BOSTON -- It hasn't been the strongest of starts for Northeastern, as evidenced at first glancing at a 2-9-1 record.
But the building blocks are being set.
The Huskies posted their third win in four games on Saturday night at Matthews Arena, coming through in the clutch to score a 3-2 victory over third-ranked Minnesota. Head coach Jim Madigan's team begun 0-8-1 but has rattled off wins on each of the last three Saturday nights at home.
"We're obviously pleased and excited with the win and the way our guys battled all game," Madigan said. "Any time you can beat a University of Minnesota hockey club, you're doing some things right.
"I thought our preparation all week long was really good," he continued. "I thought going into the game, mentally, physically and emotionally, we were at good levels and have been for the past couple weekends."
Junior Kevin Roy scored with 2:36 remaining in regulation time to lift the Huskies to their 500th all-time in the Arena and first home win over a top-five opponent since downing No. 1 Boston College on Oct. 13, 2012.
"We know we're a good team and can play any nights against any team in the country," Roy said. "Tonight, we proved that so we have a lot of confidence moving forward."
Minnesota junior defenseman Mike Reilly's night ended just 2:39 into the first period as he was called for a hitting from behind penalty in his defensive zone.
The Gophers killed off the major with relative ease, gaining some momentum before opening the scoring at 10:17. On another power play, senior Ben Marshall fed sophomore center Justin Kloos for a heavy shot from the left circle that beat NU's Clay Witt for his seventh goal of the season.
Northeastern responded at 18:23 as it sustained some solid pressure in the offensive zone, allowing junior Dustin Darou to cash in on the rebound for his first collegiate goal.
Sophomore Ryan Rosenthal set up the play with a pass from behind the net and freshman Nolan Stevens provided a screen in front of Minnesota senior goaltender Adam Wilcox, giving Darou a great look at jamming the second opportunity home.
The early proceedings in the game gave the visitors some momentum just a night after winning the special teams battle with four kills at Boston College, but that was to take nothing away from Northeastern's toughness.
"Obviously, it hurt losing Mike Reilly on the second shift of the game; that makes a big difference when you lose an All-American defenseman," Minnesota head coach Don Lucia said, "but (Northeastern) looked like the team that won 19 games last year and not the one that's struggled at the start."
Boston University sophomore transfer Brendan Collier got onto the scoresheet for the first time as a Husky at the 6:32 mark of the second period, giving NU a 2-1 lead. The Charlestown, Mass. native's stick snapped as he took the shot from an odd angle in the right circle but the puck bounced its way by Wilcox.
The speed and skill of Minnesota senior Kyle Rau leveled the score for Minnesota 10:12 into the second as he laid a beautiful tip on redshirt sophomore Connor Reilly's point shot just to the left side of Witt's crease.
Rau's tip led to his fourth goal of the season and Minnesota's second in three power-play chances in the contest, but its inability to cash in at even strength set the Gophers back for the third time in four games.
"We've had success pretty much all year, except for the past few weeks so it feels good to get back on the right side of the scoring sheet on the power play," Rau said, "(but) we lost the game 3-0 five-on-five; it's something we've got to work on."
The teams played a more even third period in terms of shots on goal as the Huskies' edge was just 14-12 (as part of a 40-27 mark in the game), but it was the home team that had the last laugh in downing the Gophers for the fourth time in as many all-time games in the building.
Off a feed from sophomore Dalen Hedges, Roy took a shot from the middle of the low slot that eluded Wilcox to his blocker side for his second goal in three games but just his third of the season. Hedges' work along the walls allowed Roy to find open space, giving him a solid look at the net.
After gaining an extra day of rest without a Friday night game, the Huskies will have a short week as they host No. 20 Providence (which shutout Boston College 1-0) on Wednesday night in their final home game before the December break.
"We're excited that (beating Minnesota is) another building block for us," Madigan said. "There were no league points at stake here, but the value is the win and continuing to build momentum and the foundation that we want."