By Bailey Putnam, deputy sports editor
A weekend trip to the Midwest region proved to be unfruitful for the Northeastern University (NU) men’s hockey team, as the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers swept the Huskies in a two-game series at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis. No. 19 Minnesota blanked NU 4-0 on Friday and survived a rallying Husky comeback attempt on Saturday night to complete the sweep with a 4-3 victory.
Northeastern’s struggles against Minnesota mirrored those of its previous two losses to Bentley University. The Huskies (1-4) once again found themselves down big early, this time facing three-goal deficits at the end of the first period in each of their games at Minnesota (2-3).
NU allowed three goals in the first 12 minutes of the game on Friday night. Redshirt junior goaltender Derick Roy let three of four shots get by before he was swapped out in favor of freshman Ryan Ruck.
Ruck answered the call of duty with 21 saves over 48 minutes, holding the Gophers scoreless until late in the third period. Despite the efforts of their first-year netminder to keep them in the game, the Husky offense could not find the back of the net against Gopher freshman goalie Eric Schierhorn. NU had 32 shots but wasn’t able to score.
“With Ryan Ruck, I think he played really well,” Head Coach Jim Madigan said after Friday’s game. “He stood up, he made an unbelievable save when it was 3-0. His second effort was really good… He played really well, so we’ll makes some decisions on who’s going to [start] tomorrow, but I was pleased with his performance, that’s for sure.”
True to his word, Madigan gave Ruck the nod to start on Saturday.
The Gophers did not ease Ruck into his first collegiate start. Minnesota’s NHL-bound junior forward Hudson Fasching greeted him with a rebound goal less than a minute into the game. Just over two minutes later, junior defenseman Michael Brodzinski and sophomore forward Leon Bristedt buried a goal apiece within 17 seconds of each other.
Following the quick goals, Northeastern took a timeout and came out with new purpose as junior forward John Stevens notched the first Husky goal of the weekend less than 30 seconds later. Stevens put away a rebound after senior forward Kevin Roy almost snuck a shot past Schierhorn. However, the Gophers responded late in the period when Fasching netted his second goal of the night on a power play, and NU headed into the locker room down 4-1.
The Huskies responded in the second period, striking early off the stick of junior forward Sam Kurker just 2:04 into the frame. Kurker took a breakout pass from junior defenseman Jake Schechter and slipped a shot through Fasching’s five-hole.
NU continued to chip away in the second period when freshman defenseman Eric Williams blasted a goal through traffic on the power play at 7:08.
Despite the Huskies battling back to a one-goal deficit, a scoreless third period solidified the win for the Gophers.
Madigan was impressed by his team’s resolve, noting its ability to put the first period behind them and maintain intensity for the rest of the game.
“From that point on, I liked the way our team responded,” Madigan said. “They showed some resolve and resiliency in the second and third period… We had chances and we just couldn’t get that tying goal.”
He went on to commend the strong performance by Ruck despite the loss.
“It’s certainly not the ‘W’ that we came out for,” he added. “But it will allow us to build on something. I thought Ryan Ruck was very good in net. He gave up four goals in the first period that were obviously not his fault, and then he just responded. He stopped a penalty shot that was big at the time, and he gave us some momentum and gave us some life. So we’ll get back at it on Monday and now we’re back in league play.”
The Huskies take on their first Hockey East foe in the University of Vermont (UVM) Catamounts this weekend. NU will host the Catamounts (1-4) on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Matthews Arena before traveling to Burlington on Saturday to close the home-and-home series. UVM’s lone win of the series came in their season-opener, a 3-0 win over Minnesota on the road.
Photo by Brian Bae