By: Josh Brown
After being outplayed for the first two periods, a mere couple of moments flipped the script for Northeastern en route to a 4-2 win over Notre Dame Saturday night, sweeping the weekend series with the Fighting Irish.
Zach Aston-Reese scored just 2:06 into the third period and then again just 10 seconds later to give Northeastern a lead the Huskies would not relinquish.
“I thought our guys played hard today in the third period,” Northeastern coach Jim Madigan said. “I didn’t think we had the energy or sense of urgency in the first two periods.”
“I thought we played well in the first,” added Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson. “I thought we played okay in the second and then they took over the game in the third.”
Clay Witt was back in net for Northeastern after Derick Roy got the last three nods between the pipes for the Huskies. Cal Petersen manned the crease for Notre Dame, coming up on the losing end of both games this weekend.
A bright spot for Notre Dame on the weekend was the power play. After coming into the series hovering around eight percent, the Irish scored two in the game, which brought their total to three for the two-game set.
“We finally found some chemistry with two different groups,” said Jackson. “That’s 90 percent of it.”
That is exactly how Notre Dame scored the first goal of the game – on the man-advantage.
With Garret Cockerill in the box for tripping, Thomas DiPauli found a loose puck in the slot and fired it over the shoulder of Witt for the 1-0 lead.
Only seven shots were taken between the two teams in the opening frame, with Northeastern only getting a measly two of them. The latter of the two Northeastern put into the back of the net.
Mike McMurty brought the puck into the offensive zone for the Huskies and found a streaking Dalen Hedges, who roofed it over Petersen for his seventh goal of the year.
In addition to Saturday, Hedges had two goals Friday night in the Huskies’ 3-2 win.
It was a chippy opening frame between the teams, with a combined 10 penalty minutes being served.
Shots started to pick up in the second period with Notre Dame outshooting Northeastern 11-9, but neither team was able to light the lamp.
The best chance of the period came for Northeastern’s Torin Snydeman when he found a puck on his stick right in the crease, but Petersen was able to get over for the save.
“I thought they beat us to some pucks,” Madigan said of the first two periods. “They wanted it more than us for the first two periods.”
In the locker room between the period, things changed for Northeastern, who were determined to seize the chance they had in front of them.
“They realized we have a great opportunity here in front of us,” Madigan said. “There’s a team whose a point ahead of us, so we can jump them in the standings.
“The strategy was simple – let’s throw everything we can at them and see how we go.”
That strategy paid off quickly for Northeastern.
Aston-Reese scored his first of two right off the bat. Cockerill threw a long clear off the boards and Aston-Reese got to it with open ice in front of him. He capitalized and shot it top shelf to give the Huskies a 2-1 lead.
Right on the ensuing faceoff, Mike Szmatula rushed to the net and found Aston-Reese who snuck it around the post.
“We just kept it simple,” Aston-Reese said. “I can’t really remember, I kind of blacked out a little bit.
“We’ve been working on that all week, getting pucks at the net and driving the net hard. [We] just stuck to it.”
Northeastern held on to the two-goal advantage for over 13 minutes until the Irish made it a ballgame again.
With Nolan Stevens off for interference, Notre Dame once again crashed the net and was rewarded when Anders Bjork skied a puck past Witt to make it 3-2.
Unfortunately for the Irish, any hope of a comeback was quickly dashed.
With 2:52 left to go in the game Szmatula brought the puck from behind the net, took an off-angle shot and put it over the shoulder of Petersen for the 4-2 lead.
“In the third period, even though we didn’t have great legs, we found a way to play a little smarter, dig a little deeper, and get that one big shift,” Madigan said.
Next up for Northeastern is the Beanpot, where the Huskies will face Boston College in the semifinals on Feb. 2.
For Jackson’s squad, the weekend sweep drops the Irish to seventh in the Hockey East standings.
“They [Northeastern] do a great job defensively,” Jackson said. “We need to keep the puck moving. The puck stalls and then we get outnumbered and it’s out of the zone.
“We didn’t keep the puck moving in the offensive zone.”
This article can also be found on USCHO…Follow Josh Brown on Twitter @josh_brown31