The Northeastern Huskies rallied from a 2 goal, 2nd period deficit, for an upset win over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish for the Shillelagh Tournament Championship this past weekend, in South Bend, IN.
The Huskies found themselves in the championship game after a 1-1 tie and a shootout victory against the Western Michigan Broncos on Friday night. Northeastern dominated play early, spending the bulk of its time in the offensive zone. Around the halfway mark of the first period, though, the Huskies began to get into some penalty trouble. They took 3 penalties in the remainder of the first period and 4 in the second period. These penalties clearly took the Huskies off their game, as they spent so much time trying to kill penalties and wearing their legs down. Fortunately for NU, they were able to take advantage of one of the Broncos’ penalties. The Huskies took a 1-0 lead right off the opening faceoff of the second period with a John Stevens power play goal, with help from some pretty passing by Kevin Roy and Braden Pimm.
By the third period, the Huskies were noticeably drained from the frequent special teams play. They only took one penalty in the period, but the Broncos made it hurt. Shane Berschbach put home a loose puck in the crease, tying the game with just less than 8 minutes to play. Neither team could score through regulation or overtime (despite Northeastern regaining a sense of urgency in the overtime period). The game officially went into the books as a tie, but a shootout was held to determine who would advance to the championship. Dalen Hedges scored on Northeastern’s first attempt and Clay Witt turned aside Western Michigan on all three attempts to secure the victory.
On Saturday, the Huskies faced off against the Fighting Irish in the championship game of the Irish-hosted tournament. Once again, the Huskies struggle on special teams. They allowed a power play goal from Shayne Taker at the 13:34 mark of the first period, giving the Irish a 1-0 lead into the first intermission. Then, at 9:02 gone in the second period, Stephen John converted on a short-handed Notre Dame breakaway. It was the 4th short-handed goal allowed for NU this season. With the Huskies now trailing 2-0, head coach Jim Madigan called a timeout to settle down his team.
After the timeout, the Huskies were reenergized. Just three minutes later, Adam Reid created a turnover in the Fighting Irish’s defensive zone and found Torin Snydeman skating through the slot. Snydeman converted, putting it past Notre Dame goaltender Steven Summerhays, and cutting the lead in half.
The Huskies kept up the pressure and finally converted on the power play at the 10:01 mark of the third period. Kevin Roy found the puck in the slot, stick-handled his way past defenders, got Summerhays out of position, and then found Braden Pimm wide-open on the back door for the equalizer. Seven minutes later, with 2:42 left in regulation, Pimm won a battle for the puck down low in the Huskies’ offensive zone. He promptly found Dalen Hedges in the slot put it past Summerhays, giving the Huskies a 3-2, comeback win – and a trophy.
Clay Witt was fantastic all weekend, stopping 61 of 64 shots faced and earning All-Tournament honors. Witt is now ranked 6th in the nation with a 0.939 save percentage. Braden Pimm was awarded All-Tournament honors as well, posting a scoring line of 1-2-3 on the weekend. Kevin Roy had 3 assists on the weekend and, of course, Dalen Hedges had both game-winning scores in the tournament.
Obviously, this was a tremendous win for the Huskies. They’re still struggling on special teams (last in Hockey East in net special teams), but the way they dominated the last half of the game, scoring 3 unanswered goals against a team like Notre Dame, is very impressive. Especially after going down 2-0 on a short-handed goal allowed. Past Northeastern squads would have crumbled at that point, but this one did not give in. The Huskies are now ranked #19 by USCHO.com.
The Huskies have just two games left before the holidays. This Friday, they face off against the 4th-ranked Providence Friars at Matthews Arena, before traveling to Burlington to play the Vermont Catamounts on December 17th.