LOWELL, Mass. -- There was no question that Northeastern would be able to put pucks in the net this season, but finding the best goaltender to keep them out on the other end of the ice was the major question mark.
If the Huskies muster efforts Friday night’s at Tsongas Center, they have serious potential to be a force to be reckoned with come season’s end in Hockey East. Junior Adam Gaudette completed a natural hat trick with two second-period goals and classmate Ryan Ruck stopped 23 shots en route to a 3-1 win over UMass Lowell.
“I thought our team played like men tonight,” said Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan, whose team won the game despite being outshot, 24-19. “We challenged them (this week in practice) and they responded, so my hat’s off to our guys for playing heavy, hard. The only way you’re going to beat a team coached by Norm Bazin is my doing that.”
The win was Northeastern’s third in six games to open the season, first to open its Hockey East schedule since 2012, and the 100th of Madigan’s head coaching career. Conversely, Lowell falls to 0-3-0 in league play and 3-4-0 overall.
Gaudette scored 4:56 into the game and 2:07 into the second period before finishing off the three-goal spurt with just 4.6 seconds left in the middle frame as he raced to a loose puck and scored after senior linemate Dylan Sikura’s shot on goal bounced off Lowell junior goaltender Christoffer Hernberg’s pad and into open ice on the right side.
“I just saw the puck coming and an open net,” Gaudette said of the goal that completed his first collegiate hat trick after five, two-goal efforts. “I just tried to get in a spot to get a rebound off (Hernberg’s) pad, but it hit somebody’s skate and came right to me.”
Shining Stars: Gaudette and Sikura
Gaudette has scored three of his first five goals this season on the power play after he cashed on two of his team’s three opportunities – on just four shots on goal – in the game. A national-best 24 of his 43 career goals have come with a man up.
On the flip side, Sikura assisted on each of the last two goals, upping his season point total to 14 through just six games. He is the first Husky since 2013 to record points in the season’s first six games.
Needless to say, it is a lethal combination.
“Last year, we just kind of built off of it. We get that first one, and it just gives us confidence for the next ones. We’ve been working on it all week in practice, studying their penalty kill. Being on the same page is huge, so it gives us big confidence out there.”
They even left the opponents watching, compounding the problems for the host River Hawks, who did not beat Northeastern junior Ryan Ruck until freshman Connor Sodergren buried a loose puck at the 7:31 marker.
“Those (power-play goals against) might have turned the tide a little bit,” Bazin said. “We were busy watching Sikura and Gaudette. And, we did a good job of it. They were out there flying around and we were watching two very good hockey players.”
Huskies Stayed Composed
The Huskies saw the luxury of a three-goal lead in the third period, as the hosts scored once and held a 10-3 shooting advantage that was partially aided by a power play and extra-attacker time in the last couple of minutes.
Gaudette’s final tally proved to be vital as Sodergren netted his first collegiate goal, while sophomore Kenny Hausinger hit the post with about seven minutes to play. The lead being sliced did not deter Northeastern and Ruck, “its best penalty killer,” Madigan said.
These two teams play tight-checking, low-scoring games, and it was a mindset all week in practice for the Huskies. In fact, their last four head-to-head meetings have been one-goal or tied games, and only four of the last 31 decided by more than two goals.
“We’ve played Lowell enough to know how good they are and how they play, so if you don’t play a heavy game, a low-scoring game, then they’ll just have more patience for you and they’ll win 4-0. We had to come in with a mindset that it was going to be a low-scoring game,” Madigan said. “Even though we have some good offensive players, we have to buy in and play smart defensively.”