BOSTON — Northeastern hosted New Hampshire in Matthews Arena November 4th, coasting to a 6-2 victory and notching major milestones in the belts of two Huskies.
After getting back on track last Saturday against Maine, Friday’s matchup with UNH again provided the Huskies a chance to capitalize against one of the weaker teams in Hockey East.
“We talked about, ‘hey let’s get rolling here, one at a time.’ We’re back home, gotta take care of business [tonight]. This is a big weekend to build on the win that we got up in Maine,” said Northeastern head coach Jerry Keefe.
The Huskies answered, delivering one of their best performances of the season.
Despite the positive end-result, the Huskies struggled to find their footing in the first period, the Wildcats outshooting them 12-5.
UNH sophomore forward Conor Lovett took a penalty early in the first period, giving the Huskies an advantage.
With the Wildcats down a player and Northeastern still scrambling to pull together their game, the power play proved to be an even battle between the two teams. Despite spending the majority of the first period in their offensive zone, UNH was unable to capitalize on their abundance of opportunities, making shot after shot off-target.
Northeastern, however, took advantage of the minutes spent on UNH’s side of the ice early in the game. At 10:34 in the first period, senior forward Riley Hughes and freshman defenseman Hunter McDonald passed the puck around the edges up the offensive zone and up to senior defender Jeremie Bucheler, who launched it into the back of the net from just ahead center line for the Huskies’ first goal of the night.
The score added fuel to the fire for Northeastern, who doubled their lead almost five minutes later at 15:06 with a goal from sophomore forward Justin Hryckowian. Senior forward Aidan McDonough and sophomore defender Braden Doyle assisted from the back of the offensive zone to feed the puck to Hryckowian at net.
After each goal, the Huskies came back fiercer and stronger, but the tensions also continued to rise between the two opponents. Shoves were exchanged between players across the ice, but the Lovett minor remained the only penalty of the period.
With two minutes to spare in the period, the Wildcats swapped their goalie from freshman Tyler Muszelik to senior David Fessenden, who stayed in net for the rest of the match.
The Wildcats may have been offensively strong in the first period, but Northeastern made a quick turnaround heading into the second and came back swinging when the intermission ended.
“We were able to get a couple, regroup in the locker room after the first and then build on it, so I thought we got better as the game went on,” Keefe said.
Northeastern started out the second period keeping the puck in the offensive zone. Wildcats evidently felt the frustration as conflict lit up in their goal box just as it did for the Huskies early in the first. This flip in confrontation locations between periods gave the first indication of a switch-off of offensive strength, which the Huskies continued to slowly build upon for the remaining 40 minutes.
At 1:54, Northeastern’s offensive power culminated in the second McDonough-to-Hyrckowian goal of the game, with sophomore defender Cam Gaudette credited with an assist, the first point of his NCAA career, alongside them.
Just under three minutes later, the Huskies went down to the penalty kill for the first time of the night when junior forward Gunnarwolfe Fontaine took a minor for elbowing.
However, with so many shots on the Huskies’ net, a UNH goal seemed inevitable. At 10:39, sophomore forward Robert Cronin and sophomore defenseman Jack Babbage slid the puck from behind Northeastern’s net and into the awaiting stick of freshman forward Jake Dunlap. Dunlap quickly slipped the puck past the pads of junior goalie Devon Levi to secure his first career goal and narrow Northeastern’s lead to two points.
The goal didn’t seem to shake the Huskies, who made four more shots in the next two minutes.
The Wildcats were equally as eager to score again, invigorated after tacking one on the board, but the breakaway shot of senior forward Chase Stevenson was cleanly deflected by Levi.
The Huskies’ top line again delivered late in the third period, as junior forward Sam Colangelo finished off a seam pass from McDonough and Hryckowian to widen the score back up again at 4-1.
The last minute and a half of the second period were spent four-on-four, with Hughes and UNH’s Cronin sent to the box in consecutive penalties.
The Hughes penalty cleared early in the third period, but with the Wildcats still down a player, McDonough, assisted by Fontaine and Hryckowian, made the most of the opportunity, looping the puck around Fessenden and into the left side of the goal after only 27 seconds back on the ice.
Already having tallied three assists throughout the game, the close-range goal marked McDonough’s 100th career point.
“I’ve just been really fortunate to play with so many good players over my four years,” McDonough said, crediting the milestone to the support of his teammates.
Just over a minute later, with a number of UNH players at their defending net, Cam Lund slid the puck into the corner of the goal unassisted. However, after a challenge from UNH, it was deemed ‘no goal’ and the score remained 5-1.
After a series of expert maneuvering and offensive play from the Huskies, baseball caps flew onto the ice as Hryckowian passed the puck under the pads of Fessenden to round out the first hat trick of his career.
“It’s always good when you can help the team score a couple goals,” Hryckowian said.
Facing a large deficit, the Wildcats made a quick turnaround of the situation, and with nearly every player in the goal box on top of Levi, Stevenson grabbed the loose puck and slid it into the net. While the play went under review for interference, it was ruled a goal, settling the score at 6-2.
A McDonald penalty gave the Wildcats their last opportunity to compete with the Huskies, but Northeastern was unwilling to let their momentum falter and closed out the penalty kill still with that four-point lead.
By the end of the third period, Northeastern had surpassed UNH in both faceoff wins and shots on goal, a stark offensive contrast from the opening period. With their proven dominance over the puck, the Huskies ran out the clock with the puck against the wall, ending the game with a 6-2 victory over the Wildcats.
UNH and Northeastern once again take the ice, this time at the Whittemore Center, on Saturday. WRBB will have coverage from Khalin Kapoor and Mike Puzzanghera live from Durham when the puck drops at 7 p.m.