NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. -- Nothing in Hockey East ever comes easy, but especially playing at Merrimack College’s Lawler Rink on a Saturday night and sweeping a weekend home-and-home series in league play.
Northeastern made the short drive up to North Andover with hopes of putting losses to Boston College and Connecticut in the rear view with a sweep of the Warriors, and that is exactly what happened. Junior Adam Gaudette scored twice and senior captain Nolan Stevens also added a power-play goal as the Huskies nabbed a 3-1 win, despite being outshot, 29-20.
“I thought we got off to a good start in that first period, got pucks down low in the offensive zone, and tried to create some possession,” Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan said. “We didn’t get many shots throughout the first period and, for that matter, throughout the game, but I thought we had some quality opportunities.”
Gaudette rocketed a one-timer from the left circle past Merrimack junior goaltender Drew Vogler to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead 17:47 into the first period, while the game’s last three goals all came in the second.
Logan Coomes leveled the score with his first collegiate goal for Merrimack, potting junior Derek Petti’s cross-crease pass at 5:07 of the second before Gaudette and Stevens finished the scoring at 12:46 and 19:08, respectively, before their Huskies finished the night strong, holding a 9-5 shot advantage in the scoreless third.
Gaudette walked around a defender to the top of the left circle and beat Vogler top shelf on his second goal, while senior defenseman Garret Cockerill passed to Stevens for a backhander from near the right hashmark.
“I thought tonight we were better through all three periods,” Madigan said, as compared to Friday’s series-opening victory by the same score at Matthews Arena.
PP Solid, but Warriors Need More Finish
The Huskies’ special teams units were certainly the difference as they scored two of their three power-play goals on the weekend in the game, while holding Merrimack scoreless on all but one of their six man-up tries. The teams boast the two top power-play units in Hockey East, as both entered the night converting on north of 23 percent of their opportunities.
There were positives from Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy’s side, for sure, but it will obviously have to up the scoring total to improve upon 2-9-3 overall and 1-6-1 league marks. This season, Merrimack is now 0-9-1 when scoring two or fewer goals and 2-0-2 when reaching the three-goal mark.
“I thought we did a lot of good things, but what we’re not doing is we’re not finishing and we’re not playing as disciplined as we need to play without the puck,” Dennehy said. “If we keep getting those chances, we’ve got to bury them.”
High Husky Praise
The praise for Gaudette and Northeastern senior Dylan Sikura – who has received strong consideration to represent Canada in the upcoming Olympic Games – continues to roll in, this time from Dennehy. Gaudette’s first goal hit the crossbar and the post before dropping in behind Vogler, what the Merrimack coach called “an NHL shot.”
Additionally, freshman goaltender Cayden Primeau stood tall throughout as the hosts controlled large portions of the game, making 23 of his 28 saves over the first two periods. He improved to 5-3-1 on his freshman season after his second straight and sixth start in seven games.
“They’ve got two guys – in Gaudette and Sikura – who probably could be playing in the NHL right now,” Dennehy said. “I thought they were excellent, and I thought their goalie played really well. We had plenty of chances. I thought we dominated large stretches of that game.”
No. 8 Snaps Skid
Gaudette became the 51st player in Northeastern history and the fifth over the last three seasons to record 100 career points in Tuesday’s 4-1 loss to UConn, but the first-period goal marked his first since scoring twice against Boston University on Nov. 10. The five-game goalless streak was his longest since December of 2015; he did not record a point in three of those games.
“He gets a little moody when he doesn’t score, but that’s a good thing,” Madigan said. “We had to elevate the puck (to beat Vogler), and that’s what we did on the three goals.”