Huskies Merri-Smack Warriors 9-1

Upon discovering there was only one game to play this weekend, the Northeastern Huskies apparently decided to make sure they got two games worth of scoring in, as they demolished Merrimack 9-1 at Matthews Arena. Zach Solow recorded a hat trick, John Picking had a career-best 4 point night that won him Hockey East Player of the Week, and Ryan Ruck saw game action for the first time in over a year.

First thing’s first, Merrimack for some reason decided to start third string goaltender Logan Halladay for this game. With all due respect to Halladay, a former Minnesota NLI signee, he had made zero starts in his Merrimack career entering Friday and sported a lifetime .786 save percentage in mop up duty. Why you would start him against one of the best offenses in the conference is completely beyond my comprehension. But they did.

Northeastern’s response? Well…

Matt Filipe scored on the very first shot of the game after Tyler Madden won a faceoff, and Filipe shot it immediately after getting a pass from Ryan Shea. Austin Plevy took the second shot of the game and scored the first goal of his Northeastern career streaking down the right boards to extend the lead to 2. Scott Borek responded to this development by… keeping Halladay in the game. And Merrimack actually responded, with a Patrick Kramer goal briefly making it a one goal game.

Then they took a penalty.

8 seconds later, Zach Solow made it 3-1. 102 seconds later, Solow made it 4-1. 15 seconds later, Brandon Hawkins made it 5-1. At this point, after watching Logan Halladay concede three goals in under two minutes of play, and five goals on twelve shots, Borek finally realized what a bad decision had been made and put Halladay out of his misery. But the damage was done.

Craig Pantano was able to manage the bleeding for a while, making 8 saves in a row to finish the first period. But he couldn’t hold forever, and 5 minutes into the second, Solow went on a shorthanded breakaway, deked out Pantano, and finished his hat trick. John Picking decided he could do it better, so he got his own shorthanded breakaway and beat Pantano unassisted for goal number seven. At this point, Merrimack apparently felt the best way to come back was to take a boarding major. Picking scored his second goal on the ensuing power play for Northeastern’s eighth.

In the third period, Northeastern decided to just roll the bottom lines and get out alive. A happy consequence of this decision and Cayden Primeau having already conceded in the game is that Ryan Ruck was free to enter, and enter he did, making his return after a full year absence and saving every shot he faced in the third period. Welcome back Ryan. After the injury scare he had last season, it is truly great to see him back on the ice for the Huskies.

The NU forwards weren’t done yet either, as Hawkins put a shot off the bar and in for his second and the team’s ninth. At this point (or perhaps a point 20 minutes before this) a rational observer may have expected NU to stop trying and see the game out.

They did not.

In fact, following the ninth goal, Northeastern played their best hockey of the entire night. The 4th line/extra skater led by Eetu Selanne and Austin Goldstein spent the whole period in the MC zone and generated a number of close calls, always barely missing either the puck or the net on netfront deflections. The game ended without them finding the scoresheet, but the fact that they dominated play says enough. NU led shots 8-3 in the third and 42-23 on the night, led by the 20 shot first. Credit must be given to Selanne, who in my opinion played his best game as a Husky, narrowly missing his first collegiate goal on multiple occasions.

Not to harp on the Halladay thing, because it’s hard to imagine any of MC’s goalies beating NU in this game, but you have to wonder if Pantano could have pulled it out if he played the whole game. He shut out NU for the first 15 minutes he played and the first two goals he allowed were on breakaways while MC was down and being aggressive… as aggressive as Merrimack can anyway. If Pantano makes a few early saves then the early MC goal puts them in the lead, NU probably has a much harder path to two points and Merrimack has a fighting chance. Which is a long way of saying, the Huskies should not expect next week’s game to be this easy, because it likely won’t be.

There’s not a whole lot to analyze here, Northeastern was better than Merrimack at just about everything, as you would expect. So instead I’ll say that I find Zach Solow both scoring a hat trick and scoring all of his goals when the game was still “competitive” only for Picking to be named first star of the game and conference player of the week hilarious. No offense to Picking or his four points, it’s just an odd situation. And for the third time, good to see Ruck. He only had to make 3 saves in this one, but we should see more of him come the end of December in that sweet Ruck vs. Theut matchup against Huntsville.

That’s all until the rematch at Merrimack this Saturday, although we may have a bit of a surprise in the preview coming near the end of the week. Stay tuned.

In addition, congratulations to coaches Madigan and Keefe on signing extensions through the 2023 season this week. Well deserved, and they showed why against Merrimack.