BOSTON — They’ve got defense. They’ve got goaltending. They’ve got guys who can score. They also have their fourth win in a row. The Northeastern Huskies, firing on all cylinders, defeated the Holy Cross Crusaders 7-2 in a scorefest Friday night.
Northeastern’s Jim Fahey had four assists and Chris Lynch added two goals and two assists in the winning cause.
Holy Cross’ R.J. Irving tallied a goal and an assist in the Crusaders’ losing effort.
The Huskies (7-6-2, 2-4-1 HEA) came into the matchup with a three-game win streak after defeating Clarkson, St. Lawrence and Princeton in last week’s play. The Crusaders (7-4-2, 4-1-2 MAAC) also arrived on a winning streak, sweeping Findlay in previous action.
In the first strong pressure was applied by Northeastern managing 21shots while Holy Cross could only manage two. For the first five minutes of the contest, Holy Cross goaltender Derek Cunha stood strong, making several spectacular saves.
“They [Northeastern] did everything we asked them to,” said Northeastern coach Jaime Rice. “They [Holy Cross] have a good goaltender and they are a good team that is going to win their league.” Rice was at the helm for the Huskies, as head coach Bruce Crowder was not in attendance due to the passing of his mother.
Cunha finally succumbed to the pressure as freshman Jaron Herriman put the Huskies on the board at 5:19. A rebound from a Jim Fahey slapshot found Herriman’s tape and he was able to muscle off a defender and put home the wrister.
“I’m not worried about the points,” said Northeastern captain Fahey, who added four helpers on the night. “What I am happy with is that in the last four games we have only allowed five goals.” Northeastern has outscored opponents 18-5 in the past four contests.
Pressure continued as the sheet of ice seemed to be tilted in Northeastern’s favor the entire first period.
“If we let up they are going to come after us,” said Rice. “I just told the guys to not let up and keep applying pressure.”
Northeastern made it 2-0 when Leon Hayward wristed a shot, top shelf over Cunha’s left shoulder at 17:42. Hayward crossed the blue line with the defense out of position.
With less than a minute remaining, Northeastern did anything but sit on a 2-0 lead. Jason Guerriero found a trailing Mike Ryan in the slot who slapped home his 11th goal of the season at 19:12.
The Huskies smelled blood and bite as the goal light went off for their fourth goal of the night at 19:44. Herriman found Joe Mastronardi all alone out front and he buried the shot on the far side. The period would finally end for the Crusaders with the score 4-0.
The Huskies would outshoot the Crusaders 21-2 in the first.
The second, much like the first, saw Northeastern control the puck and deny any opportunity that Holy Cross could muster.
The only quality opportunity that Holy Cross had in the period was when Northeastern iced the puck and the Crusaders found themselves in the offensive zone, a rarity for the evening.
John Bombard picked off a pass from Guerriero of Northeastern and fired on net. Northeastern net minder Keni Gibson swallowed the shot and denied Holy Cross any hope of a rebound.
The score would reach 5-0 when Arik Engbrecht fired a shot on net after a feed from Trevor Reschney at 16:00. Cunha didn’t have the opportunity at the save as he was well screened.
Holy Cross would quickly come back with a power-play goal at 19:05 with Jim Fahey in the box for cross checking. Patrick Rissmiller would re-direct a shot from R.J. Irving to get the Crusaders on the board.
Not wasting any time, Northeastern fired back with their 6th goal of the contest when Chris Lynch cleaned up a mess in front of Cunha for his 7th tally of the year at 19:48 while NU was on the power play.
Holy Cross had difficulties clearing the zone, which was spearheaded by strong forechecking from Northeastern.
“They were a fast team,” said Coach Pearl. “The put on a trap and clogged the zone. It was difficult to push the puck at times and think that it was the cause of most of our errors tonight.”
The third period would be much of the same for the Crusaders, sloppy passing, poor clearing of the puck and unforced errors abounded.
“I told the guys to forget about the first period and go out and play the next 40 minutes hard,” said coach Pearl. “They settled down a little bit but the goals started to pile up and they were getting a little frustrated.”
The lone bright spot for Holy Cross was connecting on their power play. In four opportunities they were able to connect twice in the evening. A power-play goal by R.J. Irving would be Holy Cross’ second tally of the evening at 15:39.
“Our power play was clicking tonight as it has been for us all season,” said Coach Pearl. “I think we’re at about 30% right now and you really can’t ask for much more than that.”
As if Northeastern were playing a game of cat and mouse, Lynch found the back of the net for the second time of the night shortly after the power-play goal from Holy Cross.
Northeastern played with a tenacity that the rafters of Matthews haven’t seen in some time. Physically, strategically and convincingly Northeastern was able to win the contest.
“I think this is going to really carry our momentum,” said Northeastern center Chris Lynch. “Tonight guys saw that they could put the puck in the goal. In games like these that’s what we need to see.”
Northeastern will next face Merrimack in Hockey East action on December 8, while Holy Cross will take on conference rival Fairfield at home.