By Bailey Putnam, deputy sports editor
In a futile display of resilience, the Northeastern University (NU) men’s hockey team battled through multi-goal deficits two nights in a row in South Bend, Ind., resulting in a one-goal loss on Thursday and a come-from-behind tie on Friday against the No. 18 University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
NU went down early on Thursday night, allowing three unanswered goals before the midpoint of the game, but a pair of quick goals in the second period put the Huskies within one point of their Hockey East foe.
Notre Dame sophomore defenseman Jordan Gross single-handedly put the Huskies (1-8-2) on their backs in the opening 20 minutes of the game. Gross potted a goal less than six minutes after the puck dropped and added another seven minutes later to give the Irish an early 2-0 advantage.
Gross’s first tally beat freshman goaltender Ryan Ruck over the left shoulder during a Notre Dame man advantage. He struck again minutes later when he tucked home his own rebound after his initial shot squeezed past Ruck and into the crease behind him.
The Irish extended their lead three minutes into the second period, when freshman center Andrew Oglevie sent a one-timer over Ruck’s right shoulder for his first goal of the season.
Less than four minutes later, junior forward Zach Aston-Reese broke his scoring drought, notching his first goal of the season and putting the Huskies on the board. Aston-Reese followed a puck as it trickled out from the left post to the front of the crease and snuck a goal past the extended Notre Dame goalie.
Junior forward Brendan Collier proved to be in the right place at the right time on the ensuing play as he banked in a centering pass from junior forward Ryan Rosenthal just 28 seconds after the Aston-Reese goal. The goal, Collier’s first of the season, came after a tic-tac-toe set up by junior forward Dalen Hedges, his third assist in four games.
Ruck blanked the Irish in the final period, posting eight of his 28 total saves in the frame, including a breakaway stop to keep his team within one. Despite putting nine shots on the cage in the final 20 minutes, the Northeastern offense couldn’t bury the equalizer, and the Huskies walked away with a 3-2 loss.
The outcome of the game was an all-too-familiar story for Head Coach Jim Madigan.
“We’re always chasing the game,” Madigan said in a press conference. “That’s what happened again here tonight. You can’t continue giving up two, three goals to good teams and expect to win games. We battled after that, but it’s still not good enough.”
This trend of allowing early goals almost proved fatal for Northeastern the following night. However, the Huskies showed a spark of life and clawed back from a two-goal deficit to pick up a tie and a much-needed point in the competitive Hockey East standings.
The Irish once again capitalized on a power play opportunity to open the scoring on Friday night, this time on a five-minute major penalty for contact to the head. Sophomore forward Jake Evans took a hard cross-ice pass and beat Ruck as he was sliding to catch up.
Notre Dame extended the lead two minutes into the second period. A shot through traffic bounced off an NU body and dropped onto the stick of sophomore forward Connor Hurley, who tapped in the easy goal.
Despite the bad bounce and Notre Dame goal, Northeastern dominated the rest of the second period, outshooting its host 14-3. Finally, the Huskies were able to get on the board and cut the Irish lead in half when sophomore defenseman Garrett Cockerill notched his second goal of the season. Junior forward Sam Kurker set up Cockerill, who rifled home a one-timer with 6:27 left in the frame.
Northeastern potted the equalizer with 4:07 to go in the game on a power-play goal off the stick of junior defenseman Matt Benning. Benning drove home a feed from Aston-Reese, his second goal of the year.
Madigan was much more pleased with his team’s effort in Friday night’s contest.
“I thought our guys really played hard and showed a lot of resiliency,” he said. “Once again we fell behind 2-0… but I just liked how we continued to play hard… I thought our energy, our effort, our second effort, our attitude – our bench was alive… It’s only a point and I understand we’re measured by getting wins and getting two points, but this is a game we can build on and will build on.”
Up next, Northeastern faces off against defending National Collegiate Athletic Association champion and current top-ranked squad in the nation, Providence College. The Huskies head to Providence on Friday night before returning for a second matchup at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at Matthews Arena.
According to Madigan, NU’s play in South Bend bodes well for future matchups.
“We played the way we’re capable of playing,” he said. “This is what we want and how we want to play. If we play like this we’ll win more games than not.”
Photo by Brian Bae