By Gordon Weigers, news staff
In their 2016-17 season debut, the No. 15 Northeastern men’s hockey team earned a 2-2 tie at No. 2 Quinnipiac on Friday but fell to the same team 5-2 the following night.
It was not an ideal start of the season for the Huskies, but they have shown that a slow start does not always indicate an unsuccessful season. After starting last year at 1-11-2, they revved their engines in the second half of the season on their way to the Hockey East Championship.
The Huskies, who fired a collective 64 shots on goal over the weekend, faced a tenacious Quinnipiac defense that focused on blocking as many shots as they could. The Bobcats blocked 20 shots on Friday night and 24 shots on Saturday night, led by senior defenseman Tim Clifton, who blocked five shots during the series.
On Friday, freshman forward Grant Jozefek recorded his first collegiate point when he assisted on sophomore Lincoln Griffin’s second period goal that gave the Huskies their first score of the year. Junior forward Dylan Sikura notched the secondary assist on the goal, his first of three helpers on the weekend.
With the game tied at 1-1, Bobcat defenseman Derek Smith ripped a hard shot on Northeastern sophomore goalie Ryan Ruck from the blueline. Ruck steered the shot aside, but the rebound bounced right to senior forward Tommy Schutt who sent it back on goal. His shot caught Ruck’s pad but fell on the stick of junior forward Bo Pieper, who steered it into the cage.
Trailing 2-1 in the game’s final minute, Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan pulled Ruck for an extra skater. A Quinnipiac clearing attempt was knocked down by Sikura, who found room in the high slot for a quick wrist shot. The puck found the stick of junior forward Nolan Stevens and ricocheted into the top corner, knotting the score at its eventual final of 2-2.
“We were expecting a heavy game, and I liked the way our kids came out and competed and battled and played heavy,” Madigan said.
It was a different story for the Huskies on Saturday night in the team’s 5-2 loss at the hands of the Bobcats. With first period goals from junior forward Landon Smith and freshman forward Karlis Cukste, Quinnipiac controlled the tempo of the game after the first period, despite being outshot by the Huskies 11-7. The Bobcats added to their lead in the second thanks to a strike from Clifton on a mad scramble in front of Ruck.
Northeastern was held off the scoreboard until the 16:07 mark of the second period, when freshman defenseman Ryan Shea ripped a shot on goal, creating a rebound that sophomore forward Adam Gaudette lifted into the roof of the net. It was Shea’s first point as a Husky and the first point registered by a Northeastern defenseman of the 2016-17 campaign.
“We got ourselves out of rhythm and lost momentum in spurts in the second and third period,” Madigan said. “We showed some things, but again, their goalie played well.”
Northeastern now looks ahead to a weekend series with the Bentley Falcons, a team that gave the Huskies trouble last season. In two games with Bentley last year, NU fell 3-2 at home and 4-1 on the road to a Falcons team that ended up finishing the season with a 14-20-6 record. This year’s set will open at Bentley on Friday night at 7:05 p.m. and will wrap up in front of the Matthews Arena faithful on Saturday night at 7 p.m.
Gordo’s goal of the week
Northeastern’s very first goal of the 2016-17 season was one worth taking a closer look at. On a power play chance, sophomore Eric Williams skated through the neutral zone with the puck before leaving a drop pass to Sikura who picked it up with blazing speed. He weaved his way into the QU zone amidst three Bobcats, looking for a passing option. He found Jozefek on the left side who had his head up and was ready to make a play as soon as he got the puck. Jozefek sent a crisp, tape-to-tape pass across the ice to Griffin, who slammed the puck home into the wide-open right side of the net.
Photo courtesy Jim Pierce, Northeastern Athletics