Hobey or not, Aston-Reese is a Northeastern legend

Image Credit: Matthew MacCormack

By Dan McLoone

CHICAGO – As was the case for much of the season for Zach Aston-Reese and Northeastern, a promising start did not translate into a desirable finish. Sitting up on stage in the Aon Grand Ballroom, Aston-Reese watched as defenseman Will Butcher of the University of Denver was awarded the 37th Hobey Baker Award, a recognition that he was one of the three finalists for.

Butcher is certainly a deserving winner, helping Denver to the NCAA title game on Saturday night, but many at Northeastern thought that this was the moment Aston-Reese would receive the award recognizing the nation’s top player. The Huskies may not have lived up to the hype that saw them ranked second in the Hockey East preseason poll, but the senior forward and Pittsburgh Penguins signee shattered all expectations that anyone had for him coming into the year, posting one of the strongest statistical seasons in program history and establishing himself as an individual force.

While the disappointment may be palpable, Husky fans shouldn’t diminish the magical season their assistant captain posted. Instead, they should take a step back and applaud him for what it was: the culmination of a phenomenal four years on Huntington Avenue that transformed Aston-Reese as a player and the identity of the entire Northeastern program as a whole.

There was plenty of hype surrounding Jim Madigan’s eleven freshman recruits in 2013, and most of them gave Northeastern fans plenty to be excited about for the future. But if someone told you that one member of that freshman class would go on to become just the second Hobey Hat Trick finalist in program history, smart money probably wouldn’t have been on Aston-Reese.

Matt Benning, Dalen Hedges, and John Stevens all impressed during their debut seasons, while Mike Szmatula looked like a budding future star after posting 15 goals and 24 assists. But hidden behind these other players that looked to be part of a bright future in Boston was a six-foot winger from Staten Island.

Aston-Reese tallied just eight goals and 11 assists during his debut campaign, but as many of his classmates transferred or left the program over the next few years, Aston-Reese doubled down on his commitment. Benning went pro after helping the Huskies win the Hockey East Championship. Szmatula transferred to Minnesota. Hedges succumbed to injuries and left the program.

In an up-and-down season for the Huskies, Aston-Reese did everything he could to carry the team to the finish line.

But amidst all the change, Aston-Reese continued to improve. He upped his scoring during his sophomore season, finishing with 23 points despite playing in four fewer games. It was during his junior year, however, when he finally blossomed.

When early-season struggles led Madigan to tinker with his lines, he unlocked a top three that would terrorize opposing defenses for two years. Paired with John and Nolan Stevens, Aston-Reese posted 29 assists, nearly tripling his total of 10 from the previous campaign, as he developed as a distributor. He added 14 goals and learned to cut down on silly stick penalties that kept him on the bench in key moments during his first two seasons, becoming a crucial member of both the Northeastern penalty kill and power play units.

When the dust had settled after the Huskies made their improbable run to the Hockey East crown in 2016, Aston-Reese, like many of his teammates, had to make an important decision on his future at Northeastern. The core of the defending Hockey East champions could have been absolutely decimated, with Kevin Roy graduating and the potential early losses of Benning, Aston-Reese, and the Stevens brothers. But coming back was an easy choice if it meant another season of that top forward line that had already clicked.

Unfortunately, 2017 did not play out as Aston-Reese or the Stevens brothers envisioned in that regard. Injuries kept the brothers off the ice for significant chunks of the season, forcing Madigan to once again mix and match his offensive lines.

But he never had to worry about Aston-Reese’s offensive production. In fact, Madigan frequently moved guys who were struggling to find the back of the net up to skate with ZAR. Lincoln Griffin could use a spark? Let’s throw him up with Reeser. Sam Kurker needs to get it going? Put him on ZAR’s line. Matt Filipe needs to be more consistent? 12 can help him out.

