BOSTON -- Aside from the action-packed game itself, the scene Friday night at Matthews Arena was what college hockey is all about.
“I don’t think there’s a better building when it was full the way it was tonight,” Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan said. “Our students gave us that extra momentum, a jolt that we needed to get off to a good start. It was loud, full of energy, and our players fed off it early in the game and it continued all night.”
When the buzzer sounded, the result was like few in the Huskies’ long-standing rivalry with Boston University. Juniors Adam Gaudette and Lincoln Griffin each scored twice, and freshman Cayden Primeau made 33 saves to lift the Huskies to a 6-1 triumph, which completed a home-and-home sweep.
Northeastern took a Hockey East series from its crosstown foe for the first time since 2000-01 with the victory, which snapped a five-game winless skid against the Terriers on home ice. The Huskies, who had never in 233 games in the all-time series held BU to a goal or fewer twice in a row, are also off to their first 4-0-0 start in the league since 2008-09.
Captain Nolan Stevens sent Matthews into a frenzy just three minutes into the contest, snapping a wrist shot over BU sophomore goaltender Jake Oettinger off a turnover at the blue line. Gaudette doubled the Huskies’ lead at the 6:17 mark.
After sophomore Patrick Harper brought the visitors within a goal 42 seconds into the second period, the Huskies scored four unanswered goals, including three on the man advantage, and cruised to the victory on the strength of a three-goal final stanza.
“I just liked our focus early in the game, and I thought it continued,” Madigan said. “We lost a little momentum early in the second period, but we got it back. Our key guys stepped up and we continued to get some real good secondary scoring. … (Griffin) certainly went out and earned everything he got, not just because of scoring two goals, but how he killed penalties and blocked shots.”
A Fitting End
Skill is a strength of this Northeastern team, but it took advantage of opportunities in a big way on this night. In some respects, the game was not as lopsided as the five-goal margin of victory would indicate.
The visitors held a rather decisive shooting advantage of 34-23, including 28-14 over the final two periods. Primeau pitched shutout hockey after Harper’s fifth goal of the season, which was shot through traffic from above the circles on a delayed penalty call.
Perhaps, it was the final Husky tally from rookie Bobby Hampton – a wrister from just inside the blue line – with 6.8 seconds left told the story of the game best.
“I just feel like the last goal summarized everything that was happening tonight,” BU head coach David Quinn said. “Everything they shot found a way into the net, and we couldn’t buy a goal. End of story. At the end of the day, this is a game of scoring goals. We can talk about forechecking, D-zone coverage, power plays, and penalty kills, but you’ve got to score goals and take advantage of opportunities. Every time they had an opportunity, it went in the net.”
The Huskies got their league-best offense clicking on all cylinders right off the bat, but the game was a big opportunity for Gaudette to shine, especially with senior linemate Dylan Sikura nursing an upper-body injury.
The Braintree, Mass., native did just that, scoring goals in each of the first two periods. His second period tally came at the 16:30 mark as he tapped in freshman Zach Solow’s intentionally wide shot off the end wall. It was his team-leading eighth of the season and 25th power-play goal as a collegian, a mark that tops the nation.
“Goal scorers who attack the net, they’re going to get their goals,” Madigan said. “His eyes kind of light up when he gets near the net.”
“Coach is always saying, ‘Play your game, and points are going to come,’ so I just stick to how I play, find areas around the net and slam it home,” Gaudette said. “The biggest thing is focusing on my 200-foot game and playing in all sorts of situations. I know the production is going to come.”
The Huskies’ starts have been a major downfall in recent seasons, but this one is the exact opposite as sweeps over nationally-ranked foes UMass Lowell and the Terriers opened the league slate. Gaudette says this particular group has focused in and bought into the game plan right away, all for one and one for all.
“We are where we are a little earlier than we were (two seasons ago, when NU won the Hockey East championship), which is huge,” Gaudette said. “We have a lot to accomplish. We want to win a Beanpot, Hockey East, and a national championship. I think we have the team to do that this year, and we just want to keep getting better day-by-day and week-by-week.”