Ed. Note — This story will appear in Sunday’s edition of The Eagle Tribune
BOSTON — After a tie on Friday night at Lawler Arena, where Merrimack controlled much of the play, the Northeastern Huskies jumped out of the gate hungry on Saturday night, scoring three straight power-play goals to beat the Merrimack men’s hockey team, 3-1, at Matthews Arena.
The No. 13-ranked Huskies outshot the Warriors 29-20.
“The first two periods we played on our heels, and that’s where we lost the game, in the first two periods on special teams,” said Merrimack head coach Scott Borek. “That was disappointing. We should have expected them to come out and play a lot better than they did (Friday) night and we just weren’t ready for it.”
The Huskies took the lead on Tyler Madden’s first-period goal, scored on the power play, after he walked a Merrimack defender and rifled a shot past Jere Huhtamaa. The Merrimack penalty kill unit would go on to allow two more goals — both to Aidan McDonough — as Northeastern put up 13 shots on goal in its nine power-play tries.
“We weren’t very aggressive on the PK,” Borek said. “In our end, we backed off. The first goal they just walked one of our guys and that was mainly because our guy was standing still and not ready for it, and you have to anticipate. They can break it down 1-on-1, especially Tyler Madden. I was disappointed that we allowed zone entries very easily on the PK, which we were good with (Friday) night.”
Merrimack goaltender Jere Huhtamaa made 26 saves — a career-high for the freshman — and Borek was impressed with his play despite the loss. Huhtamaa was pulled in his first two collegiate starts but now has begun to settle in as he’s made five starts in a row.
“The one player we walk away from tonight feeling comfortable with is Jere,” Borek said. “His compete and his level of play were good all weekend. They’re a tough team to play for a goalie because they look for that next pass a lot. You have to track the puck well and through traffic and he was really aggressive and did a good job, so I was pleased with his effort.”
The game was littered with penalties; the teams combined for 23 individual calls totaling 70 penalty minutes, including three 10-minute misconducts and three unsportsmanlike conducts called in the game.
“That many penalties throws off your continuity on the bench and it takes you out of a rhythm,” said Northeastern coach Jim Madigan. “Even if you have matching penalties, you need to take someone off a line and move him to replace the guy who is in the box.”
Borek even challenged a penalty in the second period; Logan Drevitch was hit in the corner and Borek believed it was a hit from behind. Borek used his challenge to have the officials look at the call and determine whether or not it was a five-minute major (that’s the only option for a reviewed hit) but there was no penalty assessed.
“I still think was hit from behind,” Borek said. “I have a real hard time when those things happen, because I think the safety of our player was at risk, but that was (the official’s) judgment, and he watched it. I was it on the Jumbotron and I felt strongly about it. … His explanation was fair, he said he didn’t feel that it warranted a five-minute penalty, and I understand that, so we’ll agree to disagree.
The Warriors got on the board at the 14:57 mark of the third period when Declan Carlile scored his second goal of the season when a rebound shot out to him at left face-off dot, but penalties to Carlile and Zach Uens late in the period stopped the momentum.
“We tried to play Northeastern hockey in the first two periods, and guess what? Northeastern, no surprise, is better at Northeastern hockey than we are. In the third period, we finally pushed back and got a little bit more physical got a little bit heavier. We created a lot of opportunities. We made it 3-1 and I was pretty confident we were going to make it 3-2. Obviously, we got a couple of penalties there and that kind of ended the rally.”
NOTES: The loss snapped a four-game streak for the Warriors scoring on the power play; the last time Merrimack didn’t score a power-play goal was at RIT on Oct. 19. … The game marked only the second time all season Merrimack has allowed more than one power-play goal (Wisconsin). … Mac Welsher led the Warriors on face-offs (11-8) and Zach Solow was the leader in the game (18-10). … Jamie Koharski and Jack Millea officiated the game. … Due to allowing three power-play goals and scoring at even strength, the Warriors had five players with a plus-1 rating and no players with a minus rating. … Craig Pantano made 19 saves in the win over his former team.
NEXT: Travels to Massachusetts on Nov. 22 (7 p.m.)
#13 Northeastern 3, Merrimack 1
Merrimack (2-7-1): 0-0-0—0
Northeastern (5-3-2): 1-2-0—3
First Period: 1. NU Tyler Madden 6 (Ryan Shea, Zach Solow), 8:11 (pp).
Second Period: 2. NU Aidan McDonough 2 (Ryan Shea, Tyler Madden), 7:31 (pp); 3. NU Aidan McDonough 3 (Tyler Madden, Ryan Shea), 18:59 (pp).
Third Period: 4. MC Declan Carlile 2 (Ryan Nolan, Liam Walsh), 14:57 (ev).
Shots: Merrimack 4-7-9—20; Northeastern 9-13-7—29
Saves: MC Huhtamaa 8-11-7—26; NU Pantano 4-7-8—19
Power Play: Merrimack 0 for 5 (8 shots); Northeastern 3 for 9 (13 shots)
Penalties: Merrimack 12-32:00; Northeastern 11-38:00
Attendance: 2,175 (6,000)