TROY, N.Y. — The Northeastern Huskies chewed up their fourth straight opponent and were rewarded with the championship of the Rensselaer/HSBC Holiday Tournament, knocking off Mercyhurst 7-5 Monday night.
Huskies points leader Jason Guerriero shone once again, accumulating two goals and two assists, including the game’s opening tally midway through the first period. The junior displayed his offensive prowess with a strong one-timer while his team was on the power play.
“You have to give it to my teammates,” said the tournament’s MVP. “It could be anyone on my line that’s scoring. We’re all seeing each other and we’re all producing. A few times I got lucky and the puck bounced my way, but when we got our chances we buried them.”
Mercyhurst (7-8-1, 4-3-0 AHA) tied the game briefly when Kyle Gourgon notched his sixth goal of the year. The freshman located a puck that had trickled behind Northeastern netminder Keni Gibson and led it gently into the open goal.
But the Huskies answered a minute later. Defenseman Danny Grover showed a flash of offensive tenacity with a hard drive to the net, and had only to tap in Guerriero’s centering pass for Northeastern’s second goal.
The Lakers poured on some offense with a flood of chances in the second period, however. Scott Champagne, yet another freshman, banged home a rebound seven minutes into the period to knot the score at 2-2.
Mike Carter answered the call next, wowing the neutral crowd with a nifty move near the Huskies’ goalmouth. The senior showed Gibson his forehand before shuffling the puck to his backhand and depositing the puck past the goalie’s outstretched pad.
Northeastern (4-9-2, 0-7-1 Hockey East) began to capitalize on the Lakers’ aggressive style, however, creating numerous odd-man rushes. After failing to crack freshman netminder Jordan Wakefield for the majority of the middle frame, Steve Sanders finally earned himself an grueling rebound notch to even the score at 3-3.
With under 10 seconds remaining in the second, Northeastern defenseman Brian Cirullo broke in uncontested on the Lakers net and ripped the lead back from Mercyhurst with a hard wrist shot off the post and into the back of the net.
The Huskies pulled away from the Lakers by adding their third and fourth consecutive goals. Northeastern extended its lead to 5-3 when Trevor Reschny flew up the far boards and drifted towards the slot, creating enough time to pick his spot in the opponent’s goal. Brian Swiniarski followed with a backhander that floated past a diving Wakefield.
That goal gave Northeastern of its second straight game with six or more tallies.
“It’s what everybody was asking for for Christmas,” said Husky head coach Bruce Crowder. “In our last three games we’ve started to get some offense, and that’s what we’ve been looking for in our first 12 games of the season. We just hope that continues.”
The Lakers refused to surrender, however. The Lakers packed the front of the Northeastern net, creating confusion and leading to two quick goals. David Wrigley and Denis Kirstein scored 16 seconds apart, slicing the Husky lead to 6-5.
But a late clearing attempt by Guerriero navigated all the way into an empty Laker net, securing the victory for the resurgent Huskies.
“Give Mercyhurst credit,” said Crowder. “There’s no quit in those kids. Down 6-3 and out of sight and then they just kept coming. But it’s like the old clich. We bent a little bit, but we didn’t break.”
Northeastern runs its hot streak into powerful Boston College next week. Despite the tough competition, the Huskies are gaining confidence after a slow start.
“Now that we have a couple of wins under our belt everyone’s a little more positive and upbeat in the locker room,” commented Guerriero. “We’re a brand-new team at 4-0 after the break, and we’re just going to keep going with it.”
Mercyhurst travels to the North Country next weekend for a pair of nonconference games against Clarkson.