By Gordon Weigers, news staff

The Northeastern University (NU) men’s ice hockey team (16-13-5) finished the regular season with a record of over .500 for the third-straight season after a weekend sweep of the University of Maine Black Bears. Northeastern’s offense exploded in both games, taking both tilts by the scores of 5-3 and 7-1.

While fans’ eyes were turned to the action on the ice on Saturday, NU’s first-round playoff fate was being decided behind the scenes as the Hockey East standings shuffled into place. Northeastern’s first round matchup became clear late in the game: another dance with Maine next weekend, with a lot more on the line.

“We’ll get back at it on Monday, start preparing again for Maine,” head coach Jim Madigan said after Saturday’s win.

For seniors Kevin Roy, Derick Roy, Jarrett Fennell, Dustin Darou, Mike McMurtry and Colton Saucerman, Saturday marked the final regular season game of their collegiate careers. They were all honored with an on-ice ceremony before the game.

“They’ve done an awful lot for this program,” Madigan said. “All six of them represent this institution well and with a lot of class and professionalism, so I’m happy for them to go out on this note.”

On Saturday, Kevin Roy came as close as anyone ever has in college hockey to a Gordie Howe Hat Trick (one goal, one assist, one fight). Roy scored NU’s third goal in the first period. Then, he picked up an assist on McMurtry’s tally late in the second period. In the final two minutes of the second period, Roy and Maine captain Steven Swavely traded heated cross-checks back and forth before NU’s junior forward Sam Kurker and Maine’s sophomore forward Nolan Vesey joined the fray. All four players were penalized, and Vesey earned himself a 10-minute misconduct.

The onslaught of penalties did not end there. Junior forward Zach Aston-Reese and Maine senior defenseman Conor Riley were both whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct late in the third period for fighting. Not even a minute later, Roy and freshman Eric Williams received roughing penalties while Maine’s sophomore forward Cedric Lacroix and sophomore blue liner Mark Hamilton were handed five-minute majors for cross-checking and facemasking, respectively.

While penalties dominated the scoresheet Saturday, there were also quite a few goals that wound up in the final box score. Freshman forward Adam Gaudette kicked off the scoring party with a power play tally eight minutes into the first period, followed by a pass from Aston-Reese that found Nolan Stevens’ stick and wound up in the cage.

After Roy made it a 3-0 lead, Vesey caught a long pass and beat freshman goalie Ryan Ruck stick side for Maine’s only goal of the evening. After that, it was all NU. Saucerman’s power play snipe and rebound goal from McMurtry put the Huskies up 5-1 heading into the third period. Madigan pulled Ruck with eight minutes left in the game, giving senior goalie Derick Roy one last chance between the pipes on senior day.

With less than five minutes to play, junior defenseman Matt Benning set up Aston-Reese for a one-timer that he buried under the crossbar for the 6-1 lead. Less than three minutes later, Fennell’s point shot was tipped in by junior forward Tanner Pond for his first goal of the season and Northeastern’s fourth power play goal of the game. After Pond’s goal, Maine tried to get one back, only to fall victim to Derick Roy, who made a last-ditch effort on a tremendous diving glove save while sliding from post to post to shut down a two-on-one bid.

Friday night’s tilt featured less rock ‘em sock ‘em hockey, but the Huskies still displayed a great team effort for the 5-3 win. Aston-Reese and Williams opened the scoring for NU in the first period before the Black Bears struck twice to send the teams to intermission at 2-2. Williams scored again in the second period to put the Huskies back on top before freshman forward Patrick Schule buried his second goal of the season to make it a 4-2 advantage for the home team.

After Maine cut the lead to one, Gaudette blocked two major shots in his own zone in the final minute. He found a loose puck and ripped it all the way down the ice into Maine’s empty net to seal the 5-3 triumph.

The line of John and Nolan Stevens with Aston-Reese continued to dominate. Aston-Reese and Nolan Stevens each racked up five points on the weekend, while forward John Stevens tabbed three assists. The line has become one of the hardest units to play against in Hockey East due to its offensive instincts and ability to defend against other teams’ top lines.

“I think all three of us take pride in taking care of our own end first,” John Stevens said after Friday night’s win. “It’s been nice to play with those guys because we all seem to read off each other pretty well.”

The best-of-three series against Maine will be held at Matthews Arena on Friday, Saturday and, if necessary, Sunday. All games will start at 7 p.m.

 

Gordo’s goal of the week:

Freshman Patrick Schule claims the goal of the week honors this time for his gorgeous tally on Friday night in the second period.

Sophomore Dylan Sikura controlled the puck near the blue line in Maine’s zone with a defender coming at him to take the puck. With the defender right on top of him, Sikura made a quick move to cut across the ice to the high slot. As another Black Bear player converged on Sikura, he snuck a quick pass to a streaking Schule that just barely missed another Black Bear defenseman. Schule caught the pass in stride and came in on goalie Rob McGovern with speed. After a quick head fake, Schule flipped the puck to his backhand before delicately sliding it between McGovern’s pads and into the back of the net. Schule’s celly was one to remember as he dropped to one knee, scraped the ice with his right hand and then flew into the boards with Alex Ovechkin-like enthusiasm.

Photo by Justine Newman.