BOSTON, MA — In what was a do or die weekend for Northeastern, the Huskies came to life, sweeping Merrimack with victories by a score of 4-1 on Friday night at Matthews Arena and 4-2 on Saturday night at Lawler Rink to pick up four key points in the Hockey East standings.
Northeastern started the weekend off strong on Friday, as they donned their Skating Strides jerseys in an annual Hockey East tradition to support victims of breast cancer. The Huskies scored two goals in 5:07 in the first period to jump out to a commanding 2-0 lead. The first goal came from Adam Gaudette, who shot at Vogler, found his own rebound in midair after it kicked off Grant Jozefek, and hit it over the goalie and into the net with a swing that would have fit right in at Fenway Park a week ago. The Huskies followed it up with a great team play for their second goal, as Zach Aston-Reese and Gaudette made a great zone entry play before finding Dylan Sikura streaking up the left side, who dished the puck to Jeremy Davies for a tap in at the back door.
Merrimack would get a goal back in the second on a Sami Tavernier tally that baffled referees and players alike, as nobody realized the puck was in the net. But NU would answer three minutes later, as the third line cycled a puck back to the point for a Ryan Shea shot, which Brendan Collier intercepted in front of the crease and shoveled over Vogler. Sikura would add the final marker in the third, scoring a power play goal just 4 seconds after a John Stevens faceoff win to cap off a 4-1 victory for the Huskies.
Up in North Andover on Saturday, the game was dominated by special teams play. Northeastern struck first on a 10 second 5 on 3 chance, as Dylan Sikura won a faceoff and the puck found its way to Adam Gaudette, who struck to put NU ahead just 6:15 into the game. Merrimack would come back with two power play goals of their own, the first from Johnathan Kovacevic on a point shot that hit an NU player in front and the second from Jace Henning, who took a puck that bounced off the top of the net and tucked it inside the near post.
Northeastern would stage a comeback though, as Zach Aston-Reese centered Matt Filipe for a backhand chance just four minutes after Merrimack took the lead and Filipe banked the puck into the net off a Merrimack skate. Aston-Reese then came through again, this time on the power play, as he took a rebound in front of Vogler, danced around him, caused him to lose his net, then tucked the puck back inside the post.
The 3-2 lead would take NU into the third, where on yet another power play Filipe made an impressive play to take the puck wide, cut to the net, and find Eric Williams between the dots. Williams took his time and sniped the puck under the glove of Vogler for his first goal since October. That marker would prove the final one on the weekend, as MC pressured late with Vogler pulled for an extra attacker, but ultimately couldn’t beat Ryan Ruck, who made 33 saves in each game on the weekend for a .956 save percentage. There were some scary moments that Ruck was able to fend away at key opportunities, and while rebound control continues to be an area for improvement, he ultimately kept the Warriors at bay and has now allowed 2 or fewer goals in 3 consecutive games.
The Northeastern top six dominated this weekend, with the newly healthy Grant Jozefek picking up an assist in his first game back, Dylan Sikura picking up five points for 38 on the season (leaving him just 3 points behind the national lead), Gaudette picking up three points, and ZAR, Stevens, and Filipe all picking up 2. Aston-Reese is now tied for the national lead with 41 points on the season, and his 22 goals are in the national lead, 4 clear of Mike Vecchione. Filipe in particular was all over the place on Saturday, picking up two points, making a number of good plays, and attacking Marc Biega after Biega boarded John Stevens in the second period. SBN’s Joshua Kummins called Filipe “excellent” and Coach Madigan sang his prasises after the game.
“I thought he was really good, and I thought that line (with seniors Aston-Reese and John Stevens) was really good,” Madigan said of Filipe. “He brings strength, size and speed, and that was a big goal that he scored to bring us back to even because Merrimack was pushing there. … He played like a man out there. It was almost like a ‘coming out’ for him.”
– Quote courtesy Joshua Kummins. Read Josh’s recap of Saturday’s game here for his analysis on the night.
With the sweep, NU is in sole possession of 9th place in Hockey East, 2 points clear of Merrimack and 1 point behind Providence. If the Huskies hold court in their February games, 9th should reasonably be their floor, with the potential to reasonably finish as high as 7th or so. The Huskies take the ice again in Lowell this Friday night for a single game this weekend. As always, Go Huskies!