BOSTON — Senior Captain Tyler McNeely led the Northeastern University Huskies to their 3-1 victory over the University of Massachusetts-Lowell River Hawks Saturday evening at Matthews Arena in front of a crowd of 1050. The win marks the first time the Huskies have won two consecutive games and also marks the first four-point weekend of the season.
“I knew it was going to be one of those blue collar games where you were going to have to fight for ice,” said NU coach Greg Cronin. “I thought the first period we were good, the second period Lowell controlled the play and then in the third it became a different game.”
Freshman goalie Clay Witt recorded 30 saves in his first start at the college level.
Mass.-Lowell picked up two tripping penalties from Michael Budd and Chad Ruhwedel in the first period of the game, and the River Hawks also picked up a power play when NU’s Steve Morra was sent off the ice for hitting from behind. Neither team was able to capitalize on their advantages.
Still, the Huskies were the first to strike with just under two minutes to play in the first. As the Huskies brought the puck into the offensive zone, Mike McLaughlin sent a pass from the right circle to Brodie Reid, who was posted in front of the net. Catching the puck with his foot, Reid sent a quick shot past River Hawks keeper Marc Boulanger to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead.
Rob Dongara also earned an assist on the play. The goal marks Reid’s fourth of the season.
Mass.-Lowell started the second period a man short as Ruhwedel served the final 26 seconds of his tripping penalty, but they were able to kill the penalty.
The River Hawks evened the score at 2:29 in the second, but not without review from the officials. On a pass from Patrick Cey, Riley Wetmore managed to finagle the puck past Witt while there was a pileup in front of the net.
Unsure as to whether or not the play was blown dead before the puck entered the net, Scott Hansen skated over to the boards to review the play, where it was eventually ruled fair.
The turning point in the game came just over eight minutes into the second when Steve Quailer had to leave the ice after an elbow from Al Butler left him injured. The physicality increased dramatically for both teams.
Not wasting any time in the third period, the Huskies regained their lead when Wade MacLeod notched his eighth goal of the season right in front of the River Hawks goal. Luke Eibler and McNeely both earned assists on the play as well, giving them their sixth and eighth helpers of the season, respectively.
Desperate to make something of the time remaining in the period, the River Hawks fired seven more shots in the third period, giving them 24 for the entire evening, but were unsuccessful in closing the gap. The final goal for the Huskies came from the blue line, as McNeely sent a rocket into an empty net.
Despite the loss, River Hawks coach Blaise MacDonald sees the silver lining on the cloud of a young team.
“They’ve [the freshmen] started to make great progress and they’re starting to compete at the level we’d like,” said MacDonald. “They’re going to be great competitors in this league. We hadn’t expected to play this many; most nights we are playing 10-12 freshman.”
Both teams will be back in action next weekend, as the Huskies will look to extend their win streak to four when they host the University of Vermont for a pair of games on Friday, January 14, and Saturday January 15.
Mass.-Lowell will host their sister school, the University of Massachusetts, on Friday, January 14 and then travel to Amherst Saturday, January 15 for a rematch.