The opening period of this first of the back-to-back games at Matthews Arena looked like it was going to be Huskies all the way, as first Zach Aston-Reese scored at 6:17, with assists from Nolan and John Stevens. Northeastern’s second came about three and a half minutes later from defenseman Eric Williams, with Aston-Reese and Nolan Stevens on the assists. Perhaps the Huskies felt they had some breathing room and could dial back their intensity, but about five minutes later Andrew Tegeler got his third of the season from Blaine Byron with the other assist going to Cam Brown. Just after the Black Bears killed a tripping penalty on Mark Hamilton, they turned and drove into Northeastern’s end and Will Merchant potted the tying goal with just 32 seconds remaining on the clock. Definitely not the way coaches like to see a game going.
As the second period got under way, it looked like the Huskies were struggling a bit with their confidence. Seven minutes were gone on the clock before they were able to register their first shot on goal for the middle frame. The Black Bears were caught with too many men on the ice at 6:46 putting Northeastern on the man advantage, but their passes weren’t as crisp as they had been in the first period, though it appeared that this was what they needed to kick back into high gear, getting a couple shots on net during that two minutes. At 12:56 Williams, who sat in the slot, took a nice feed from Nolan Stevens and got his second of the game, putting the Huskies back up by a goal. Just 58 seconds later, Patrick Schule got his second goal of the season from assists by Dylan Sikura and Adam Gaudette allowing the Huskies to regain their two-goal lead once again. The Black Bears had a couple of solid chances to try to cut that lead during a late period power play after Gaudette was whistled for goaltender interference with just 2:37 remaining in the period.
The third period’s start made it clear what had been discussed in the visitor’s dressing room. The Black Bears came out hard, dominating the period in shots. Once again the Huskies saw their two-goal lead cut in half, less than five minutes into the final frame. Cedric Lacroix picked up the rebound, just as Tegeler had done in the first, and tapped it in the open side of the net. With 15:24 remaining in regulation the Black Bears could smell opportunity and they brought their game to a new level.
They had slightly outshot the Huskies in the second, 11-7, but the third period, it is likely that Ryan Ruck felt more like a duck on the first day of hunting season rather than a Husky between the pipes. Ultimately Maine would pepper him with 15 shots, which didn’t include the eight blocked by those in red and white, the one that hit the pipe and the eight that were off target. That’s right, in that 20-minute period, the Black Bears got 32 shots off as opposed to the Huskies who had a total of nine (six on net, two blocked, and one off target). Though not named as a star of the game, Ruck stopped 34 of 37 shots to give his team their best chance to win. Eventually, after blocking a shot that left him limping, but determined to get the puck out of his end, he scored the empty netter from almost 200 feet away–ensuring a 5-3 victory for the Huskies.
Neither coach was happy after the game. For Maine’s “Red” Gendron, he expects much more from his team in the rematch on Saturday night—especially finishing chances. He also expects his defense to take away time and space from the Huskies. Coach Jim Madigan, despite his team getting the two points, wants to see the level of play he knows the Huskies are capable of and have played this season. He talked about the third period being the first time in the year that his team had been controlled by another team.
Saturday’s rematch at Matthews Arena promises to be an interesting game. If both teams make the changes their coaches want, it is likely to be more physical and much lower in scoring.