By Gordon Weigers, news staff
With their program-best nine-game home winning streak on the line, the Northeastern University (NU) men’s hockey team powered its way to two wins over the Arizona State Sun Devils. The Huskies skated to a 5-2 win on Friday night before a 6-1 blowout victory on Saturday night. On Monday morning, the U.S. College Hockey Organization announced the latest rankings in men’s hockey, placing Northeastern in the No. 16 spot.
Northeastern is now riding an 11-game winning streak at Matthews Arena, dating back to their 4-2 win over New Hampshire on Jan. 15. Going back even further, NU is unbeaten in its last 13 home games, boasting a 12-0-1 record in that stretch. The Huskies have outscored opponents 58-25 in the unbeaten streak.
Senior forward Zach Aston-Reese compiled one goal and three assists over the weekend, putting him in a tie for fourth in the country in scoring, with 10 total points. Sophomore forward Adam Gaudette and junior forward Dylan Sikura sit tied for ninth in the NCAA in points, with nine points each. Gaudette has been a force for the Huskies so far this season, leading the country in shots on goal with 40. Aston-Reese is right behind Gaudette with 34 shots, giving Northeastern one of the most productive attacks in the nation.
As impressive as those statistics are, head coach Jim Madigan said he cares more about the team’s success.
“Any time you can sweep a weekend, you’re happy – and certainly we are with the results,” Madigan said.
Friday night saw the Huskies pounce on the Sun Devils right out of the gate. NU put four goals on the board in the first period, a feat last accomplished on Feb. 19 when it notched four in a period against Connecticut.
Sophomore forward Lincoln Griffin chipped home the rebound of a shot by Gaudette, sneaking it under the glove of freshman goalie Joey Daccord. Just before the halfway mark of the period, Aston-Reese feathered a pass to freshman forward Matt Filipe, who rifled a one-timer by Daccord for the 2-0 lead.
Gaudette would add to the advantage later in the first, beating the goalie on a high wrist shot from virtually no angle. Sikura added a power play goal before the horn sounded on the period, giving the Huskies the 4-0 edge.
ASU forward Robbie Baillargeon, a transfer from Boston University, used to beat the Huskies as a Terrier. He had three goals and one assist in his career against NU, and added to that total in the second period when he jammed home a rebound past sophomore goalie Ryan Ruck.
Later in the frame, with ASU on the power play, Aston-Reese picked the pocket of a Sun Devil defenseman, creating a breakaway from the blueline in. A quick stick handle and a flick of the wrist sent the puck off the post and in for Aston-Reese’s fourth goal of the season. Baillargeon would score again before the end of the second period, making it a 5-2 NU lead. The Huskies locked it down in the third period and took home their second victory of the young season.
The NU offense kept rolling on Saturday night in the 6-1 victory. Baillargeon couldn’t play what is likely his last game at Matthews Arena without scoring another goal – his third of the weekend. His bar-down snipe gave ASU the early lead, and Gaudette decided that it was time for the Huskies to step up.
“We knew we needed the next goal, and we knew that it was huge to get the next one,” he said.
Gaudette scored a goal only four minutes after the Baillargeon goal to knot the score at 1-1. His tally was NU’s third power play goal of the series and gave him goals in three straight games.
Junior forward Nolan Stevens put the Huskies in front for good with his third goal of the season, with assists from Aston-Reese and freshman defenseman Jeremy Davies. It was the first collegiate point for Davies, who continues to develop his offensive play each game.
A minute after the Stevens goal, junior defenseman Garret Cockerill buried the third goal of the period, snapping a shot inside the post. In the second period, Filipe dangled his way to the net and slipped a shot on net that was stopped by the right pad of senior goalie Robert Levin. Sophomore defenseman Eric Williams followed up the play and shoveled home the rebound for the 4-1 lead.
In the third period, Griffin netted his second goal of the weekend, deflecting a Cockerill wrist shot into the cage. Davies scored his first goal as a Husky on the power play in the final six minutes of the game, sending a blast through traffic and by Levin. NU picked up the 6-1 win, its largest margin of victory in a game so far this year.
After losing 44-of-66 faceoffs on Friday night, Northeastern turned the table in the dot, winning 38-of-75 draws on Saturday. Gaudette, who won only 7-of-21 faceoffs on Friday, knew that improving on draws was crucial for the team’s success. He picked it up on Saturday, winning 13-of-23 faceoffs.
“Personally, I wanted to be more aggressive in there, get my body in there more,” he said. “I think my linemates helped me out too.”
The Huskies now set their sights on a hungry Vermont team. The Catamounts come to Matthews Arena for a Sunday afternoon matinee at 3 p.m. to open the Hockey East season for Northeastern.
“It gets a little ratcheted up because it’s league games and conference games,” Madigan said. “We have a lot still to work at and to work on to continue getting better.”
Gordo’s goal of the week
The second of Gaudette’s two goals against ASU was one worth taking a second look at. After the Sun Devils cleared the puck, Ruck settled it down behind the net for Cockerill. Looking to gain center ice, Cockerill skated ahead with help on either side of him. He dropped a pass back to a zooming Gaudette who carried it in over the blueline. A head-fake followed by a toe-drag gave the sophomore phenom all the room he needed to get a clean shot off. His rip burned by Levin and went bar-down for the game-tying snipe.
Photo courtesy Jim Pierce, Northeastern Athletics