BOSTON — The Northeastern Huskies soundly defeated the University of Massachusetts Minutemen on Friday February 10th, winning by a score of 6-2. The Huskies scored their first goal just sixteen seconds into the game and never looked back. The Huskies scored at even strength, on the powerplay, and on the penalty kill, while killing off their only penalty of the game. Goaltender Ryan Ruck saved twenty-five of twenty-seven shots that he faced.
Nolan Stevens, John Stevens, and Zach Aston-Reese were reunited on the Huskies’ top line for the first time since October, and they did not miss a beat, scoring their first goal only sixteen seconds after puck drop. Tic-tac-toe passing eventually found Nolan Stevens’ stick, and he buried his first goal of the night. The Huskies would add three more goals in the first period- Dylan Sikura scored in transition after a great outlet pass by Sam Kurker, Adam Gaudette scored on the powerplay after nearly a full minute of beautiful puck movement, and then Nolan scored on a far-side wrist shot that chased UMass goalie Ryan Wischow. UMass would score one goal in the period, a point shot from Jake McLaughlin.
The second period saw more scoring, this time initiated by UMass. Griff Jeszka scored an easy tap in goal after another point shot was saved by Ruck, but squeaked over his shoulder and the rebound laid in the crease. The Huskies answered though- specifically, Aston-Reese answered with two goals of his own. The first came shorthanded after he was the last player to touch the puck and then John Stevens forced a UMass turnover to trickle over the line, and then on another lovely powerplay cycle found himself alone in the slot and rifled a wrist shot over goalie Alex Wakaluk’ glove.
There would be no further scoring, although UMass had a great chance when a cross-crease pass found a player on the backdoor, but the UMass player hit the post with the shot and it was cleared away.
- I thought this was one of the better-looking nights for the powerplay unit. Not simply because they converted twice (out of four opportunities), but they puck was flying through the zone, tape to tape, and there were multiple good looks on net- there was very little stagnation in the powerplay. There was also an extra-attacker sequence where a delayed penalty was called, and Northeastern cycled the puck and got shots on net for a near full minute before UMass touched the puck.
- This was John Picking‘s return to the lineup, having last played against Lowell on 2/3, and before that not since Boston College on 12/6/16. I thought Picking looked good, showing some speed, creative hands, and some potential. He’s a guy I wouldn’t mind seeing more ice time, especially as Coach Madigan tries to fill the void left by Grant Jozefek‘s injury.
- Zach Aston-Reese became the first Husky to register fifty points in a season since the 1989-1990 season. He also tied the program single-season record for shorthanded goals (four). He became the first player this season in the NCAA to crack 50 points, though he was soon-after followed by Union’s Mike Vecchione. Aston-Reese currently leads the nation with 51 points. Truly a season for the ages.
- There were 2 brutal giveaways that I feel should be highlighted, as they led directly to good UMass chances. A miscommunication on a line change led to an Eric Williams drop pass being received by no one, which led to an odd-man rush. A Garret Cockerill exit pass attempted to go across the defensive zone was picked off and led to a high-percentage wrist shot. Both attempts were stopped by Ruck, but were miscues that could have proven consequential.
- Lastly, Jeremy Davies is heralded for his offensive success (and dear lord can he be a wizard with the puck) but he also made two huge plays on defense to stop goals. Twice, Davies covered an empty net when Ruck was out of position, either due to challenging a shooter (good!) or misplaying a puck bounce/pass (bad). Twice, Davies stopped the shot on net, once with his glove, once with his body. We’ve seen Williams and Cockerill make the same type of play this year. It’s that type of awareness that is critical for a defensive unit to have, and to see Davies show it as a freshman bodes well for his development.
- John Stevens is now one point away from 100 for his career at Northeastern. He has twenty-four goals and seventy-five assists. Given his linemates and his career success in the Beanpot, I would expect #100 to come on Monday.
The Huskies next will play Boston College in the Beanpot consolation game at 4:30 on Monday February 13th. After that, four hugely important games against UConn and Maine. Saturday February 18th will be the last home game of the season (barring playoffs), and Senior Night. As always, Go Huskies!