In an up-and-down season for the Huskies, Aston-Reese did everything he could to carry the team to the finish line. Dylan Sikura and Adam Gaudette both submitted phenomenal seasons and were a big part of the offensive success that Northeastern enjoyed, but when the team needed the big goals, it was Aston-Reese who would deliver. His 31 goals were tops in the nation, while his 63 total points were tied for first. He fittingly climbed to 12th place on the school’s career records for both goals and points while scoring at such a fast pace that most of the nation was chasing him the entire year.

Winning the Hobey Baker Award would have immortalized Aston-Reese in Northeastern lore forever. But, much like the story of the season for Northeastern, giving everything he had just wasn’t quite good enough to separate him from the pack. Even though he didn’t leave Chicago with any hardware, Aston-Reese can return to his new professional career in Wilkes-Barre content with his accolades: assistant captain, NCAA scoring leader, Hockey East Player of the Year, Hobey Baker finalist, Hockey East Champion. Damn good hockey player.

Hobey Baker eludes Huskies’ Zach Aston-Reese

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Image Credit: Matt MacCormack

By: Josh Brown

CHICAGO- Despite a historic season that saw him win Hockey East Player of the Year honors, Northeastern assistant captain Zach Aston-Reese left the Aon Grand Ballroom in Chicago without the nation’s most prestigious hardware on Friday evening.

University of Denver defenseman Will Butcher beat out Aston-Reese and Union College forward Mike Vecchione for the Hobey Baker Award. But even so, the moment served as a time to celebrate one of the most influential players in program history.

“It meant a great deal for me,” said Aston Reese, a Pittsburgh Penguin signee who is just the second player in Northeastern history (Brad Thiessen in 2009) to be named a Hobey Hat Trick finalist. “It meant a lot for my family and Northeastern as a whole.”

“I was a little bit immature when I came in,” said Aston-Reese, “and it was just a process for me to be able to control my emotions and change my attitude. Coach (Madigan) has been working with the Penguins and the Islanders so he knows what it’s like to be a professional, and I’m definitely seeing that now as a pro hockey player – that you have to leave your attitude at the door because you’ll be gone in a second if they sniff that out.”

Aston-Reese finished the 2016-2017 campaign either atop or tied the nation’s leads in goals (31), goals per game (0.82), shorthanded goals (four) and hat tricks (three). His 1.66 points per game is tied for best in the nation, and his 63 total points make him just one of twelve Division 1 players to reach the 60-point plateau in the last five seasons.

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Image Credit: Matt MacCormack

Earlier in the afternoon, Aston-Reese was named a CCM/AHCA First-Team All-American. The Staten Island native is the 19th player in Northeastern program history to receive the honor.

“I always had a pretty good work ethic, and I think just getting stronger each summer,” said Aston-Reese. “I think a lot that changed was my mindset and my approach to the game. I just got more mature and consistency is such a big thing. So I was trying to look forward to make a career out of it and what exactly  [sic] I needed to do and consistency is a big thing.”

Following the conclusion of his senior season, Aston-Reese signed a two-year, entry-level contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He has already netted three goals and four assists with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the club’s AHL affiliate.

“There’s different aspects to it,” said Aston-Reese of the adjustment to professional hockey. “I had really good coaches here and they taught me the game and it’s been translating well to the AHL level.”

Aston-Reese named Hobey Hat Trick finalist

Senior Zach Aston-Reese is one of three finalists remaining for the nation’s most prestigious award (Image Credit: Northeastern Athletics).

By: Josh Brown

In a historic moment for Northeastern hockey, the Hobey Baker Memorial Award named senior assistant captain Zach Aston-Reese to the Hobey Hat Trick on Thursday afternoon. Aston-Reese is joined by Union forward Mike Vecchione and Denver defenseman Will Butcher as the three players remaining in contention for the nation’s top award, which will be handed out on April 7 at the Frozen Four in Chicago.

“We are so proud of Zach for all of his accomplishments this season,” said head coach Jim Madigan. “He asserted himself as one of the top players in the nation from start to finish, and is very deserving of this honor. He represented our team and our university with class and professionalism throughout his time at Northeastern, and his leadership skills over the last two years cannot be understated. The foundation that he and his fellow seniors have set will have a positive impact on our program for years to come.”

