ORONO, Maine — Friday night’s Northeastern men’s hockey performance was a disappointment. A 2-2 tie with Maine, the team picked to finish last in the Hockey East preseason poll, stretched Northeastern’s winless streak to four games. The Huskies wanted, and frankly needed, a response.
So respond they did.
The Huskies picked up a 4-1 win over Maine Saturday night at Alfond Arena, their first win since Oct. 8, thanks to a ferocious four-minute stretch at the start of the second period in which the Huskies scored thrice.
Not only did the win give Northeastern three big points in the Hockey East standings, it also should make the four-hour bus ride home far more palatable.
“We needed a win tonight,” said Northeastern head coach Jerry Keefe. “One of those wins where you just had to kind of grind one out. Things have been tough for us lately, but proud of our guys that we were able to find a way to get three points tonight on the road.”
To kick off Northeastern’s second-period flurry, senior forward Aidan McDonough scored his fifth goal of the year just two minutes and 21 seconds into the frame. Sophomore forward Justin Hryckowian won an offensive-zone faceoff up to junior forward Sam Colangelo, who brought the puck below the goal line and found Northeastern’s captain waiting uncovered in the slot for a one-timer.
Fifty-eight seconds later, McDonough found the back of the net again to double Northeastern’s lead. The Black Bears took a penalty just seconds after the restart from McDonough’s first goal, and the Huskies set up a cycle quickly on the power play. Junior forward Gunnarwolfe Fontaine found McDonough in his office — the right faceoff circle — and he ripped his one-timer past Maine goaltender Jacob Mucitelli for his second goal of the night and of the minute.
And less than two minutes after that, sophomore forward Matt Choupani compounded Mucitelli’s misery with the Huskies’ third goal of the night. After freshman forward Cam Lund won a puck battle along the boards, he found Choupani in the left faceoff circle with room to operate. Choupani slung a quick wrister towards the net that got in between Mucitelli’s glove and left pad, beating him for the third time in the period.
“Just stick with it,” Keefe said of his message in between the first and second periods. “We’ve been a team that has played pretty well in spurts and just haven’t been rewarded with goals. Tonight was kind of the same message. 0-0, I thought we had a good first period.”
Maine head coach Ben Barr pulled Mucitelli after the third goal for Victor Östman, the junior goaltender who put on an impressive performance in Friday’s game. Though Östman only faced eight shots the rest of the way, he kept the Huskies off the board.
Maine pulled one back in the middle of the second through sophomore forward Nolan Renwick, cutting Northeastern’s lead to two. Junior forward Donovan Houle won a puck battle along the boards and picked his head up only to find Renwick in acres of space cutting toward the slot. Renwick shot a pinpoint wrister past Northeastern’s Devon Levi, who made 35 saves in the contest.
The Huskies held off the Black Bears in the third period — a period in which the Huskies blew a two-goal lead Friday. After contending with two 4-on-4 stretches, bringing the weekend’s penalty total to a whopping 22, Jakov Novak sealed the game for the Huskies with an empty-netter in the final minute.
Unlike Friday night, where Northeastern let a two-goal lead slip away in the final eight minutes, the Huskies held firm in the third period and didn’t let the Black Bears back in the game.
“We were not happy with that game last night,” Keefe said. “That was a game that we just didn’t manage well at all. And we had a hard video session and a hard talk as a group. But you know our guys, they were disappointed too. So learn from it and move on from it.”
Saturday’s convincing win doesn’t negate the disappointment from Friday’s loss, but the Huskies proved their offense could deliver when they needed it most. Northeastern will now look to build on their strong performance next week, when they open up a home-and-home with New Hampshire, another team near the bottom of the Hockey East standings.
Mike Puzzanghera and Matty Wasserman will have the call of Northeastern vs. New Hampshire next Friday night at 7 p.m. for WRBB, and Khalin Kapoor and Mike Puzzanghera will have the call from the Whittemore Center for the second game Saturday night.