With a packed house, high scoring, and penalties galore, Saturday night was busy for the Northeastern Huskies when they hosted the Bentley Falcons in their second official game of the season. However, it did confirm one thing: the Huskies have opened a new chapter.
The Huskies fell to the Falcons when the pair last met last December, but Northeastern asserted themselves as the superior team in Saturday’s redemption rematch. Carrying forward the momentum built from last weekend’s defeat of Stonehill, the Huskies put together a fluid, cohesive game en route to a 5-2 victory in front of a sold-out crowd at Matthews Arena.
Coming into the game, Northeastern faced some crucial absences; junior forward and captain Justin Hryckowian and sophomore defender Hunter McDonald, two of the Huskies’ best players, sat out due to injury. However, their teammates stepped up to fill in the gaps; graduate student forward and assistant captain Matt DeMelis moved into Justin Hryckowian’s first-line center slot, while the defense shuffled between different pairings throughout the game —, each working seamlessly together to help the Huskies to victory.
“We didn’t really talk about that much,” said Northeastern head coach Jerry Keefe. “I think the guys just knew we’ve got a lot of good players in our locker room. We played well and I thought some guys elevated tonight.”
It took the Huskies a few shifts to adjust to the changes. They took an early penalty, with sophomore forward Cam Lund sent to the box for high sticking just 28 seconds into the game, and Bentley used the opportunity to test rookie goaltender Cameron Whitehead. The Falcons notched three shots on goal in the first of their three power plays that night, but every attempt was a one-timer from a distance, and Whitehead could see them clear as day, grabbing the puck easily.
From there, Northeastern gained the advantage. Just after Bentley’s power play ended, they found themselves on the other side of the coin. Falcons sophomore defender Pat Lawn was penalized for holding 2:59 into the game, and that was just the start; Bentley spent nearly half the period down a skater, with four total penalties in the opening frame.
Northeastern built up strength throughout the first period, and the many power plays played a big role. Although Bentley held them back in the first power play, not allowing them a single shot on goal, the Huskies found progressively more and more high-danger opportunities, and were finally able to capitalize during the third 5-on-4 advantage.
At 16:42, sophomore defender Vinny Borgesi slapped in a shot from the blue line, and it bounced off the pads of Bentley senior goaltender Nicholas Grabko. Freshman forward Dylan Hyrckowian reached for the rebound to keep it in tight, whipping it cross-crease to graduate student forward Liam Walsh, who tucked it in the back door.
Just over a minute later, the Huskies appeared to have tacked on a second goal — in a commotion at the net, Dylan Hryckowian tried to jam the puck through Grabko, and it was intially ruled a goal. However, a lengthy review proved otherwise, setting Northeastern back to just a one-goal lead to end the period.
When the second period kicked off, it didn’t take long for the Huskies to double their lead. And this time, it stuck. Less than a minute into the middle frame, senior forward Gunnarwolfe Fontaine sent a soft shot into the crease. Grabko made the easy pad save, but sophomore forward Jack Williams flew to the rebound, slamming it past the out-of-place netminder to double the Huskies’ lead.
Five minutes into the period, Bentley answered: On a rush, the Falcons took the puck up ice, outnumbering the Huskies four to two. Freshman forward Jimmy Doyle skated it all the way to the right faceoff circle, passing it off to his linemate, freshman Kellan Hjartarson. Approaching the net head-on, Hjartarson used Northeastern’s own defenders to screen his shot, flicking the puck just inside the far post to narrow the Huskies’ lead to 2-1.
That didn’t rattle Northeastern’s confidence; they kept their composure, fighting back against the Falcons with speed and consistency, and halfway through the frame, the Huskies scored again.
Pressured by Bentley’s defense, junior forward Matt Choupani dumped the puck in deep from the offensive blue line. As two Falcons converged on him, nobody saw Demelis coming and he flicked the puck past Grabko to regain the two-goal advantage for Northeastern.
Only 28 seconds later, Dylan Hryckowian made up for his recalled goal with one they couldn’t dispute. At the left post, Walsh and three Bentley skaters fought for the puck. Quicker than the Falcons could react, it popped free and Dylan Hryckowian took the silent wrap-around for the first goal of his college career.
“Obviously, I have older guys around me that I can play with, have on a line. It’s helped a lot,” Dylan Hryckowian said. “They’ve been through it. They all know what it’s like to play college [hockey].”
By the time the next penalty rolled around, Northeastern had really settled into a rhythm. They’d had plenty of practice on the power play in the first period, and on the sole call against Bentley in the second, they generated some quality scoring chances, although they were unable to push one through. However, the real difference-maker was on the penalty kill. When sophomore defender Jackson Dorrington was sent to the box for holding, Northeastern got the first shot of the 5-on-4, shorthanded. Bentley did get a few shots about Whitehead, but they were easy saves for him, and the Huskies killed off the penalty with quite a bit of possession.
After a quiet Northeastern power play towards the beginning of the third period, a penalty was called on Northeastern graduate student forward Brett Edwards halfway through the frame. However, the only shot during the two-minute minor came from Northeastern, off the stick of Dylan Hryckowian.
“I have two really good leaders that I usually am with on the penalty kill, so they helped guide me through it early, and the coaches have been great, helped me get accustomed to it for sure,” Dylan Hryckowian said.
With seven minutes to go, the Huskies took to the advantage for the seventh and final time. Northeastern set up in the offensive zone, circling around Grabko’s cage, and graduate student defender Pito Walton slammed a heavy one-timer toward the netminder. The puck bounced off Grabko’s pad, skittering behind him and across the goal line to extend Northeastern’s lead to 5-1.
With 4:19 remaining, the Falcons put one last effort on Whitehead. After a faceoff in Northeastern’s zone, Bentley circled the puck back to senior defender Nick Bochen along the boards. Bochen took the long shot, and freshman forward Kolby Amici picked up the rebound, slotting it past Whitehead.
Despite missing two of its top players, Northeastern was able to defeat the Bentley Falcons handily, 5-2, rewriting the pair’s history to put the Huskies back on top. Through it all, Northeastern looked solid — they played with ease and cohesion, and players stepped up to fill in big roles, both new and veteran. Dylan Hryckowian led the charge, notching eight shots on goal, the most of anyone on the ice by far, and potting his first goal as a Husky. Though the easy win over Stonehill set the tone for the season, the win over Bentley cemented a new era of Husky hockey.
“We’re all really bought in,” Walsh said. “I don’t know if we were as highly touted as you could say we were a year ago, but I think the way we play, we’re going to give a lot of teams a lot of fits. We all know what we can do and we’re working every day to accomplish that.”
Northeastern will travel to the Whittemore Center to take on UNH for their first in-conference game of the season on Thursday, Oct. 26. WRBB will have live coverage when puck drops at 7 p.m.