The last time the Northeastern University Men’s Hockey team unfurled a banner as Hockey East Champions was 1988. But on Saturday night, October 15, captain John Stevens and assistant captain Zach Aston-Reese were called to pull the ropes and unroll the banner hanging from the rafter with the 2016 year added. Yes, it had been 28 years—longer than any of those players responsible for the feat have been alive. The smiles on the faces of the two players were matched by many of their teammates as the arena erupted with cheering. It was an obviously emotional moment to launch the Huskies opening home game.
Once the festivities were completed it was time for the players to turn their attention to the game against the Bentley Falcons in the backend of a home-and-home. Friday night the teams would have to settle for a tie in the non-division games, but it was obvious from the initial puck drop that the Huskies intended Saturday’s game have a different and more positive final outcome.
Just 47 seconds into the game, the Huskies were on the scoreboard with the first of what would be seven goals on the night for those in red and black. It seemed poetic that it was an unassisted goal by Aston-Reese—the first of his two, and he would add two assists for a four-point game. Six minutes later John Stevens would notch his first of the season.
It was clear that this team was determined to come out strong. It’s possible that they were riding the high of the banner raising—at least in the energy department—but their demeanor on the ice was one of confidence and concentration. They were winning faceoffs, making smart moves and completing solid tape-to-tape passes. This was the level of play that saw the Huskies earn that championship this past spring—not the team that had taken to the ice at the beginning of last season.
There were still some mistakes, especially as the Huskies got up 6-1 in the second period. Perhaps it was the idea of how disparate the score was or it may have been a dip in their adrenaline from the emotional beginning, but as the middle frame entered its second ten minutes, that disciplined and focused play seemed to break down just a bit allowing the Falcons the opportunity to get two more goals, including a short-hander with just under two minutes remaining in the second period.
One of the other areas that head coach Jim Madigan mentioned specifically that needs some tightening was their 5-on-3 power plays—none of which they were able to convert, despite the number of two-man advantages they saw throughout the game.
In the end, the Huskies would defeat the Falcons 7-3, with a number of players having multi-point games or notching their first collegiate goals: Aston-Reese (2 goals, 2 assists); Adam Gaudette (1 goal, 3 assists), Dylan Sikura (4 assists); Ryan Shea (1st collegiate goal); and Matt Filipe (1st collegiate goal).
The Huskies will return to Matthews Arena Friday, October 21 and Saturday October 22, when they will play host to the Arizona State University Sun Devils.