The Hockey East Player of the Year joins Brad Thiessen (2009) as the second player in Northeastern history to be named to the Hobey Hat Trick.

A native of Staten Island, New York, Aston-Reese finished the 2016-2017 season either atop or tied the nation’s lead in goals (31), goals per game (0.82), shorthanded goals (four) and hat tricks (three). His 63 points this season make him just one of ten Division 1 players to reach the 60-point plateau in the last five seasons. In addition, Aston-Reese joined Boston University’s Jack Eichel (2014-2015) and Boston College’s Johnny Gaudreau (2013-2014) as one of three Hockey East players to reach the mark in a maximum of 35 games over the past five years. The latter two won the Hobey Baker award in their respective seasons.

In addition to scoring the sixth most points of any Northeastern player in a single season, Aston-Reese ends his career on Huntington Avenue ranked 12th in both career points (148) and career goals (66).

His breakout performance this season earned him a two-year, entry-level contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins two weeks ago. Aston-Reese has already netted two goals and four assists in four games with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the club’s AHL affiliate.

Northeastern’s season ends with 3-2 setback to No. 8/6 Boston University

By: Dan McLoone

BOSTON – It may have been a new day, but it was the same story for the Northeastern hockey team.

The Huskies (18-15-5) were swept out of the Hockey East Quarterfinals by BU on Saturday night thanks to blowing their second consecutive 2-0 lead. The Terriers (23-10-3) didn’t need overtime tonight, completing the comeback in the final period in the 3-2 win.

With their backs against the wall, the Huskies came out firing once again in the first period. Biagio Lerario scored his first career goal just 2:23 into the game and Nolan Stevens doubled the lead nine minutes later with his tenth tally of the year.

The Terriers were well verses in coming back from a 2-0 deficit, having beaten Northeastern 3-2 in overtime on Friday, and got right back to work on offense when Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson cut the lead in half with 5:22 left in the second period.

Leading 2-1, the Huskies played with much more offensive pace throughout the final two periods than they did the night before but just couldn’t solve BU netminder Jake Oettinger (24 saves) for a third time. Ryan Ruck (25 saves) stood on his head at times for Northeastern to preserve the lead, but the relentless Terriers offense finally broke through.

Nick Roberto tied the game up just three minutes into the third period. For the second consecutive night, the referees reviewed the goal for a potential offsides call on BU, but the tally was upheld after a long review. Head coach Jim Madigan only talked for 47 seconds after the game, as he did not want to get suspended for commenting on the two offsides calls or how they influenced the series.

The Terriers mounted offensive pressure on Ruck down the stretch and were rewarded with a power play opportunity with just 1:34 left in the game after Garrett Cockerill was called for hooking. Ruck made a handful of spectacular saves during the kill effort, but Chad Krys broke through with 24.9 seconds left in the game hand the Huskies their second straight heartbreaking defeat.

The Huskies finish the season with no chance for an NCAA at-large bid. The loss also ends the Northeastern playing careers of seniors Zach Aston-Reese, John Stevens, Brendan Collier, Sam Kurker, Tanner Pond, Mike Jamieson, Ryan Rosenthal, Garrett Cockerill and Jake Schechter. The Terriers advance to the Hockey East Semifinals, where they will take on either Boston College or Notre Dame.

Huskies squander 2-0 lead, drop game one to BU

By Josh Brown

BOSTON – Coming off a convincing sweep of Connecticut in the first round of the Hockey East playoffs, it looked like Northeastern was going to have its way with a BU team that had last week off after clinching a share of the league’s regular season crown. But after falling behind 2-0, BU showed why it is unbeaten against Jim Madigan’s Huskies in the last seven meetings.

Goals by Dante Fabbro and Chase Phelps knotted the score at two, and Jordan Greenway notched the game-winner just 3:11 into overtime to send the Terriers to a 3-2 victory in game one of the Hockey East Quarterfinals.

