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Northeastern Beats UConn to Complete Weekend Sweep

Northeastern finished its climb all the way back above .500 on Saturday night, posting a 4-1 win over UConn to complete another Hockey East sweep.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

BOSTON -- What a difference 24 hours makes.

Northeastern's win at UConn on Friday night was described as somewhat of a domination, but things changed as the teams of Huskies changed venues to close their Hockey East weekend series.

UConn came to play on Saturday at Matthews Arena and kept things competitive throughout, but wound up facing the same result with NU pulling away late for a 4-1 win.

"I thought it was a hard, tight hockey game," Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan said. "UConn came out hard right from the opening faceoff. They play with pace and they're hard on pucks. It was different tonight than it was last night, that's for sure. We had to earn everything we got."

With the win, NU finished its fourth league sweep since the calendar turned to 2016. NU scored twice in the second and third periods to earn the result, its sixth victory in as many all-time meetings with their canine counterparts.

The victorious Huskies are now a game above .500 overall (14-13-5) and exactly even in Hockey East play (8-8-4). NU is unbeaten in 14 of its last 15 games and has locked itself into sixth place in the conference with two more games against Maine still to play.

Neither side found the back of the net in the first period. It was not for a lack of effort though, as the teams finished with seven shots apiece.

"I liked the way we played," Madigan said of the scoreless first period. "We didn't get on the scoreboard, but you have to grind it out. I liked the way we grinded it out. We had some chances, as they did. We continued to stay with our game plan."

NU scored its first two goals of the night in quick succession, taking advantage of a major penalty called on UConn's Derek Pratt 4:20 into the second period.

Pratt was called for interference on a heavy hit that stunned NU junior Zach Aston-Reese right in front of his own bench, and all the offense the host Huskies would need came on the ensuing advantage.

Sophomore Garret Cockerill continued his impressive offensive stretch from the blue line at the 6:21 mark, placing an accurate wrister on goal from the high slot for his seventh goal of the season.

"He shoots the puck really well," Madigan said of Cockerill, who has recorded points in five straight games and scored in three of the last four to lead NU's defense. "He just snapped it off. ... He's got the ability to get pucks to the net and that's what he's been doing."

Nolan Stevens doubled the hosts' lead just 53 seconds later, at the 7:14 mark, scoring his 15th goal of the year and fifth in the last four games. Rookie Adam Gaudette played the puck along the goal line and fed Stevens with a perfect pass at the crease.

The visitors tied the game up in a big spot as senior captain Patrick Kirtland halved the NU lead with 35.1 seconds left in the middle frame.

UConn's only two in-state natives connected on the goal as Rocky Hill's Kirtland followed up a long, hard shot from Orange native freshman Tage Thompson. The score was Kirtland's seventh of the season, but his first since Jan. 23.

It was an important goal for UConn at a crucial point in the game. It was that type of push back that intrigued head coach Mike Cavanaugh after his team's lackluster effort to open the series.

"I thought we really competed hard for the entire 60 minutes," said Cavanaugh, whose team is winless in its last five games and fell to 9-19-4 on the season. "There were times (last night) Northeastern owned us and we couldn't get the puck out of our zone. That was not the case tonight."

NU was tough to crack down the stretch as it scored the game's final two goals and freshman goaltender Ryan Ruck stopped all nine shots he faced in the frame.

Junior Sam Kurker scored 4:22 into the third, taking a feed from Kevin Roy and snapping home his sixth goal of the season from an off angle on the right wing.

Roy scored his fourth goal of the season at 18:24 to put the nail in UConn's coffin. Junior John Stevens fed the puck to NU's senior captain, who stepped behind the defense and split the posts in an empty net.

"It's all about helping the team," Roy said. "I try to do the little things. I knew that when I was getting my first one, confidence comes with it. I just want to keep going, help the team. I think we're heating up at the right moment."