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Aston-Reese's Two Quick Strikes Help Northeastern Sweep Past Notre Dame

Mike Szmatula had a goal and an assist in Northeastern's 4-2 win over Notre Dame Saturday night.
Mike Szmatula had a goal and an assist in Northeastern's 4-2 win over Notre Dame Saturday night.
Matt Dewkett

BOSTON, MASS. -- In a hockey game that was of many scoring chance for long stretches of the hockey game, it was 10 seconds early in the third period that was the difference. Zach Aston-Reese scored twice in that span to break a 1-1 tie after two periods and help pave the way for a 4-2 Northeastern victory over visiting Notre Dame on Saturday night at Matthews Arena.

"Anytime you get four points against a very good Notre Dame team, you're obviously doing something right. I thought our guys played hard today in the third period. I thought we had the energy or sense of urgency in the first two periods," said Northeastern coach Jim Madigan.

The Huskies and Irish traded power play goals in the opening period. Thomas DiPauli gave Notre Dame a 1-0 lead at the 10:03 mark when he pick-pocketed a Northeastern defender and chipped the puck over the shoulder of Clay Witt. The sequence began with a pretty cross-ice feed from Vince Hinostroza to Austin Wuthrich.

The Irish did a nice job killing NU's first two power plays of the period, but the third time was the charm for the Huskies. Notre Dame overplayed the puck along the right boards which allowed for Northeastern to collapse the box towards the net. Dalen Hedges was left open in the slot for a snipe past the outstretched glove of Notre Dame goaltender Cal Petersen. Mike McMurtry and Matt Benning were credited with the assists.

Aston-Reese picked up his first of two goals when the Huskies turned a misguided Notre Dame transitional play the other way. Garrett Cockerill sent a home run pass off the left boards that Aston-Reese was able to catch up to before taking a few strides into the offensive zone and firing the puck past Petersen.

Mike Szmatula won the ensuing face-off back to Matt Benning. The defenseman fed the puck back to Szmatula who raced into the zone and fired a backhand low on net. Aston-Reese banged home the rebound as the tide quickly shifted in the Huskies' favor.

"In the third they took over the game. [Szmatula's] line took over the game," deadpanned Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson following the game.

Madigan credited a renewed energy and grasping for an opportunity to jump Notre Dame in the standings. "I think there was some conversation in the locker room in between periods. They realized we had a great opportunity in front of us. There's a team a point ahead of us and we could jump them in the standings. It was the opportunity for a four-point weekend. Let's throw everything we had at them and go from there," Madigan explained.

Anders Bjork gave the Irish some life when he struck gold on the power play with 4:41 to play in the game, but Szmatula dashed any hope of a Notre Dame comeback bid almost two minutes later with a impossible angle goal that squeaked between the post and Petersen's shoulder.

Clay Witt stopped 21 shots for the win in his first start after backing up Derick Roy the past three games. The Huskies are off next weekend and will next take the ice against Boston College in the opening round of the Beanpot on Feb. 2.

"We'll take a few days off and then get ready for that tournament at the Boston Garden a week from Monday," said Madigan.

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Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxSports.