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College Hockey:
Saponari and Vermeersch notch two assists as Northeastern tops Vermont

— Led by the firepower of rookie winger Ludwig Karlsson, Northeastern completed its first weekend sweep of the season with a 4-1 victory over Hockey East bottom-feeder Vermont. Karlsson secured the win for the Huskies by launching a wrist shot over Catamounts goaltender Rob Madore at 16:04 in the opening frame.

“I thought obviously the weekend was a great weekend for us, the first time we’ve been able to sweep in a weekend,” Northeastern coach Jim Madigan said. “You are what you do during the week leading in to a game, and we had a good four days of practice. I’m thrilled with the four points.”

Karlsson, who notched his third multi-point game of the season, was the brightest of many bright spots in Northeastern’s third league victory. Aside from netting the eventual game-winner, Karlsson lit the lamp first for the Huskies. At 1:33, winger Vinny Saponari skated the puck behind the net and passed to Karlsson on the doorstep. The native Swede took advantage of the crease confusion and tipped it past Madore for a 1-0 advantage.

“I don’t remember the whole situation but I remember I skated toward the net,” Karlsson said. “They didn’t pick me up. I didn’t do a lot. Vinny did the pass, I was there with my stick, and it was a goal.”

Northeastern appeared to be in the driver’s seat for the sweep early in the first period, but fell victim to a series of penalties that opened the door for a briefly-opportunistic Vermont squad. After killing forward Adam Reid’s goaltender interference penalty at 10:13, the Huskies found themselves down a man only minutes later after winger Cody Ferriero was banished to the sin bin for a slashing minor at 13:27.

The Huskies initially appeared unconcerned with the Catamounts’ power play unit, which entered the night with a 14 percent success rate. Vermont managed to edge its success on the man advantage up to 8-for-52 (15 percent) for the season, the lone positive for a Catamounts squad still in search of its first league victory.

With just 17 seconds left on the power play, Vermont blueliner Nick Luuko wristed a weak shot from the left point. Catamounts winger Matt White assisted the shot from the slot and slid it past Northeastern netminder Matt Rawlings before he could close his pads. Vermont’s man-advantage equalizer, coming at 15:10 in the first frame, was the only offense the beleaguered Catamounts would muster all game.

“We had difficulty getting entry into their zone on the power play,” Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon said. “We talked about it, we tried it once, and it worked. Second time up the ice we went back to doing what we did in the first period and didn’t get anything going.”

The Catamounts squandered the opportunity to take the reins when Huskies winger Joseph Manno was bounced from the game at 17:41 in the second period with a five-minute major for contact to the head and a game misconduct. Northeastern’s penalty kill unit, which entered the night with a 77.6 percent success rate, rebounded and stifled Vermont’s offense.

The squads skated to a stalemate throughout most of the second period, despite the Huskies holding a clear edge in puck possession, until Northeastern’s top line regained control. Repeating their first-period antics, linemates Saponari and Karlsson, skating without captain Mike McLaughlin, combined for the Huskies’ go-ahead goal at 16:04. Saponari took the initial shot, which was turned away by Madore. Madore’s failure to control the rebound resulted in Karlsson’s eventual game-winner.

“That line gave us a lot of trouble, but if you really break it down, we kind of shot ourselves in the foot,” Sneddon said. “I don’t want to take anything away from them. They’re great players and they finished the opportunities that we gave them.”

Northeastern turned a two-on-one into an insurance goal as the second stanza drew to a close. Catching Vermont with a defender out of position, Huskies center Garrett Vermeersch slid a pass to winger Steve Quailer in the low left circle, who batted the puck past Madore stick side at 19:30.

“We had an absolutely terrible turnover with 29 seconds to go in the second period,” Sneddon said. “We could have entered the third period down one goal and we give up what could have been the world’s softest goal.”

If there was any doubt about whether Northeastern was in control of this game, it was extinguished at 13:54 in the third period.  Huskies center Justin Daniels beat a Catamount defender in a foot race to the puck behind the net. Linemate Alex Tuckerman made it 4-1 Northeastern by one-timing Daniels’ centering pass past Madore.

“If I was our goaltender, I would be pretty upset right now. If I was him in there, I’d be throwing a tantrum,” Sneddon said.  “He deserved better in front of him tonight.”

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