It seemed like it was just one of those games where everything went right for Northeastern.
On a day where they honored their seniors, the Huskies ended the regular season in style, getting goals from seven different players in a 7-1 rout of Maine. Northeastern finished the regular season unbeaten in 16 of its final 17 games.
“Happy to close out obviously the season,” said Northeastern coach Jim Madigan. “This ends out one chapter of the year, the regular season. We try to build off momentum and good habits and details, and from where we started to where we ended, obviously our kids have shown a lot of character [in] reclaiming the season back.”
It won’t be long before these two teams meet again, with Maine (8-21-6, 5-14-2) traveling right back up to Matthews Arena next weekend for the first round of the Hockey East playoffs.
As impressive as the goal-scoring was for the Huskies, they also got solid goaltending from freshman Ryan Ruck, who ended the night making 22 saves on the 23 shots he faced.
Chippy play was also a key, with the teams combining for 56 penalty minutes, including a game-misconduct to Maine’s Nolan Vesey and five-minute majors to Cedric Lacroix and Mark Hamilton.
After play started off a bit slow, Northeastern heated up in the middle of the first period, scoring three goals in just over six minutes, setting the tone for the rest of the game.
On the power play due to an Andrew Tegeler tripping minor, forward John Stevens passed it to Adam Gaudette on the goal line, who proceeded to wrap it around the leg of Maine goalie Matt Morris.
Just over three minutes later Nolan Stevens netted his team-leading 16th goal of the year to extend the lead to two. Cutting from left-to-right, Stevens crashed in front of the net, redirecting a Zach Aston-Reese shot past Morris.
Northeastern continued to control the tempo, spending a majority of the play in the attacking zone, and at the 13:35 mark of the period slipped a third past Morris courtesy of senior captain Kevin Roy. Trying to make his way through a barrage of Black Bears in front of the net, Roy sped ahead of the pack, regained the loose puck, and tucked it home.
Maine would not go down without a fight though in the opening frame, getting a goal back on a power play just over a minute later to cut Northeastern’s lead to two. Sensing an opening in the middle of the slot, Vesey danced his way into open ice, controlled an Eric Schurhamer pass on his stick, and beat Ruck over his shoulder.
The second period was where the undisciplined play really started to pick up, with Northeastern whistled for five penalties and Maine taking four of their own. Most notably was at the 18:18 mark when Roy and Maine captain Steven Swavely got in a pushing match behind the Maine net while play was all the way on the other side of the ice.
After punches were thrown by the two players, both teams came skating down ice where chaos ensued, resulting in four penalties, including Vesey’s 10-minute major for misconduct.
Earlier in the frame, Northeastern got two goals less than three minutes apart by two of the seniors honored, defenseman Colton Saucerman and assistant captain Mike McMurtry.
After McMurtry and sophomore Dylan Sikura were tossing the puck back-and-forth, Saucerman parked up at the left face-off dot and fired a missile past Morris to up Northeastern’s lead to 4-1.
McMurtry continued to stay active, cleaning up a rebound in front of the cage, all but putting the game away.
The tension rolled over into the third period, with eight more penalties being whistled, and another full-on tussle between the two teams taking place.
“I thought our guys tried to remain disciplined and did as good a job as they could,” said Madigan. “Emotions got caught up there.”
With just over six minutes to go in the final frame, Aston-Reese scored on a power play to put the Huskies up 6-1, and Tanner Pond added insult to injury getting one of his own.
“Now it closes off this chapter and now it’s all about the playoffs,” said Madigan. “You work 34 games to do all the right things and now we know in this playoffs it’s sudden death.”