BOSTON -- The beauty of college hockey is that any team can win on any given night. No game can be taken for granted.
Arizona State sure made things difficult in its first-ever visit to historic Matthews Arena this weekend, but the host Northeastern Huskies did what they had to do on back-to-back nights and completed the sweep with a 6-1 win Saturday night.
Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan liked the way his team responded from an early 1-0 deficit, but credited the Sun Devils for keeping the Huskies on their toes en route to their eventual 11th consecutive home victory.
“I said it to Coach (Greg) Powers when we were walking off, but they’ve got some real good players there,” said Madigan, whose team enters Hockey East play with a 3-1-2 record on the season. “He, in a short period of time, has assembled a group and tried to give them an identity. They play hard, they skate, they’re obviously big and strong, and there’s some skill there.”
The Sun Devils carried momentum from a strong Friday night finish into the first period, controlling pace in the first half of the frame before taking a 1-0 lead for just the second time in six games this season. It was Boston University transfer Robbie Baillargeon who provided first marker on the scoreboard at 7:37.
Former North Dakota skater Wade Murphy picked off a failed clearing attempt in ASU’s offensive zone, feeding Baillargeon alone in the slot for a quick flick of the wrist that he shot high over Ryan Ruck’s blocker for his third goal of the weekend.
“It’s different seeing him in a Sun Devil uniform than a No. 19 BU uniform, but he’s a hell of a player,” Madigan said of Baillargeon, who spent three years of eligibility in Boston before transferring to ASU as a graduate student. “He’ll have a good year with Murphy and the Sun Devils. I respect him a lot as a player.”
Baillargeon has been a thorn in Northeastern’s side for his entire collegiate career. He has now scored six goals and seven points in eight career games against the Huskies.
NU took over control of the game from there though, scoring three times in less than five minutes to take a commanding lead through 20 minutes of play.
“They’re an old, experienced team that just won Hockey East this year,” ASU head coach Greg Powers said. “They just wanted it more tonight. Our guys got outworked tonight, really from the last 50 minutes of the game. The first ten minutes, I thought we came out exactly how we wanted to come out.”
Sophomore Adam Gaudette was the first NU player to crack the scoreboard at the 11:42 mark, taking a feed from defenseman Garret Cockerill just outside the left faceoff circle for his fourth goal of the season.
Although early, it was a key point in the hockey game for the Huskies against a team searching for just its second win of the season.
“We knew we needed the next goal, that it was huge,” Gaudette said. “I think we responded well getting that one and all four lines were going after. After that goal, the four lines the rest of that period really set the tone.”
After leading the Huskies’ defensive corps in scoring last season, Cockerill added to Northeastern’s lead just over a minute after Gaudette at 15:33. Senior Brendan Collier found Cockerill trailing the play and fed him the puck in the high slot for a wrister and his first goal of the season.
Collier finished the game with three assists, while Cockerill and senior Zach Aston-Reese each posted a pair of helpers.
“Even though they had scored, I thought how we stayed to our gameplan, we had some chances and some looks, and we were creating some offensive zone time,” Madigan said of his team’s effort in the first period over which NU still managed a 15-7 shot advantage. “I just thought if we just chipped away we’d get on the scoresheet, and we did.”
Eric Williams scored NU’s second straight goal from a defenseman 16:16 into the second period, collecting a loose rebound at the front of the net left after freshman Matt Filipe’s initial try on ASU senior goaltender Robert Levin.
Levin held the Huskies to just one goal in the middle frame, despite facing twice as many shots as Ruck. The former member of the South Shore Kings junior program made double-digit stops in all three periods, including 17 in the second.
“I thought he battled and battled hard,” Powers said. “No complaints there. He works and he competes, and that’s what we need out of our goalies.”
“We had a lot of good looks that we didn’t convert at the net,” Madigan said. “I thought we could have had another two or three. I liked how we generated offense. And their goalie, I thought, played really well and worked hard at the net front.”
The Huskies finished the scoring with a pair of third-period goals, finishing up their first sweep of the young season. First, sophomore Lincoln Griffin scored for a third straight game at the 5:04 mark, redirecting Cockerill’s point shot through Levin from just outside the crease.
Collier set freshman defenseman Jeremy Davies up for his first collegiate goal at 14:50, a slapper from the point on the power play.