Jackson Goodman/WRBB Sports

After weeks of competitive hockey with no positive results to show for it, the Huskies finally hit the reset button on their season Saturday night.

In a must-win game, Northeastern delivered in its first home victory since October with a 3-1 takedown of the University of Vermont Catamounts. The conference win secured the series split for the Huskies, slotting them at No. 23 in the PairWise and breaking UVM’s five-game winning streak.

“If you look at our last ten games, we’ve played better hockey,” said head coach Jerry Keefe post-game. “We needed to go out and play a winning brand of hockey tonight and we needed to get back to playing with more layers, blocking shots, making the commitment to do all the little things. I thought our team did that tonight, and that’s why we were able to find a way to win a greasy one.”

With 31 saves on the night for the freshman netminder, Cameron Whitehead also commented on the bounceback performance from him and his teammates: “It felt really good. It’s been hard recently not winning a lot of games in this conference and we thought we’ve been playing really good hockey. To come back from last night and respond the way we did was great for us.”

Fresh off of their 5-4 win the night before, UVM came into the game with a bigger jump and confidence than NU. Combined with a power play opportunity early on at 5:09, the Catamounts were leading nine shots to the Huskies’ one after the opening ten minutes.

Northeastern broke out of its own defensive end for a total of five shots on goal for the period — the closest being graduate defender Pito Walton’s high-slot shot off the pipe at 18:03. In comparison to UVM’s count of 15, with plenty of quality chances on their part, NU was considered lucky to go into the first intermission with no score.

But the Huskies flipped the narrative to open period two, lighting the lamp fast and early. Within a stretch of 1:26, NU tallied two goals to strike first and double their lead by the 5:05 mark.

To break open scoring at 3:39, junior forward Matt Choupani sent a missile past UVM senior goaltender Gabe Carriere blocker-side off a swift drop pass by sophomore defender Vinny Borgesi for his second of the season.

The eventual game-winner was struck by freshman forward Dylan Hryckowian with his third of the season. Off a perfect setup by sophomore forward Cam Lund by the wall, Hryckowian sent a one-timer into the top corner and made it a 2-0 game.

“My linemates were just battling down low,” said Hryckowian. “It was a scrum, there was not a lot going on. I decided I should find some soft ice and [Lund] ended up making me a great pass. Felt good.”

As a point-leading, top-six freshman, Hryckowian has been a strong presence and difference maker for this Husky squad all season.

“I think it’s just confidence with him,” said Keefe of Dylan. “[He] started picking up some points and all of a sudden, pucks starting to go in for his linemates. He’s been one of our better forwards all year. Good to see him getting on the score sheet more.”

By the end of the frame, both the Huskies and Catamounts had unsuccessful power plays — holding each other to one and two SOG, respectively. Overall, NU dominated the shot count with 14-6 for the period and headed into the third with the upper hand.

Naturally, UVM wasn’t going down without a fight. Through traffic in front, Whitehead lost sight of the puck and at 2:38 into the third period, UVM junior forward Timofei Spitserov skated it around the scrambling pack of Huskies and into the net for a 2-1 score.

Following a second one-man advantage at 5:06, Northeastern maintained offensive pressure and contained Vermont’s efforts to tie down until the final buzzer — their closest call was generated by former Northeastern defender and UVM transfer Jeremie Bucheler at 19:19, who currently leads the Catamounts with six goals and 14 TP.

The game was certainly on the line for the Huskies until Whitehead made a couple of outstanding saves to hold onto NU’s lead and senior forward Gunnarwolfe Fontaine sealed the deal with the empty-netter with nine seconds to spare.

In regards to Fontaine and the recent swap of his first line slot with typical third-liner Matt Choupani, Keefe addressed the reasons behind the change.

“It’s not about moving [Fontaine] down, it’s about trying to spread our lines out. [Choupani]’s going right now, he’s starting to feel it,” said Keefe. “We had talked about that line tonight — with [Brett Edwards, Liam Walsh and Fontaine] — being an older line. You could see they started the game tonight — you need your veterans to do that, and they did. I thought they played a really honest game for us.”

Headed into a standalone rematch against UMass Amherst next Saturday, after losing in overtime to the Minutemen 2-1 back in November, the Huskies seem back on track with their second conference win and a renewed sense of confidence to get a win streak going. The dots are finally starting to connect for this talented roster, and hopefully continue to do so through the remaining stretch as playoffs are quickly approaching.

“It’s been pretty tough for us just finding our swagger again,” said Hryckowian. “It definitely gives us a lot of confidence, especially knowing that we can hang with the best of ’em [regarding BC, BU and Quinnipiac recently]. We believe that we’re the best of ’em. We just have to find that, start winning some games, and getting on a roll here.”

Northeastern returns to Matthews Arena next Saturday afternoon for a rematch against UMass Amherst. Catch full coverage of the game at 4 p.m. on WRBB 104.9FM.