BOSTON -- Saturday night was one of celebration all around for Northeastern.
First, a flashback to a historic season gone by, as the Huskies commemorated their second Hockey East championship in program history by raising a banner to the rafters at Matthews Arena.
Then, a strong home debut for the No. 14/16 Huskies who got contributions from six different goal scorers ― including career-high, four-point efforts from senior assistant captain Zach Aston-Reese, sophomore Adam Gaudette and junior Dylan Sikura ― in a 7-3 win over visiting Bentley.
For Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan, the contest was a fitting tribute to last year’s team. It was one that didn’t have the most talent, but worked hard and got the job done in overcoming one of the slowest starts in college hockey.
“It was great to see the banner go up,” said Madigan, whose team went 1-11-2 in its first 14 games last season. “I thought teamwork was important for tonight’s success, and I said I thought it was appropriate given that we’re raising a banner and last year was the epitome of a season of teamwork.”
The Huskies clearly had pep in their step on the ceremonial night, scoring just 47 seconds into the first period as Aston-Reese’s centering try deflected off Bentley defenseman Connor Brassard and between the legs of junior goaltender Jayson Argue.
Senior captain John Stevens doubled the NU lead with a rip from the high slot at 6:52, while Thayer Academy products connected less than six minutes later as Adam Gaudette sent a perfect centering pass to sophomore classmate Lincoln Griffin at the top of Argue’s crease in the 13th minute for the Huskies’ third goal.
“We’ve not really been getting out of the blocks quick enough for us in the last three games, but tonight was obviously a good start,” Madigan said. “We jumped on them early, kind of got a little bit of a good break on a bounce from Aston-Reese, but we did all the right things on the forecheck and it resulted in a goal, and then we got a couple of quick ones after that.”
Alexey Solovyev cut NU’s lead to two goals with just 3:03 left in the period, a night after scoring Bentley’s lone goal in a series-opening, 1-1 tie. The sophomore from Moscow took classmate Tanner Jago’s one-time pass at the top of the right circle.
Solovyev, who scored just once in 30 games from the blue line last season, is now the lone Falcon with more than a single goal through three games.
“He came into this season ready,” Bentley head coach Ryan Soderquist said. “He was at Dallas’ Development Camp this summer and gained a lot of confidence. … He’s got three (goals) now, and he’s playing with a lot of confidence too. We’re really excited about it.”
NU picked its offensive pace back up in the second period, scoring once again in the first minute of play and twice more before the six-minute mark. First, Gaudette gave the Huskies another three-goal lead just 38 seconds into the frame, taking a feed from Aston-Reese for their second power-play strike of the game.
Defenseman Ryan Shea was the first Husky freshman to crack the scoreboard this season as he caught up with the play and found Sikura’s pass on his stick as he entered the zone at 5:11.
Sikura became the first NU player to record a four-assist game in more than two full seasons ― since Kevin Roy on Feb. 22, 2014 ― at the 6:58 mark of the second. Aston-Reese was Sikura’s next beneficiary as he fired a low shot through Argue’s five-hole from the right dot.
“We had a lot of chances (last weekend) at Quinnipiac and we definitely didn’t capitalize,” Sikura said. “We had a couple last night, but tonight I thought we played really well and the shots that weren’t going in were going in tonight, so it’s nice for us to finally click.”
Bentley’s Jake Kauppila and Tyler Deresky each scored their first goal of the season before the end of the second period, cutting the score to 6-3. Kauppila’s marker was a wrister over Ruck’s glove that ended a transition sequence at 10:03, while Deresky took Andrew McDonald’s feed in the left circle for a shorthanded goal with 1:52 to play in the frame.
Malden Catholic alum Matt Filipe rounded out the scoring 9:13 into the third period as he crashed the net and buried a rebound that Gaudette’s initial try created for his first collegiate goal.
Argue made 18 saves before being pulled after NU’s sixth goal. Freshman Aidan Pelino finished the game out for his first collegiate action in the Bentley net, allowing only Filipe’s goal on 14 shots.
“(Argue) is a goalie who has stymied us the last few times we’ve played them, so it was nice to get a few by him tonight,” said Madigan, whose team had not topped the Falcons since 2009. “It was a good start getting your first win for our team, and then on top of it getting some good contributions. It’s always nice to get your scorers to score, but it was good to have a couple younger guys get their first goals.”