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Northeastern scored three times on the power play Saturday night in North Andover and completed their weekend sweep of Merrimack, 4-2. For the struggling Huskies, the defending Hockey East champs who entered the weekend tied for ninth in Hockey East with Merrimack, it was their first sweep of any team since late October against nonconference foe Arizona State.
“Four-point weekends are hard to come by,” said Northeastern coach Jim Madigan, who praised his team for playing “one of their best games all season long. Lawler Arena is a tough building for any visiting team to play in.”
For the first part of the game, Merrimack was effective using its brawn to negate Northeastern’s superior skills. The score was tied at one after the first period, with Adam Gaudette scoring his 13th goal for Northeastern, with an assist from Dylan Sikura, and Johnathan Kovacevic with his second for Merrimack. Both were power-play goals, and Gaudette’s was a a five-on-three advantage.
Northeastern started the second period killing almost consecutive penalties. The first was from a inopportune slashing penalty on Garret Cockerill for slashing after the final whistle blew, and Trevor Owens’ slashing penalty came just 19 seconds after Cockerill’s penalty ran out. Jace Hennig scored five seconds into that penalty, stuffing the puck into the right side of the goal after goalie Ryan Ruck had slid across to cover the other side. It appeared that Northeastern was reacting to Merrimack’s physical style, which had given the Warriors high-sticking, charging and cross-checking penalties in the first period.
Very slowly however, Northeastern returned to its most effective style of play, controlling much of the play with their skill set. Freshman Matt Filipe used his speed and size (the third-round NHL draft choice is 6-foot-2 and 197 pounds) to beat defenders and scored his fourth goal, even-handed at 6:55 of that second period.
Northeastern senior Zach Aston-Reese, the leading goal scorer in Hockey East entering the weekend, put in the game-winning goal at 12:36, again on a power play.
Defenseman Eric William sealed the deal for Northeastern at 9:44 of the final period. Again it was a power-play goal and again Dylan Sikura got an assist, keeping him near the top in assists in the league.
Northeastern scored their four goals on three power plays, with deflections and odd bounces going Northeastern’s way, and that was noted after the game by Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy.
“Did you know that 20 of their shots came on power plays (both goalies made 24 saves on the night)?” Dennehy asked. “Three out of four goals came on power plays. All of the goals were deflected off one of our guys. I thought overall our guys played hard and competed well.”
When it was suggested by one observer that his team’s 16 minutes in penalties (Northeastern had 12 minutes) were justified, Dennehy objected and asked, “From what angle were you looking at?”
Jim Madigan has admitted in the past that many teams often forget their own style of play and revert to that of their opponent. Northeastern may have been guilty of that early into the game, he said.
“Emotions were running high early on,” he said. “It’s hard not to get caught up in it. We’ve got players with good skills, all our kids bought into our effort and I really liked our play in the third period.
“And now it is on to Friday and we will see what we can do at UMass.-Lowell”
Hockey East roundup
Providence 3, No. 5 Massachusetts-Lowell 2
Providence edged Mass.-Lowell 3-2 Saturday night at Schneider Arena, completing their weekend home-and-home sweep of the River Hawks. The Friars had one goal in each period, from Ryan Tait, Kasper Björkqvist and Scott Conway, with Conway’s game-winner coming at 10:59 of the third. Tyler Wall stopped 32 shots for Lowell and Hayden Hawkey only had to make 19 for Providence.
No. 14 Notre Dame 3, New Hampshire 0
Notre Dame, ranked 14th in the country, used a 31-save effort from goaltender Cal Peterson to shut out UNH 3-0 Saturday night in South Bend. It was a three-point Hockey East weekend for the Irish, following Friday night’s 2-2 tie. Dylan Malmquist, Andrew Peeke and Jake Evans scored goals for Notre Dame. Andrew Oglevie had two assists for the Irish.
No. 3 Boston University 3, at Maine 1
Boston University completed a weekend sweep of Maine, 3-1 in Orono. Clayton Keller had a first period short-handed goal and assisted on Brandon Hickey’s third-period score. Patrick Harper’s power-play goal at 15:32 of the second period was the game-winner. BU beat Maine Friday night by a 4-1 score, again with a goal and an assist from Keller, recent star of Team USA’s championship in the World Juniors.