BOSTON — It took four years, 10 months, 22 days and, oh, say 22 hours, but New Hampshire finally notched its 27th all-time road victory over the Northeastern Huskies.
Powered by three second-period goals, all scored by freshmen, the fourth-ranked Wildcats earned a 3-2 victory in front of 3,826 rambunctious fans at NU’s Matthews Arena Friday night, erasing a six-game winless streak at the 93-year-old grounds.
“It’s just another hockey game,” said All-American netminder Michael Ayers (34 saves). “It’s obviously a tough building to play in, and we haven’t had much success here, but we were bound to overcome it at some point.”
Freshman Jacob Micflikier, who potted the winning goal at the 10:24 mark of the second frame, opened his collegiate career with something it took Ayers four years to do: win at Matthews Arena.
“I was talking to [Patrick Foley] about where I was in ’99,” he said of the last UNH victory at Matthews — on Jan. 29, 1999. “I was trying to figure out if I was in eighth or ninth grade, it was something like that. It was a few years ago, but this was big for us.
“We [the freshmen] didn’t talk about [the streak] too much, I heard rumors here and there, but it’s not something you want to bring up too much because then it gets in your heads,” he added.
Micflikier’s tally came on a Kodak-worthy feed from junior Sean Collins. The left wing shot a pass from the right boards to a crashing and untouched Micflikier, whose one-timer easily beat Husky goalie Keni Gibson (27 saves) on his backside.
“We came off a quick change,” the 5-8, 175-pound Micflikier said. “Mick Mounsey got it up to Sean, and Sean got it into the zone. I just went to the net hard and he put a perfect pass on my stick. I didn’t have to do too much. It was pretty easy for me, I could’ve skated it right into the net. He makes it easy.”
For Northeastern, the loss continues an ugly streak of its own. NU is now winless in each of its nine contests this year, going 0-7-2 to further the worst start in the 72-year history of the program.
“These guys aren’t getting a whole lot of positives for their effort, but my thing for them is to keep telling them that they’re a good hockey team,” NU coach Bruce Crowder said. “They’re getting a little sick of hearing us say that, but right now, we’re a good hockey team and we look good, we just have to keep battling the battle and fighting the fight.”
Wildcat coach Dick Umile wasn’t surprised at how tough it was to earn the victory.
“It’s a good win for us, Bruce has his team playing well,” he said. “There’s a real fine line between winning and losing in this league. Those guys play as hard as anyone in the league. That’s a good hockey team.”
After giving up the first score for the fourth consecutive game and entering the first intermission staring at a two-goal deficit, UNH (7-2-1, 4-1-1) rattled off three goals in the opening ten minutes of the second period.
“We didn’t play great in the first period, but the guys came back in the second,” Umile said. “I think our guys battled back and found a way to win the hockey game. We couldn’t match them [in intensity] in the first period, you’ve got to give them credit.”
Freshman Daniel Winnik opened the second period scoring just a minute and a half into the frame, taking a power-play pass from Tim Horst and burying a wrist shot over Gibson’s right shoulder from 10 feet out.
Three minutes later, freshman Brett Hemingway knocked a Justin Aikins pass between the legs of Gibson to knot the score at two.
They were the first collegiate goals for both Winnik and Hemingway, and two of nine UNH shots in the middle period.
Northeastern began scoring 11 minutes into the contest, when junior Jaron Herriman notched his first goal of the year after a scrum in front of Ayers on the power play.
Three minutes later, sophomore Brian Swiniarski allotted the Huskies a two-goal lead by deflecting a Tim Judy shot past a helpless Ayers for his team-leading sixth goal of the year.
Northeastern recorded 15 shots in the third period, in part thanks to two power plays in the final five minutes of the game, which included a 17-second span in which the Huskies had a two-man advantage.
“I thought that we came out of the chute extremely well,” Crowder said. “I’d be disappointed if we didn’t come out that hard, given the circumstances, and I think the second period kind of took us out of it a little bit. I thought we came back and played extremely well in the third period, and had some great chances at the end.”
Chippy play led to a total of 21 penalties, including three separate instances in which matching minors were dished out. The teams will meet again on Saturday in Durham, N.H.