Fighting for a rebound in front of the net on the power play, the big 6-foot-5 Greenway capitalized on the chaos and fired the puck into the back of the net.

Not to be lost in defeat is Ryan Ruck’s performance in net, as the sophomore sent aside 32 shots from a BU offense which entered the zone at will in the latter two periods.

Northeastern got the early 2-0 lead just 9:52 into the game via their two Hobey Baker hopefuls in Zach Aston-Reese and Dylan Sikura. Aston-Reese beat BU goalie Jake Oettinger (33 saves) on an off-angle shot that sailed over the right shoulder of the netminder, and Sikura tapped in a freebie to give the Huskies the early lead.

The Terriers made it a one-goal game at 7:33 in the second period when Fabbro sent a weak shot on net from above the right face-off dot that beat Ruck. Phelps scored the long overdue game-tying goal midway through the third, beating Ruck five-hole to force overtime.

Following a Jeremy Davies hooking call, Greenway sent the Terriers faithful home happy with his ninth goal of the season.

The two teams will get right back at it Saturday night for game two. Puck drop is slated for 7 p.m.

Northeastern advances to Hockey East Quarterfinals with 6-2 rout of Connecticut

By: Dan McLoone

BOSTON – Try as they might, the UConn Huskies just cannot seem to solve the riddle that is Northeastern.

The highest-scoring power play in the nation showed up in a big way down the stretch for Northeastern (18-13-5), as the Huskies tallied four goals on the man advantage, including three goals during a five-minute major power play, to complete the series sweep of UConn (12-16-8) with a 6-2 win to open the Hockey East playoffs.

Brendan Collier got the scoring going just four minutes in, wristing home a shot from the slot for his second goal of the weekend. Zach Aston-Reese doubled the lead eight minutes into the second period, tapping home a puck to light the lamp for the 30th time on the year.

Graduate student Brian Morgan made it 2-1 at the 12:20 mark of the second period, but Adam Gaudette responded just 2:10 later with a power play tally to make it 3-1. The goal was

Gaudette’s 16th on the man advantage, extending the single-season program record that he had previously set last week against Maine.

Connecticut made it 3-2 with two minutes left in the second period courtesy of a Miles Gendron goal. UConn carried that momentum into the third period, creating numerous chances on Ryan Ruck, who held strong and finished the evening with 32 saves.

Down by just one goal with 9:25 to go in the game, UConn lost the momentum when Evan Richardson was handed a game misconduct for contact to the head on Garrett Cockerill. Northeastern capitalized on its ensuing five-minute power play, as John Stevens netted two goals in the span of two minutes to make it 5-2. Jeremy Davies added one more before UConn finished killing the penalty to blow the game open.

Play got chippy down the stretch as Jake Schechter and Brian Morgan were given 10-minute game misconducts for a getting in a post-whistle scrum, but Northeastern held on to earn a series sweep and move to 10-0 all-time against Hockey East’s other Huskies.

Northeastern advances to the Hockey East Quarterfinals next week, where they will travel to either Boston University or UMass Lowell depending on the results of Sunday’s game three between New Hampshire and Merrimack. Game one of the best-of-three series will be on Friday.


Northeastern opens Hockey East title defense with Game One win over UConn

By Josh Brown

BOSTON – As they say, beating a team for a ninth time in a row is the toughest thing to do in sports. It did not pose too much of a challenge for Northeastern on Friday night, though.

The Huskies of up north began their defense of the Lamoriello Trophy with a 3-1 win over Connecticut, leaving them one game away from a berth in the Hockey East Quarterfinals.

While much praise has been levied to Northeastern’s offense this season, it was the goaltending of Ryan Ruck that propelled Jim Madigan and company to victory. The sophomore stopped 30 of the 31 shots he saw on the night.

Garret Cockerill gave Northeastern a 1-0 lead just 10:36 into the first period, ripping a shot from the high slot that sailed past UConn net-minder Adam Huska (26 saves). The goal was Northeastern’s nation-leading 51st on the power play this season.

