BOSTON – On the exact same weekend that the Northeastern Huskies turned their season around last year, this year’s bunch from Huntington Avenue picked the right time for a coming-out party.
Before this weekend’s conference games against Providence and Vermont, NU six of its past seven games, but earned its first four-point weekend with a 4-1 victory over the Catamounts on Saturday during the University’s Homecoming Weekend.
“I think we got beat tonight by a much more physical, hungrier hockey team,” said UVM head coach Kevin Sneddon. “That was the difference tonight. We battled [at BU] last night…They were much more strong over the puck, without the puck and we just did not engage.”
“As much as we have had growth games without result, tonight was a step back and a lot of that was certainly a credit to [Northeastern]. I thought they competed really well for most of the game…We did not have our brains, our legs, our might or anything of that nature tonight, unfortunately.”
Northeastern captured back-to-back wins for the first time since March 11 and 13 during the Hockey East conference quarterfinals against Boston University.
“Obviously, I thought the weekend was a great weekend,” said Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan, whose team won two in a row for the first time in his coaching career. “The kids worked hard. Everyone during the week asked me where we were as a team. We had some tough losses and our kids really battled all week in practice with the effort and the compete level.”
The Huskies got off to a strong start to please their Homecoming crowd as junior Vinny Saponari fired a shot that was tipped in by Ludwig Karlsson on the low right slot. The Swedish native was credited with his third goal in as many games at the 1:33 mark of the opening stanza.
“I don’t remember the whole situation,” Karlsson said. “I know I skated towards the net…I got a little tip on my toe and it went in. I did not do a lot…The pass was there and it just found my stick.”
UVM tied the score on its second chance on the man-advantage as sophomore Matt White tipped in a shot from defenseman Nick Luukko at the center point at the 15:10 mark.
Overall, the Catamounts came back for a 21-15 advantage in total chances, including 16-7 on net.
It was a low-action second period for the first 15 minutes until the Huskies beat Vermont senior netminder Rob Madore for a pair of late goals to turn the momentum late in the stanza.
The Huskies held a 25-12 advantage in total chances, including 13-8 in shots on goal.
Their first goal of the stanza came at the 16:04 mark as Karlsson scored his second of the game to equal his first career two-goal game. Saponari took the puck from behind the net, attempting to stuff home the puck on the right post, but the Swede cleaned up the mess and beat Madore after spinning around to the forehand in the right circle.
With 30 seconds to play in the period, NU extended its lead to two goals as Steve Quailer scored his second goal in as many games by taking a short lead pass from Cody Ferriero for the redirection into an open left side of the cage.
Late in the third period, the Huskies sealed the deal on a pretty play from their third line. After Justin Daniels took the initial shot from between the circles, Alex Tuckerman was camped out on the right post for a baseball bat-type swing to beat Madore over his left shoulder.
The Huskies received strong goaltending from Rawlings as he turned aside 38 shots, while Madore made 24 stops for the Catamounts.
“If I was our goaltender,” Sneddon said, “I’d be really upset right now. Unfortunately, it is not Rob’s nature to be upset with his teammates, but if I were him in there I would be throwing a tantrum…He deserved better in front of him tonight.”
After losing captain Mike McLaughlin with an upper body injury in Friday’s 5-2 victory at Schneider Arena, the offense used a boost from junior Garrett Vermeersch, who joined his line.
“I thought he played really well,” Madigan said. “He’s got speed, he’s got quickness, and he’s got skill and when you play with two very smart players…it is nice to jump into that hole.”
“I thought he did a real nice job. Losing Mike McLaughlin hurts. He’s our most responsible player, our heart and sole guy, but I thought our team from last night picked it up without him being in the line-up.”
Overall, the Huskies out-chanced UVM 53-52 in the contest. The Catamounts took the shots advantage, 38-29, in the contest. “Our kids competed hard,” Madigan said. “Timely goals, smart play, great goaltending. It’s nice to get a sweep in this league.”
Northeastern returns to action on Friday night at Michigan, while UVM returns to Burlington for a Tuesday night contest against rival UMass.
“We are getting to the point in the season where penalties are not adding up to much,” Sneddon said whose team is still in search of its inaugural win of the season in a conference game. “I can swallow it when we played as hard as we did last night, but really tough to swallow when the battle was not there.”