In their final weekend of tune up action before the Hockey East slate begins, Northeastern swept the Arizona State Sun Devils in two games at Matthews Arena, and neither game was ever in serious doubt as the Huskies won by a total score of 11-3. Considering the Huskies’ recent lack of success against Bentley, winning three games in a row at Matthews where none of the results were ever in question is certainly a positive change for NU. But considering they were facing the newest D1 program, and a team that was 59th in last year’s Pairwise, the Huskies still left something to be desired. They comfortably sleepwalked their way past lesser competition, but it never felt like they went for the kill.
On Friday night, the Huskies jumped out to quick 4-0 lead in the first period, as they scored 4 goals on their first 10 shots and chased Joey Daccord from the opposing net after just 15 minutes of action. The Huskies’ first goal featured former prep school teammates Adam Gaudette and Lincoln Griffin connecting after a turnover in the ASU zone, and it was followed by Gaudette putting a snipe over the shoulder of Joey Daccord from absolutely zero angle, and two power play tallies by Matt Filipe and Dylan Sikura.
After the first period, however, the Huskies let off the gas, and it cost them. Over the rest of the night, the Huskies and the Sun Devils played to a relatively even 21-20 shots on goal. Arizona State scored two goals, both power play tallies by BU graduate transfer Robbie Baillargeon, while the Huskies managed just one more goal on a Zach Aston-Reese shorthanded bid. The game wasn’t without some controversy, as one of Baillargeon’s goals came on a play where there was a decent case for goalie interference on Ryan Ruck and NU had a third period goal disallowed when goaltender Ryland Pashovitz had his helmet dislodged just before the puck crossed the goal line, but getting a few lucky calls wouldn’t have changed the result or the relative lack of effort the Huskies were playing with.
The biggest loss for Northeastern came near the end of the second period, however, as John Stevens was playing behind the ASU net and was the recipient of a check that knocked him shoulder-first into the end boards. Stevens immediately dropped his stick where he landed and skated off to the locker room holding his arm. While the nature of Stevens’ injury was not disclosed, it seems likely from Coach Madigan’s comments that Stevens will be missing extended time, making this the second consecutive year the Huskies will lose their captain for an extended portion of the season.
On Saturday night, skating without Stevens and with newly appointed first line center Zach Aston-Reese, the Huskies picked up exactly where they left off on Friday, allowing yet another Robbie Baillargeon goal 8 minutes into the contest to give Arizona State a 1-0 lead. After Baillargeon’s third goal of the weekend, however, the game took a 180 degree turn. The Huskies finally turned the jets back on and dominated ASU for the remainder of the contest, starting by scoring three goals in a four minute span in the middle of the first. The Huskies put up three more goals in the final two periods, including the first collegiate goal for Jeremy Davies, and cruised to a 6-1 victory on a 49-22 shot advantage.
The Huskies’ top two lines combined for 24 shots on goal in the game, two more shots than ASU’s entire team took, led by 7 from both Adam Gaudette and Zach Aston-Reese. Gaudette’s 13 SOG on the weekend bring him to 40 on the year, a mark that continues to lead the NCAA. ZAR has quietly followed closely behind Gaudette, however. His 34 shots on a goal are second in the country to Gaudette and both men are well clear of anybody else in the conference, with three players tied with 28 SOG ranking third in Hockey East. On a per game basis the results are just as extreme, with Gaudette’s 6.67 SOG per game and ZAR’s 5.67 both well ahead of the third place mark of 4.00 shared by 5 Hockey East players.
Looking ahead for the Huskies, their performance this weekend still leaves some questions to be answered, particularly when Gaudette and ZAR leave the ice. On Sunday, Northeastern will face a Vermont team that underperformed last year, is coming off a surprising three point weekend at Nebraska-Omaha, and will have three suspended captains all returning for their first action after sitting out five games. The Catamounts will be the best team the Huskies have faced since they opened the season at Quinnipiac, and while the Huskies have easily won their last three games in a row, they’ve been far from perfect. Both Bentley and ASU each had only one threatening line, the Max French and Robbie Baillargeon lines, respectively. Yet, despite those players being the only players the Huskies needed to focus on shutting down, those lines still combined for 5 goals over the four games with 4 coming on the power play. The Huskies have been cruising against lesser competition for weeks now, and while stockpiling easy wins is fun, the season is nearly a month old and it still remains to be seen whether the Huskies can play a complete 60 minute game.
The Huskies will be back in action to answer these questions and more on Sunday at 3 PM. Northeastern will be back at home for their fourth of five consecutive games at Historic Matthews Arena when they open the Hockey East slate against the Vermont Catamounts.