Midway through the second period, Brendan Collier extended the NU lead to 2-0, tipping in a loose puck in front of the net for his fourth of the season.

While both teams had a plethora of opportunities in the third period, neither team could light the lamp until Connecticut made it a one goal game with 1:21 left courtesy of a tally from Benjamin Freeman in 6-on-4 play.

Northeastern would answer just 38 seconds later when Nolan Stevens raced in front of a pack of UConn defenders and slotted home an empty-net goal to seal the deal. Connecticut threatened with what appeared to be a goal with 24 seconds left, but Tage Thompson was called for offsides.

Northeastern will look to punch their ticket to the Hockey East Quarterfinals on Saturday night. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m., with pre-game coverage beginning at 6:45.

Northeastern ends regular season with 5-4 setback against Maine

By: Dan McLoone

Orono, ME. – It was another high-scoring affair at Alfond Arena on Saturday night, but Northeastern did not have the answers this time. The Huskies held a one-goal advantage four different times, but Maine fought back to tie it every time and came away with a 5-4 win on senior night.

Tanner Pond got the scoring going early for Northeastern, giving the Huskies a 1-0 lead just 18 seconds after puck drop. Nolan Vesey tied it up with eight minutes left in the first period to send the teams to the locker room tied up at one.

Goals were aplenty in the second period, as the Huskies took a 2-1 lead six minutes in when Jeremy Davies tapped home a puck on the doorstep on the power play, set up by a beautiful pass from Nolan Stevens. The Black Bears responded with a power play tally of their own just three minutes laterwhen Chase Pearson found the back of the net. Dylan Sikura reclaimed the lead for Northeastern with eight minutes left in the period, benefiting from another great pass from Nolan Stevens.

It looked like the Huskies would head into the third period with a 3-2 lead, but Nolan Vesey netted his second goal of the night on a power play strike with just 28 seconds left in the frame to tie the game up.

Stevens lit the lamp himself four minutes into the third period, giving the Huskies a 4-3 lead and their second power play tally of the evening. As they had done all night, the Black Bears responded. After getting tripped up with just the goalie to beat, Blaine Byron converted on a penalty shot to tie the game up at four. Having seized momentum back, it took just a few minutes for Maine to take the lead for good, as Vesey completed his hat trick with six minutes left.

Northeastern tried to find the tying goal down the stretch, but couldn’t overcome the eight penalties they took and the stellar play between the pipes of senior Matt Morris, the backup who finished with 40 saves in the senior night start.

With the loss and Merrimack’s win over Vermont, Northeastern finishes as the eight seed in Hockey East. The Huskies will take on UConn, the ninth-place team, in the first round of the Hockey East playoffs. Games one and two of the best-of-three series will be at Matthews Arena on Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., with game three on Sunday at 7 p.m. if necessary.


Nolan Stevens winner in overtime clinches home ice for Huskies

By Josh Brown

Orono, ME. – Northeastern had more than one reason to celebrate on Friday night.

Not only did Nolan Stevens end a back-and-forth affair against Maine with a goal just 12 seconds into overtime, but the Huskies clinched home-ice advantage for the first round of the Hockey East playoffs as a result of the 5-4 victory.

After Northeastern won the faceoff to kick off overtime, Zach Aston-Reese sprinted straight to the net of Black Bear goalie Rob McGovern (30 saves). After the initial shot was stopped, Stevens flipped a rebound over the shoulder of the sophomore goalie to end the game before Red Gendron and company could even blink.

The win is Northeastern’s (16-12-5, 9-9-3) fifth in a row and ninth in the last eleven games. It also extends the Huskies’ win streak over Maine (10-19-4, 4-15-2) to five games, the longest since the 1984-1985 season.

Maine got off to a hot start, receiving goals from Mark Hamilton and Brendan Robbins on the squad’s first two shots on net. Facing a two-goal deficit heading into the locker room, Hobey Baker frontrunner Zach Aston-Reese got the Huskies within one at the 14:22 mark.

