BOSTON -- Good evening and welcome inside historic Matthews Arena on the campus of Northeastern University where tonight the Huskies host Maine to begin the opening round of the 2016 Hockey East Tournament. Faceoff is set for 7 p.m.
These same two teams closed the regular season with a two-game series last weekend, but the Huskies earned their third straight Hockey East sweep with 5-3 and 7-1 wins. Junior Zach Aston-Reese paced the NU offense with a goal and two assists in the latter contest.
Maine and Northeastern have not met in postseason play since the Black Bears swept a 2001 quarterfinal series at Alfond Arena. The teams have previously clashed in two quarterfinal series, two semifinals, and one Hockey East championship game.
NU is unbeaten in 16 of its last 17 games, good for the highest winning percentage (.882) in the nation in that span. The Huskies' only loss in 2016 came to Boston University in the Beanpot semifinal on Feb. 1.
Freshman goaltender Ryan Ruck's best hockey, like the team's in general, has come of late. He has allowed two goals or fewer in all but one of his last 15 starts, including two shutouts, while posting a 1.59 goals against average and .937 save percentage.
Maine's No. 11 seed is its lowest ever in the Hockey East postseason. The Black Bears finished the regular season with seven losses in eight games, with their lone win in that stretch coming in overtime over Merrimack on Feb. 20.
Sophomore Nolan Vesey was the lone Black Bear to finish last weekend's series with multiple points and scored Maine's only goal in the first period of Saturday's contest. The North Reading, Mass., native has scored three of his five goals in the last 13 games and enters the playoffs on a three-game point streak.
Here are tonight's lines:
BLACK BEARS (8-22-6, 5-15-2)
Will Merchant - Steven Swavely - Brendan Robbins
Brian Morgan - Cam Brown - Blaine Byron
Nolan Vesey - Cedric Lacroix - Andrew Tegeler
Daniel Perez - Bill Norman - Conor Riley
Dan Renouf - Sam Becker
Mark Hamilton - Rob Michel
Eric Schurhamer - Keith Muehlbauer
HUSKIES (16-13-5, 10-8-4)
Nolan Stevens - John Stevens - Zach Aston-Reese
Dylan Sikura - Adam Gaudette - Mike McMurtry
Kevin Roy - Brendan Collier - Sam Kurker
Lincoln Griffin - Tanner Pond - Patrick Schule
Dustin Darou - Matt Benning
Colton Saucerman - Eric Williams
Jarrett Fennell - Garret Cockerill