BOSTON -- Quality beats quantity in most instances, but Northeastern proved the old adage wrong on Saturday night at Matthews Arena.
The Huskies outshot visiting Colgate by a 43-17 count, but a highlight reel goal by sophomore Nolan Stevens ended up as the narrowest of differences in NU's 2-1 win over the No. 20 Raiders.
It took the Huskies until Nov. 15 to crack the win column last season, so the win was an even more important result for head coach Jim Madigan’s club, especially playing against a team that was already two games deep into its season.
"It’s great to start off the season with a real great win like that," Madigan said. "I liked the way we played for the first game of the year. Certainly, there were areas we’re going to have to get a lot better, but I thought we pressured the puck. Defensively, we held them to under 20 shots and that’s a real good hockey club."
Off a lone assist from senior defenseman Colton Saucerman, Stevens passed one Colgate defender and broke through two more, directing a sliding puck through the legs of Raider junior goaltender Charlie Finn for the game-winner 11:48 into the third period.
Stevens’ tally is an early leader in the clubhouse for best goal in the country and sparked an enthusiastic crowd of more than 2,700 fans.
In NU’s first 40-plus shot effort since Feb. 27 at Boston University, it took, oddly enough, a sensational play to make the difference.
"It was kind of a broken play in our zone and we regrouped," Stevens said. "There was a lot of ice in front of us. I got some speed and I had a lot of room, so Sauce passed it to me. … I ended up getting by one guy, reacted to the next guy and luckily got by him and poked it in."
Finn stood tall in the early going, making 12 of his 41 total saves in the opening period. Finn’s presence is nothing new to the Huskies as he pitched a pair of shutouts when the teams met last season in Hamilton, N.Y.
NU took six of its attempts in the first three minutes of the game as it drew an early power play. Sophomore Dylan Sikura had one of the Huskies’ best attempts by taking a puck away at the side of goal, but Finn steered it aside and kept the game scoreless.
"I think they had a lot more energy than we did for a lot of the game," Colgate head coach Don Vaughan said. "I thought the shots were indicative of that. It’s tough on the road, and our goalie gave us a chance to win the game. We hung around … but it’s never easy."
Freshman Eric Williams scored a goal from the point in the Huskies’ exhibition rout over Simon Fraser last Sunday and contributed to their first goal of the regular season from the same spot just after the game reached its halfway mark.
Williams took a shot from between the blue line and faceoff circle on Finn’s left side, but junior assistant captain John Stevens tipped the puck on its way past for the score at 12:09.
The Huskies had taken 14 of 15 shots on goal in the period to that point, but Colgate got the equalizer on one of its next chances with senior brothers Tylor and Tyson Spink connecting at 14:21.
The Raiders’ top unit put together a strong passing exchange with Tylor feeding Tyson between the circles after a spin move in the right dot. The latter brother uncorked a shot from the middle of the slot which Roy was unable to track through traffic.
"They’ve got some real good offensive catalysts who can score goals and who are threats we had to be careful of," Madigan said. "We’re going to be in a lot of one-goal and tie games and we’ll have to find a way to win. It’s a credit to the kids, the way they stayed with it and found a way to win."
The younger Stevens took his turn on the offensive and tipped the scale NU’s way at 11:48 of the third period. Two of his now four career goals turned out to be eventual game-winners.
Colgate was just unable to solve Roy as he made eight stops in the third period, including an early breakaway stop on freshman Hunter Racine. Senior defenseman Kevin Lough hit the post with a couple minutes to go, but the puck bounced wide and ended the visitors’ hopes of a late tying goal.
"I thought Derick, in the first two periods wasn’t tested as much," Madigan said, "but in the third period, he was a lot more. If you look beyond the shots, he had some real quality saves … (and) he stood the test."