By Gordon Weigers, news staff
The Northeastern University (NU) men’s hockey team skated to an undefeated weekend against the Bentley University Falcons, picking up a 1-1 tie on Friday, Oct. 14 before an explosive 7-3 win on Saturday night.
Junior forward and assistant captain Nolan Stevens scored the only goal for the Huskies on Friday night in what proved to be a dormant night for the NU offense. Although they put 35 shots on junior goaltender Jayson Argue, including 17 power play shots, the Huskies were only able to break through once. Freshman defenseman Alexey Solovyev scored the only goal for the Falcons in the 1-1 tie, triggering flashbacks to the two forgettable losses the Huskies suffered at the hands of Bentley a season ago.
Prior to puck drop on Saturday night, senior captain John Stevens and senior forward and assistant captain Zach Aston-Reese helped to unfurl the 2016 Hockey East Championship banner hanging in the rafters. The pregame ceremony featured a video tribute to the historic season that the Huskies had in 2015-16 where they made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1988, a season that junior forward Dylan Sikura now keeps in the back of his mind.
“I think you kind of have to leave last year in the past, but it’s good to recognize the good things we did last year and see that go up finally,” Sikura said.
The forces that be in the hockey world did the Huskies no favors on Friday night, but made up for their cruelty in the first minute of Saturday’s contest. Aston-Reese sent a centering pass from the right boards that clipped a Bentley player’s skate and slid right through the legs of Argue.
Six minutes later, Stevens fired a missile into the top corner on the power play to make it a 2-0 game. The Huskies weren’t done lighting the lamp, and on a brilliant assist from sophomore forward Adam Gaudette, sophomore forward Lincoln Griffin potted NU’s third goal of the period. The Falcons scored late in the first period to send the teams to the intermission at 3-1, a count that head coach Jim Madigan was happy with.
“I thought tonight was obviously a real good start,” Madigan said. “We jumped on them early.”
The second period saw much of the same for NU, as Gaudette scored a power play goal early in the frame. Freshman defenseman Ryan Shea scored his first goal as a Husky later in the period, corralling a pass from Sikura and snapping it into the top of the net. A power play strike for Aston-Reese would give the Huskies the touchdown before a third period tally from freshman forward Matt Filipe put the extra point on the board.
“Certainly, the game ebbed and flowed a little bit,” Madigan said. “We got a little lax and gave up a couple of goals in the second, but then we got back to it with our forecheck, playing more to our identity.”
For the first time since 2005, three different Huskies tallied four points each in Saturday’s romp. Sikura racked up four assists, Aston-Reese posted two goals and two assists and Gaudette notched a goal and three assists. The trio rounded out the game’s three stars, and the four helpers gave Sikura the NCAA lead in assists with eight assists on the year.
The offensive outburst lifted the spirits of the entire team, but perhaps meant the most to Aston-Reese. Last year’s leading scorer had only one goal and one assist entering the second game of the weekend.
“It was definitely relieving,” he said. “I know I was getting a little frustrated, but it was definitely nice to get my confidence going again.”
Northeastern improves to 1-1-2 on the year as they gear up for a weekend series with Arizona State at Matthews Arena. The set kicks off on Friday night at 7 p.m. before a Saturday night showdown to cap off the weekend.
Gordo’s goal of the week:
When you enter Matthews Arena, there are certain dangerous weapons that can not be brought inside for obvious public safety reasons. Among those, I would assume, are rockets. Apparently, John Stevens didn’t get the memo as he unleashed a nuke on the power play on Saturday night to make it 2-0 Huskies. On the man advantage, Stevens slipped a pass to Aston-Reese along the left boards. Aston-Reese worked the puck across the ice to Sikura who tapped a pass right into Stevens’s wheelhouse. He uncorked a slap shot that flew through the traffic in front of the net and zinged the top-right corner.
Photo courtesy Jim Pierce, Northeastern Athletics.