The Northeastern Huskies faced off against the Bentley Falcons this past weekend in a home-and-home series that had many Northeastern fans anxious after Bentley swept the Huskies in the two game slate last season. This season, the results were different as the Huskies skated to a 1-1 tie at Bentley on Friday 10/14 in a matchup that featured a stellar goalie duel, and then followed that with a 7-3 dismantling of the Falcons for a victorious Banner Night at Matthews Arena.
Similar to last season, Northeastern dominated Bentley in terms of shots on goal and puck possession time. Unfortunately, they could not translate that a victory on Friday. Northeastern peppered Jayson Argue with thirty-five shots on goal, and many more shot attempts, but only one found the back of the net, a 5-on-3 powerplay goal by Nolan Stevens. The Huskies had their chances, but could not capitalize, including Matt Filipe tapping a puck wide of the open net on a perfectly executed 2-on-1, and Biagio Lerario whiffing on a one timer again on an open net on the backdoor.
The Huskies also struggled on the powerplay- a penalty-laden game saw Northeastern garner fourteen powerplay chances and convert only once. Three of those powerplays were less than thirty-five seconds, but even so, the lack of conversion hurt the Huskies. Coupled with the fact that Argue made some saves that looked to be straight out of NHL 17, and the Huskies were left to wonder “what if” as they bussed back to Boston with a tie. The one goal let in by goaltender Ryan Ruck was one I’m sure Ruck wants back, it appears he was screened by a teammate when the Bentley player tossed a shorthanded bid on net. Other than that mishap, Ruck was solid, making several key saves to keep NU in the game.
Once back home, the story changed dramatically for Jim Madigan’s squad. After unveiling the 2016 Hockey East championship banner, the Huskies jumped right into attack mode, scoring three goals in the first period, including their first two even strength goals of the year. The Huskies added three more goals in the 2nd period and one more in the third, including the first collegiate goals for Ryan Shea and Matt Filipe. All four lines contributed shots on goal and helped control the puck in the offensive zone, both characteristics that were lacking in previous games. Dylan Sikura paced the team with four assists, and Zach Aston-Reese and Adam Gaudette both had career highs of four points in the game. NU once again dominated possession and shots on goal, holding Bentley to only eighteen shots. Northeastern converted on three of their seven powerplay chances, a much better clip than the previous night, and moved the puck extremely well with the man advantage- one has to imagine being back on the larger sheet of ice aided the Huskies, giving them more room to use their skill and speed to get through the Bentley defense.
The one concern that came from the home game was sometimes sloppy defense. The Huskies did well to control the Bentley rush through the neutral zone, and the shot suppression was obvious, but there were times where the effort was lacking and Bentley got grade A chances. The second Bentley goal was one that went under Ruck’s glove, and the third was the shorthanded bid garnered after a tenacious forecheck. Ruck also made a stellar pad save on a backdoor, cross-crease pass that should have been cut off by the defense. Going ahead, the defense will need to tighten up to allow Ruck to make the saves that he needs to in order to keep the Huskies in games.
Overall, this was a positive weekend for the Huskies. Getting the first win of the season is always critical, and defeating Bentley for the first time since 2009 gets a monkey off their backs that had haunted the team since last year, and had haunted Madigan since he assumed the post of Head Coach. Multiple Huskies seem to be heating up and playing well night in and night out, including Gaudette, Aston-Reese, Davies, Williams, and Filipe. The freshmen clearly have acclimated well to the NCAA speed, and there are reasons to be optimistic as an NU fan. Northeastern takes on Arizona State at Matthews this weekend, their first two games against the newest NCAA Division 1 team.