After a four game stretch that saw them go 0-2-2 and take home only one of nine available Hockey East points, the Northeastern Huskies roared to life with a home-and-home sweep of the New Hampshire Wildcats, winning the two games by scores of 6-2 and 3-0. It was a near-perfect weekend for the Huskies, in dire need of a “get right weekend” ahead of games with local rivals Boston College and Boston University.
Going into this weekend’s series, Northeastern had won eleven of the previous twelve matchups with UNH, outscoring the Wildcats 62-16 in that span. The gap got wider starting Friday night, where the Huskies had their best offensive output of the season, led by Justin Hryckowian‘s first career hat trick. The sophomore center scored two of the three goals allowed by freshman goaltender Tyler Muszelik before he was pulled, and capped his trifecta with a nifty streak down the slot at the end of an all-time shift by the top line that saw every Husky skater trying to get Ritzy the puck, either by pass or by a shot to be tipped. In the end, Braden Doyle had the nifty pass to spring Hryckowian in all alone after a minute of Northeastern zone time.
Aidan McDonough had four points on the night, none larger than the goal scored to make the score 5-2. An abbreviated powerplay, McDonough took a beautiful saucer pass from Gunnarwolfe Fontaine and buried the backhand into the net for his 100th career point as a Husky, in his 99th career game. It’s poetic that it came on the powerplay, as McDonough has made a living in his office along the right side of Northeastern’s powerplay for the last four seasons- the mirror to the fabled “Gaudette Spot” for the three seasons prior, and the “Ovi Spot” most hockey fans are familiar with in the NHL.
The assist also was Fontaine’s 50th career point as a Husky. The junior winger has been arguably the best and most consistent player for Northeastern all season, and is on pace to challenge for his own 100 career point achievement next season. On the other side of the history book list, sophomore defenseman Cam Gaudette notched his first collegiate point with an assist on Hryckowian’s second goal.
Friday night was one for the personal milestones; Saturday night would prove to be one for the program record book. Led by Hryckowian and Fontaine again providing the goals, two for Hryckowian to give him five goals and six points on the weekend, the Huskies shut out UNH 3-0, the twelfth shutout in Devon Levi’s career, passing former goalie Chris Rawlings for first all-time in a Northeastern career. This was also Aidan McDonough’s 100th career game, making him the second Husky to reach the century mark after Matt Demelis did earlier this season.
Levi’s accomplishment’s last season are legendary and are unlikely to ever be challenged, but this shutout mark lends further perspective of just how good he has been at Northeastern. He reached the program career shutout record in just 41 games; Rawlings played 123 for Northeastern and finished with 11. Brad Thiessen, he of the Hobey Hat Trick and holder of multiple other records at Northeastern, had 111 games, yet 9 shutouts. Cayden Primeau, thought to be arguably the best goalie in program history after he finished, played 70 games; 8 shutouts. It took Levi just over a full season’s worth of games to establish the new career mark, after obliterating the single-season mark last year. The scale of the absurdity of that is simply mind-numbing to me.
The weekend had two other positive notes I want to highlight- the powerplay, which had struggled a bit earlier in the year, went 2 for 6, and the penalty kill went a perfect 5 for 5, improving both season-long marks and giving both units a boost in confidence that will be needed to continue this string of success.
The weekend was not all good news, however- the Huskies lost multiple skaters to injury over the last week, including multiple over the weekend. Friday had defensemen Tyler Spott and Vinny Borgesi out of the lineup, and then Jack Hughes suffered an upper body injury in Friday’s game and was a late scratch on Saturday. Then during Saturday’s game, Michael Outzen and Cam Gaudette each got banged up and did not finish the game. This is in addition to Liam Walsh being out and in a cast after a wrist injury a few weeks ago. While Hughes is expected back soonest, the depth and the “next man up” mentality of the Huskies is being tested extremely early, and there will be no chance to lick their wounds as the aforementioned schedule ramps up in competition starting next weekend.
Northeastern enters a home and home with a struggling Boston College team who just got swept by a surging Merrimack team, and although the teams tied in their non-conference bout a few weeks ago, the Huskies have shown signs of life and dominance that the Eagles are yearning to find. Freshman phenom Cutter Gauthier is as good as advertised, possibly better, but beyond him they have struggled to consistently find production, to the tune of only one even strength goal in their last three games, and a combination of poor goaltending and poor discipline. That said, let’s be honest- it’s Boston College. Rivalry games always ratchet up the intensity, and this Eagles team has shown they can skate with the Huskies. Northeastern will need to continue their groove found over this New Hampshire series if they want to take the points available next weekend.
Time will tell if this New Hampshire weekend is the turning point of the season where the team starts to roll week in and week out. Regardless of what comes next, this weekend is one of personal and team success, and will be remembered by players and fans alike for many years. These players have a lot to be proud of and a lot to build on coming out of the New Hampshire series, and production like this we can only hope serves to propel them forward into the tasks ahead.
See you all Friday night for Homecoming at Matthews Arena.
As always, go Huskies!