The second period belonged to Northeastern, who received solid goaltending from Ryan Ruck and goals via Adam Gaudette on the power play at 15:19 and Aston-Reese less than a minute later.

Despite falling behind after their hot start and a brief power outage in between periods, Maine, who is locked into the 11th seed in the Hockey East playoffs, did not roll over.

Blaine Byron beat Ruck (19 saves) just 47 seconds into the third period and Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick Nolan Stevens scored his 10th of the season at 10:53. Unfortunately for the Black Bears, the two tallies were sandwiched on top of Gaudette’s second goal of the game at 1:18, and the teams found themselves knotted up at four after regulation.

Following the two-minute intermission between the third period and overtime, Stevens made sure Black Bear fans did not have to delay their trip home too long with the quick game-winner.

The Huskies will return back to Alfond Arena on Saturday night for the final game of the regular season. Josh Brown and Dan McLoone will have the call beginning at 6:45 p.m.


  • John Stevens registered his 100th career point with an assist on Zach Aston-Reese’s 2nd-period goal. Along with Aston-Reese, it is the first time since 2010-11 that two Huskies reached the milestone in the same season.
  • Adam Gaudette set a new Northeastern single-season record, logging his 15th power play goal of the season. He breaks the record of 14 previously set by Rob Isbister in 1984-85.
  • Gaudette and Dylan Sikura both hit 50 points on the season with Northeastern’s 2nd goal of the game, joining Aston-Reese as the three Huskies at the half-century mark. It is just the 3rd time in program history that three skaters tallied 50+ points and the first time since 1975-76.
  • With his three points on the evening, Aston-Reese moves into a tie for 9th place in single-season points (59). His two goals also brought him to a tie for 10th in single-season goals (29).
  • Sikura’s three assists give him 33 on the year, good for 11th on the program’s single-season record list.


Aston-Reese hat trick leads Northeastern to senior night victory over Connecticut

By: Dan McLoone

BOSTON – In the last regular-season home game for Northeastern, the Huskies took a big step in securing at least two more games at Matthews Arena with a 4-1 win over UConn on Saturday night.

On Senior Night, the Huskies honored their nine-man senior class of Zach Aston-Reese, Brendan Collier, Mike Jamieson, Sam Kurker, Will Messa, Tanner Pond, Ryan Rosenthal, Jake Schechter and John Stevens with a pregame ceremony before completing the weekend sweep of UConn.

Northeastern (15-12-5, 8-9-3) continued with its proclivity for finding the back of the net in the first period, surviving an early rush from UConn and potting three goals in the opening frame. Aston-Reese got the scoring going just four minutes into the game, firing a shot past UConn (10-14-8, 6-10-4) netminder Rob Nichols. The senior assistant captain doubled the lead three minutes later, tapping home a beautiful pass from Nolan Stevens on the doorstep to make it 2-0.

Adam Gaudette made it 3-0 with eight minutes left in the first period, tying a Northeastern record with his 14th power play goal of the season. UConn got one back just two minutes into the second period, as Maxim Letunov picked up his seventh goal of the season.

Aston-Reese completed the hat trick with three minutes left in the second period, firing a shot from the blue line that bounced off of Nichols’ chest and into the back of the net. The tally gave Aston-Reese his third hat trick of the season after previously potting a treble against Michigan State and Clarkson.

UConn tried to mount a comeback in the third period, but the Northeastern defense held strong, finishing the weekend seven for seven on the penalty kill. Ryan Ruck made all the stops he needed to in net, finishing the evening with 24 saves.

With the win and New Hampshire’s loss to Boston University, Northeastern moved up to eighth place in the Hockey East standings and now controls its own destiny heading into the final week of the regular season. The Huskies will look to secure a first-round home playoff series when they travel to Maine to take on the Black Bears for two games. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Friday and 7 p.m. on Saturday, with pregame coverage of both games starting 15 minutes earlier on WRBB.