By Gordon Weigers, news staff
The Northeastern University (NU) men’s hockey team picked up a weekend sweep over the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Minutemen with 5-0 and 4-2 wins on Friday and Saturday respectively.
Freshman goalie Ryan Ruck posted his second career shutout on Friday as he turned away all 16 UMass shots. The Minutemen gave Ruck more of a test on Saturday, sending 30 shots his way. Ruck made 28 saves for the victory and now owns a record of 10-10-4 with a .913 save percentage.
Once again, Northeastern enjoyed a strong offensive output from the line of sophomore Nolan Stevens and juniors John Stevens and Zach Aston-Reese. The trio combined for 12 points over the action-packed weekend.
“They read off each other well,” head coach Jim Madigan said. “They’re smart players, they’ve got good puck skills, they move their feet and they get to open ice.”
“I think we did a good job of being patient and waiting for seams to open up,” Stevens said after Saturday night’s win.
Nolan Stevens added to his team lead in goals, now setting the pace for the Huskies with 13 tallies. The sophomore picked up five points in two games against UMass and earned the honor of Warrior Player of the Week from Hockey East.
Northeastern’s power-play and penalty-killing units were major keys to success in both games against the Minutemen. The Huskies went four-for-eight over the span of both games with the man advantage. Northeastern kept UMass’s power play at bay, as the Minutemen went zero-for-five on the man advantage.
“Our special teams did the job for us,” Madigan said. “I think we’ve got two power play units that are moving the puck really well and they both have confidence.”
Senior captain Kevin Roy finally found the back of the net on Friday night for his first goal of the season. This season has been a battle for Roy, who has had to fight through injuries since the beginning of the year. Now with 10 points on the season, Roy is finding his form just in time for the home stretch.
Aston-Reese opened the scoring for the Huskies on Friday night, catching a pass from Nolan Stevens and lifting it top-shelf over Minutemen freshman goalie Nic Renyard. Roy made it a 2-0 game five minutes later, followed by sophomore defenseman Garret Cockerill wiring a shot from the blueline past Renyard’s glove to extend the lead to 3-0. Senior defender Colton Saucerman and Nolan Stevens got on the board in the third period to put the cap on the 5-0 win.
UMass gave junior Alex Wakaluk the start in net on Saturday at Matthews Arena. Northeastern struck first on a bullet from Cockerill midway through the first with assists from Dylan Sikura and Roy. Nolan Stevens buried his second goal of the weekend later in the frame to make it a 2-0 lead for the Huskies. Sophomore forwards Anthony Petrella and Maddison Smiley would each score for UMass to level the score at 2-2. Stevens potted another goal on the power play with 6 minutes left in the second frame to put Northeastern in front for good. NU would put up another marker as Aston-Reese smacked home his tenth goal of the season late in the third.
The Huskies, who have won three consecutive games, now sit one point ahead of Vermont for sixth place in the Hockey East standings with 16 points. Boston University (BU) holds fifth place with 23 points. One BU win will guarantee them a fifth-place finish or higher; otherwise, the Huskies would have to win the rest of their games to catch the Terriers.
Up next for Northeastern is a dance with the University of Connecticut (UConn) Huskies on Friday night in Storrs, Conn. before a Saturday night game at Matthews Arena at 7 p.m.
Gordo’s goal of the week
Nolan Stevens lands the goal-of-the-week honors once again this week. His third-period goal on Friday night extended NU’s lead to 5-0 and was a pristine demonstration of the strong Northeastern power play.
John Stevens battled for the puck along the half-wall of the UMass zone, fighting off two defenders who were in pursuit. Staying hard on the puck, Stevens feathered a pass to Aston-Reese in front of the net. Rather than holding onto the puck to try to get a shot off, Aston-Reese tapped the puck right to Nolan Stevens, who was breaking hard to the net. Stevens unleashed a rocket that found the top-corner behind Renyard.
Photo courtesy Jim Pierce, Northeastern Athletics.