Alabama-Huntsville gets early lead, but Northeastern rallies for home sweep


A weekend sweep was a much-needed shot in the arm for Northeastern as the Huskies claimed a 3-1 win over Alabama-Huntsville on Sunday night, moving them back to .500 on the season (4-4-1, 2-4-1 Hockey East).

The Chargers, meanwhile, made the long drive back to Huntsville still searching for their first win of the year (0-9-1).

“I heard Bill Belichick say earlier today, ‘We’re not apologizing for wins.’ That’s why we play the game, to get wins.’ At the end of the day, you’re measured by wins and losses,” Northeastern coach Jim Madigan. “Any time you can get a win, you’re happy with the win, and we were able to get a sweep this weekend.”

Though the Chargers’ struggles have been well-documented, Madigan acknowledged that an opponent’s record shouldn’t diminish the need to follow through on chances.

“I thought we executed a lot better [last night],” Madigan said. “We were buzzing their net. We just didn’t do that today. We got into a lull and they work hard.”

That hard work was evident early.

Alabama-Huntsville came out of the gate flying, outplaying the Huskies along the boards and winning battles for the puck – an early surge that caught Northeastern flat-footed and trapped in its defensive zone for much of the frame.

The pressure from the Chargers was rewarded at 7:01 into the first period when sophomore Kyle Lysaght walked in from the right faceoff circle and blasted the puck past Northeastern goalie Chris Rawlings into the upper third of the net, picking up his second goal of the season.

“It was a bad bounce on the goal [they scored],” Northeastern captain Vinny Saponari said, noting that he reassured his teammates that the UAH goal was just a momentary setback. “We just wanted to give the team a little energy, play simple, get pucks deep, cycle, and get pucks to the net.”

The Chargers carried the 1-0 lead into the locker room, but upon returning to the ice, found a more composed Huskies team that pushed back. The Huskies seized momentum and pinned the Chargers deep in their own end for prolonged stretches, carving out space in the attacking zone.

At 7:16 into the second, Saponari was the first to take advantage of the space, setting up on the goal line and deflecting a Dustin Darou slap shot top shelf past freshman goalie Gregg Gruehl (31 saves).

“I think I’ve been trying to get to the net harder, trying to clean up loose pucks around the net, get a little bit grittier around in front of the net,” Saponari said. “We just need to find those bounces that happen to go in.”

Subsequent penalties tilted the ice even further in the Huskies’ favor and they pounced roughly seven minutes later. With ample room on the power play, Ludwig Karlsson walked in from the right-wing corner and roofed one in from the goal line, giving the Huskies a 2-1 lead.

While the Chargers did everything they could to build momentum from transition play, several icing calls in the third period forced them back into their own zone, visibly frustrating players up and down the UAH bench.

As the minutes ticked down, the Huskies skated with more strength and confidence with the puck, just as Alabama-Huntsville was losing steam and looking increasingly exhausted. The final dagger came in the final minute with an empty net, as Garrett Vermeersch found Robby Vrolyk alone at center ice, allowing Vrolyk to coast in and pot the goal to seal the win.