Clay Witt shines as Northeastern shuts out Merrimack

Jeff Cox

Northeastern earned a big four points on the weekend in Hockey East, anchored by Clay Witt's first career shutout on Saturday night.

Boston, Mass. - When Northeastern was winning games through the early part of its season, it was doing so with an explosive offense, and contributions from its talented freshman class.

On Saturday night, the Huskies flipped the script, with the help of its goaltender Clay Witt.

For the first time all season, Northeastern shut out an opponent, and Witt was at the forefront, stopping 38 Merrimack shots without a blemish en route to a 2-0 Huskies win.

"I know Clay, he trains at our facility in the summer, and he's an awesome kid," said Merrimack head coach Mark Deeney. "You feel bad for our guys, but you feel great for Clay because he's a great kid.

"He made some incredible saves today, but tonight was the first night that I really saw us grip the stick a bit too tight."

Witt made a number of above average saves, including two acrobatic plays that looked like sure-fire goals.

On the first, Witt gave up a big rebound after a pad save, only to meet the second shot attempt by diving across his crease and flailing out his body, keeping the game scoreless in the first period.

"It hit me right in the head. It hit me right in the face," said Witt, chuckling. "I would have liked for it to be a nice glove save, but it hit me in the face."

Then in the second, Witt again gave up a big rebound, and then made a sprawling save on his side to keep the puck out.

"You're just kind of going throughout the game, and next thing you know, there's two minutes left and you haven't given up a goal," said Witt.

At other times, Wittt's lateral speed allowed him to cut down on angles, and his rebound control denied Merrimack second-chance opportunities.

"He might have a sternum bruise today," Deeney said. "I thought we hit him in the chest a lot. But a lot of that is because he's in the right position."

Northeastern got all the offense it needed in the first period of the night. A pair of goal's from Torin Snyderman and Zach Aston-Reese gave the Huskies a lead they would not relinquish.

"We got in going in stretches in all three periods, certainly in the second and third periods we didn't get as many shots because we were trying to play smarter," said Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan.

Snyderman found the back of the net first, deflecting a shot of the stick of Colton Saucerman for the eventual game-winner.

Aston-Reese connected later on in the period on the power play, stuffing home a loose puck in front.

"Over the week, we went over stopping in front of the net and having a strong stick there, and just doing it in practice paid off in the game," said Aston-Reese.

Both first period goals came despite the fact that Northeastern was without its top forward, Kevin Roy, who, while remaining on the bench, did not take a single shift. Madigan called it a coach's decision afterward on holding him out. Roy took his normal shift on the Huskies top line in the second and third periods.

The win gave Northeastern a weekend sweep of Merrimack, who the Huskies also defeated on the road Friday night 5-2. After sweeping its first two weekend series of the season, Northeastern picked up its first sweep since.

"I liked the fact that we got four points this weekend," said Madigan. "We needed four points to get us back in the hunt. We called it moving day.

"Most of you are familiar with moving day in the golf world, and it was an opportunity for us to move up four points in the weekend."

When the final buzzer rang, the night really belonged to Witt, who earned his first career shutout.

"It was great for him to get rewarded with a shutout. He earned it, deserved it, and he's played well this year," said Madigan.

"I thought he had a great weekend. Today, he made some key saves at key points in the game for us."

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