By Gordon Weigers, news staff
Over the last two weeks, the Northeastern men’s hockey team landed two crucial wins over tough opponents, but also lost two one-goal games. On Nov. 18, the Huskies earned a 5-4 win over the No. 19 Providence Friars before falling to the Friars on Nov. 19 with the score flipped. The Huskies did their Black Friday shopping in the third period on Nov. 25 against the No. 11 Minnesota Golden Gophers, scoring four goals in the final frame to win 6-4. In their return to Hockey East play on Tuesday, the Huskies were beaten 2-1 by the No. 4 Boston College (BC) Eagles.
The offensive charge was led by NU’s three premier forwards: junior Dylan Sikura, senior Zach Aston-Reese and sophomore Adam Gaudette. Over the four games, Sikura picked up a whopping 10 points, Aston-Reese posted nine points, and Gaudette finished with seven points.
Sikura, who notched his first career hat trick against Minnesota, was named the Warrior Hockey Player of the Week for the week of Nov. 21-28. Six points in the two games against Providence earned Aston-Reese the same honors for the week of Nov. 13-20.
With his second period goal in the first game with Providence, Aston-Reese reached the 100-point plateau, becoming the first Husky to hit the century mark since Kevin Roy in 2015.
“This league’s a tough league to score goals and score points,” head coach Jim Madigan said. “It’s a testament to him of what he’s accomplished in just over three years.”
A total of 150 points, Madigan joked, would sound even better for his star forward. Aston-Reese has collected 23 points already this season and is on pace to challenge his career-high of 43 points that he set a year ago. He and Sikura sit in a tie for third in the nation in scoring.
Northeastern captain John Stevens, who went down with an upper-body injury on Oct. 21 against Arizona State, returned to the lineup for the Providence series. He’s dished out four assists since returning to the lineup, but his biggest contribution to the team comes off the ice.
“John definitely helped out a lot,” Aston-Reese said. “Just him being in the locker room and coming out there for practice, me and him work on things a lot together.”
The Huskies pounced out to a 5-1 lead on Nov. 18 against Providence and looked to have the game locked down. The Friars, however, stuck around and made a game of it, scoring thrice in the third to make it a 5-4 win. Though the Huskies held on, Madigan wasn’t happy with the effort at the end of the game.
“We need to have more urgency to our game, and we didn’t have it,” Madigan said.
The apparent lack of urgency lingered into their game the following night at Schneider Arena. Providence scored two early goals before a shorthanded marker from senior Brendan Collier got NU on the board. After PC took a 3-1 lead, Aston-Reese and Gaudette each found the back of the net to make it a 3-3 game. The Friars scored twice more before the end of the second period, taking a 5-3 lead into the break. A third period goal from Sikura made it a one-goal game, but NU would fall 5-4.
After a short Thanksgiving breather, the Huskies hosted Minnesota for a one-game rematch of the Gophers’ sweep of NU a year ago. Junior Garret Cockerill wasted no time in giving the Huskies the edge as he scored 35 seconds into the first period. Seniors Justin Kloos and Vinni Lettieri scored for Minnesota before Sikura buried his first goal of the night. A late goal from Kloos brought the whirlwind first period to a close with the Gophers ahead 3-2.
Kloos completed his hat trick early in the second period to give Minnesota the 4-2 lead. When the third period began, NU struck twice in the first four minutes on goals from Sikura and Gaudette. With less than seven minutes to play in the game, Sikura snapped a shot from the top of the right faceoff circle that beat sophomore Eric Schierhorn for the hat trick. An Aston-Reese empty-netter gave the Huskies the 6-4 win. Sikura, the number one star of the game, really impressed his coach with the display of his skills.
“[Sikura] is an accurate shot,” Madigan said. “Those goals weren’t heavy shots, but he gets it off his stick and he’s so smart to be able to thread the needle in through traffic – and that’s what he did… he’s got an unbelievable pair of hands.”
On Tuesday night, Northeastern battled cross-town rival BC in a heated Hockey East affair. The Eagles controlled the pace of the game for the first two periods, but led only 1-0 after 40 minutes. Aston-Reese deflected home a Cockerill wrist shot on the power play less than two minutes into the third period, making it a 1-1 game. With the Huskies on another power play in the game’s final minute, sophomore Michael Kim stole the puck in the neutral zone and ripped a shot over sophomore Ryan Ruck’s shoulder and into the cage.
“This one obviously hurts,” Madigan said. “It stings a little bit, and I shared that with the kids. It stings because we worked hard for the last two periods.”
Northeastern currently sits in ninth in Hockey East, but will have another crack at BC next Tuesday, Dec. 6.
Gordo’s goal of the week
Aston-Reese’s second period goal on Saturday night at Providence was a real beauty. After Stevens gained the blueline, Aston-Reese zoomed into the zone with a full head of steam. He held the puck in a shooting position, leading his defender to think he was going to fire the puck. A quick head-fake and stickhandle gave Aston-Reese some room in the middle of the ice. While off balance, he snapped a low shot that beat Providence goalie Hayden Hawkey five-hole and gave the Huskies a chance to get back into the game.
Photo courtesy Jim Pierce, Northeastern Athletics