BOSTON — And just like that, all is right on Huntington Avenue.
Northeastern bounced back from a devastating Beanpot loss — a 3-2 overtime decision overtime Monday — to earn a 4-1 win over Hockey East foe Merrimack at Matthews Arena Friday, paced by three-point nights from seniors Tim Judy and Jason Guerriero. Judy, a blueliner, scored the game’s first goal and added a pair of assists, while Guerriero assisted on NU’s first and third tallies, scoring the fourth.
“It was a heartbreaking loss on Monday, but it was a loss we could learn from — especially in overtime,” said Judy, who has three goals and six assists in his last six games. “This game was a total mental game, just to get back to the winning side. I thought the boys played well and we stepped up to the challenge.”
Northeastern coach Bruce Crowder called it a “good rebound game,” as his team moved to 13-14-4 overall, 8-8-3 in Hockey East, heading into Saturday’s date with first-place New Hampshire.
The opposite could be said for Merrimack. The Warriors, losers of 11 straight, were eliminated from the conference playoffs due to the loss and a 3-2 Providence win over Maine.
One hellish ride — that’s how coach Chris Serino agreed the season as been as his club fell to 8-23-2, 1-19-1. “It has been, but they’re playing hard,” he said. “Any bounce of a puck that can go bad for us has gone bad. There’s not much we can do about it right now.
“We had guys alone in front of the net with the puck and didn’t get a shot on net. I don’t know whether guys are pressing. We’re getting chances, we’re just not putting them in and it seems that every chance the other team gets goes in.”
After a sluggish opening period that lacked “oomph from both teams,” in Crowder’s words, Judy put the Dogs on top eight minutes into the second period. With Husky junior Brian Swiniarski serving a checking from behind penalty, Judy joined a shorthanded rush with Guerriero. After the senior center hit Judy with a snappy pass, the defenseman faked a slapshot and slipped a backhand past Warrior goalie Jim Healey (26 saves) for the tally.
Judy had just nine career goals in 130 games before his recent streak. “I don’t know where that’s from,” Crowder said. “He hit the crossbar tonight, too. He could have had two [goals]. He’s been Mr. Dependable, killing penalties and seeing power-play time. He’s just been a great asset to our program all four years he’s been here.”
Merrimack did end up capitalizing on Swiniarski’s penalty, as junior left wing Brent Gough popped a rebound through NU netminder Keni Gibson’s legs at the 10:08 mark. Gibson finished the game with 29 saves.
Northeastern answered twice before the break.
At the 12:31 mark, Judy led the rush down the right boards and dropped the puck for fellow blueliner Steve Birnstill, who hit a wide-open Jared Mudryk at the left post to put the Huskies back on top, 2-1.
Little more than a minute later, the Hounds struck again. Junior forward Mike Morris (two assists) dumped the puck behind the net where it was corralled out of the air by freshman Jimmy Russo. The winger, getting a chance with Northeastern’s first line, spun around the goal and stuffed the puck past Healey for his second career tally.
“He’s one of those kids that’s getting a lot more comfortable as he’s gone on,” Crowder said. “He played a whale of a game in the Beanpot. His plus chances off the video were up in the double digits. He had himself a great game Monday night. You look at kids and how they start to emerge and you hope to put them somewhere. He sees the ice extremely well and he’s getting around the rink real well. I think he complemented Jay and Mike pretty good.”
Three minutes into the third period, with Northeastern on the power play, Judy sent a low shot towards the net that deflected off Guerriero’s skate before finding its way past Healey to give Northeastern a commanding 4-1 edge.
Northeastern kept pace with UMass-Lowell, a 3-1 winner over Boston College Friday, two points out of fifth place in the conference standings. NU’s Saturday contest against UNH starts at 7 p.m., while Merrimack is off until next Friday, when it hosts Providence.