(Photo: NU Huskies)
The first thing you notice about the Clay Witt when he gets out on the ice before a game is the centrally located orange of the Florida “vanity” license plate with his last name, WITT, on the chin guard of his mask. And yes, Witt was indeed born in Florida – Brandon, Florida to be precise. Brandon, for those who are geographically challenged when it comes to those southern states, is just to the east of Tampa in Hillsborough County.
Redshirted last season after playing only one game against Providence, his stellar performance between the pipes this year—he was 5-3-0 with a save percentage of .927 before Saturday’s shut out in the second game of a home-and-home with the Merrimack College Warriors this weekend—had some wondering if perhaps Northeastern Huskies’ Head Coach, Jim Madigan had found his top goalie for the remainder of the season. Madigan’s response during the post-game presser was that he was just going to take things “game to game,” pointing out that all three of his goalies were battlers and that both Witt and Derek Roy had been playing well. Also mentioned was Brian Mountain, who has not seen game action yet this season, but who Madigan stated was working hard in practice.
Witt faced 38 shots in the game on Saturday night at Matthews Arena, and stopped every one of them, some with more finesse than others. At one point just 8:53 into the first period, after allowing a big rebound from a shot by the Warriors’ Rhett Bly, Witt made an impressive soccer goalie type dive to his left to block the shot thrown back on net by Merrimack’s junior left wing, Kyle Singleton.
When asked about his acrobatic save on Singleton, in typical hockey humbleness, Witt responded with a grin, “It hit me right in the head. It hit me right in the face.” He shrugged and chuckled, continuing, “I would have liked for it to be a nice glove save, but it hit me in the face.”
“It hit me in the face.” — Clay Witt
Regardless of how he stopped it, he managed to keep the Warriors from notching a goal there and then about a minute and a half later, the Huskies’ Torin Snydeman put Northeastern on the board with the first goal of the game, assisted by Zach Aston-Reese (who was originally credited with the goal) and Colton Saucerman.
Despite the lack of goal scoring for the remainder of the game, the pace overall was quick and Northeastern had a couple of excellent power play opportunities in which they spent quality time in the offensive zone. Though in actuality the Huskies spent a lot more time on the penalty kill again on Saturday—at one point calling on Witt and the penalty killing lines to kill a full two-minute five-on-three. With seven penalties called on the Huskies, Coach Madigan stated that the team would be addressing this loss of control, and unacceptable response by his team on Monday at practice. He called the upperclassmen especially who should have known better
Perhaps the most surprising omission of the first period was the lack of play by Northeastern sophomore and Lac-Beauport, Québec native, Kevin Roy—NU’s top scorer going into the game. The Twitterverse noticed his lack of shifts and speculation ran high as to why he was dressed, sitting on the bench and listed on the top line, when he wasn’t taking any shifts. When asked later about this, Coach Madigan said that Roy’s benching for the first period was a “coach’s decision.” Sounds like perhaps Roy may have been in Madigan’s doghouse for something though originally there was concern that perhaps Roy was struggling with some undisclosed injury.
In the end, the Huskies prevailed, sweeping the weekend and claiming four points against a Hockey East school—points that the team was in serious need of, given their lack of production against the other Hockey East schools it had faced so far this season in the important division games.
Not surprising, Witt received the first star of the game with his teammates Aston-Reese being honored with the second star and center and freshman, Hedges receiving the third star. And while Hedges may not have received any assists on the goals on Saturday, his proficiency in the faceoff dot was off the charts good, as he won 14 of the 15 faceoffs he took.
The currently hungry players on the Northeastern men’s hockey team are beginning to believe in their abilities. As the confidence grows so too will their on-ice abilities.
As with other wins in other levels of the professional, amateur and collegiate levels o hockey—the team can revel in their win for perhaps a few hours, but on Monday they will be back, bard at work during practice so they are prepared for the tournament games they will participate in during the Thanksgiving holiday against Western Michigan and Notre Dame/Alabama-Huntsville to take place on Friday and Saturday of the upcoming week.