowian said with a laugh. “He’s like a little, little brother. But this guy is ridiculous. I call him ‘The Phenom.’”
McDonough agreed with Hryckowian.
“I’ve had the great fortune of playing with some really good players over my four years [at Northeastern],” he said. “He has a chance to be the best.”
The first period ended with a penalty for each team. Junior forward Gunnarwolfe Fontaine received a holding penalty with 1:11 remaining in the frame, and UVM sophomore forward Joel Määtä negated the power play with a delay of game penalty with 52.7 seconds remaining. Both penalties carried over into the beginning of the second period.
Empowered by the return of full-strength play, the Huskies flew towards the net with sophomore forward Jack Hughes leading the pack. Hughes drove the puck up the boards on the left side and sent the puck across the ice to McDonough, narrowly avoiding a Vermont defender. As the Catamounts descended on McDonough, he pushed the puck back up the ice towards Fontaine, who drove it beyond the crease.
Hryckowian struck again at the end of the second period, giving a pass from sophomore defenseman Braden Doyle the extra push it needed to sneak past Autio’s pads.
“We had so many good players with the puck in their [hands],” Hryckowian said of his goals. “I just sit in front and let them make plays and try to contribute when I can.”
Both teams saw lineup changes to start the third. While Carriere took over for Autio in net, Northeastern graduate student forward Jakov Novak and senior defender Jayden Struble didn’t return to the ice, nursing injuries they gained during the weekend’s series.
“They’re a little banged up,” Keefe said. “Hopefully it’s nothing too serious. We just want to be smart about that.”
Sophomore forward Cam Gaudette saw his first on-ice minutes of the season in exchange for the two older players. Despite his lack of experience, Gaudette was fierce, crafty, and physical, seeming perfectly comfortable on the ice.
Despite the lineup being down two players, the Huskies held their own in the third period, earning one final goal to wrap up the 10-goal weekend. After catching senior defender Jeremie Bucheler’s perfect pass from Northeastern’s defensive zone, McDonough dove towards the right side of the net and dragged Carriere out of his crease, creating a wide-open cage on the left.
After Friday night’s game, Keefe’s goal was to get his team to play “a full 60 minutes.” By Saturday, Northeastern had figured out how to do just that.
“I thought that was one of the areas we were good [in] tonight, and it started right off the bat for us,” Keefe said. “Defensively, we closed quickly. We had good layers. I liked our transition game. We played fast in the neutral zone, and … we played below the dots, and I think that’s where our team can be really dangerous.”
The game was Northeastern’s second Hockey East win of the season. Looking ahead at next week, Keefe hopes to build on the “depth” he saw in the series and expand on the team’s ability to “play a fast game” and ability to be “relentless when we don’t have the puck.”
The showing this weekend demonstrated exactly what Northeastern is capable of this season. Seven Huskies recorded points Saturday. Northeastern junior goaltender Devon Levi seemed to regain his ice legs in the second game of the series, making his cleanest, most calculated saves yet this year and earning his first shutout of the season. The shutout is his 11th in his career at Northeastern. He is now tied with former Husky netminder Chris Rawlings for most career shutouts. Rawlings set the record in 2013 after 123 games played. Levi has played just 35.
Northeastern men’s hockey will return to Matthews Arena Oct. 15 to play the Providence Friars. WRBB will have coverage live from Khalin Kapoor and Matty Wasserman when the puck drops at 7:30 p.m.