The Northeastern men's hockey team started up its 2011-12 campaign with an 8-5 setback against St. Francis Xavier in an exhibition contests on Sunday afternoon at Matthews Arena. Sunday's affair marked the first game for head coach Jim Madigan as the Huskies and X-Men put on a power play clinic for those in attendance at Matthews Arena.
"I saw some good things out there and saw some things we need to work on," Madigan said after the game. "In 5-on-5, I thought we pursued pucks really well, got pucks down low and competed. I thought we competed well all night long."
Junior forward Justin Daniels exploded with four points, including a pair of goals and assists while four other Huskies turned in multi-point efforts. Third-year forward Garrett Vermeersch registered a goal and an assist while defensemen Anthony Bitetto and Luke Eibler each chipped in with two assists. Sophomore Braden Pimm also accounted for two helpers on the day.
Northeastern's power play went 4-for-8 on the day while the X-Men finished 4-of-9. The Huskies were whistled for 12 infractions while St. FX was issued 11 penalties. The Huskies also finished with a 36-33 advantage in shots.
Each NU netminder manned the net in 20-minute increments. Junior netminder Chris Rawlings got the start and stopped 11 shots on 12 attempts. Classmate Bryan Mountain allowed only one goal on seven shots while sophomore Clay Witt had a tough day, surrendering six goals on 14 shots.
The first three minutes opened with each team triggering from outside the circles, giving way to a rookie Ben Oskroba hitting from behind penalty at 5:32. Northeastern sported a nice kill and almost converted a short-handed tally after junior Robbie Vrolyk stepped up and stripped a pass on the right dot. Vrolyk streaked down with senior Mike McLaughlin to his right, but Morgan Clark stood his ground and turned the attempt away.
With remnants of St. FX's penalty on the clock, sophomore Like Eibler jostled the puck loose from an X-Men forward and poked it out to junior Justin Daniels in the neutral zone. Sophomore Rob Dongara discovered the breakaway and zoomed up the right side and wristed a one-timer pass from J. Daniels past Clark on the 2-0 situation to take the early 1-0 lead at 7:33.
The X-Men possessed the puck in Northeastern's zone for a big chunk and eventually gave way to a Ted Stephens' tally at 17:44 to knot the game up, 1-1. Nick Pageau took a slap shot from atop the left circle as Rawlings kick saved it out to Brennan Wray on the near post. Wray flung it towards the goalmouth and Stephens deflected the puck through Rawlings' legs for St. Francis Xavier's first goal of the contest.
The energy picked up in the second period but unfortunately, it was St. Francis Xavier to cash in first at 4:45 of the second period. The X-Men won the draw in the Huskies' zone and worked the puck around behind the net. Spencer McAvoy separated from Northeastern's blue liners and was dealt a perfect dish from Jason Bast on the near post to bat in the one-timer for the 2-1 lead.
Play turned ugly midway through the second, but Northeastern was the beneficiary of a big 5-on-3 chunk after Kevin Undershute (interference - 6:46), Mark Louis (tripping - 7:09) and Brennan Wray (roughing - 7:33) all followed each other into the penalty box.
J. Daniels won a draw in St. FX's zone back to junior Garrett Vermeersch at the top right of the zone. Vermeersch made a short pass over to Bitetto who was about five feet inside the blue line between the circles. Bitetto saw a lane and let loose a huge slap shot that blistered through the traffic to the back of the net at 10:22 to tie it up again, 2-2. The X-Men continued their parade into the box after Stephens and Derek Claffey were sent away for interference and hooking, respectively, 13:39 and 14:45, to give the Huskies another two-man advantage. Bitetto took his turn from the right dot, but did not convert. Sophomore Braden Pimm dug the puck out and rimmed it around to Vermeersch. Vermeersch wheeled the puck around the top of the zone and picked off the top right corner with a wicked wrister from between the circles to recoup the lead, 3-2, at 15:09.
The Huskies headed into the locker room holding the goal advantage, but the X-Men charged out of the gate in the third period and lit up the scoreboard for six tallies, including a third-period hat trick for Bryce Sway.
Sway made Northeastern pay for a penalty that carried over from the second at 1:24. Sway handled a pass from Jason Bast and put it past Witt for the third tie of the game.
About two minutes later, Louis broke up a play in Northeastern's zone out to Swan on the red line. Swan hit Brett Morrison in stride who then flung it past Witt at 3:34 to take the 4-3 edge. Witt got a piece, but the puck just trickled over the line.
J. Daniels put away his second goal of the day after Ted Stephens was called for hooking at 5:13. The Huskies crafted a perfect tic-tac-toe play from in close as Pimm zipped a pass over to Bitetto on the left dot. J. Daniels put his stick through traffic and buried Bitetto's perfect pass through traffic for the power play goal at 6:12 to cinch it back up again at 6:12.
Junior Drew Daniels went off for a hold at 6:38 and Kevin Undershute negated the Huskies' previous power play marker at 6:57. Bast started the play while Brannon set Undershute up in perfect position to take back the 5-4 lead.
Rookie Josh Manson rang a missile off the pipe at the 9:00-minute mark, but after Stephen Simms went off for tripping at 10:00, McLaughlin accounted for Northeastern's third power play goal of the day at 10:50. Manson shifted the puck over to McLaughlin and the senior pounded the back of the net with the one-timer goal from the left dot for the fifth and final tie of the game, 5-5.
In the span of about three and a half minutes starting at 11:04, the X-Men lit the lamp three times to put the game out of reach for Northeastern.
Swan potted his second at 11:04 on a broken play in the Huskies' zone. Nick Pageau corralled the puck and slid it over to Ted Stephens for the one-timer play to Swan, 6-5. Swan capped off the hat trick at 12:36 on a pass from R.D. Chisholm to move ahead two, 7-5. Chisholm directed a pass out to Swan five feet outside the left dot and Swan found a spot over Witt's right shoulder to for his third marker of the period.
Brannon sealed the deal at 14:48 with St. Francis Xavier's fourth power play goal of the day. Rookie Adam Reid went off for high-sticking at 6:32 and Brannan managed to redirect a Josh Day rebound to settle the 8-5 final.
Northeastern officially kicks off the regular season next Friday night at Matthews Arena when the Huskies welcome in Massachusetts for a 7 p.m. puck drop. That following Sunday, NU will make its only trip to Orono, Maine for the regular season to tangle with the Black Bears on Sunday, Oct. 9 at 1 p.m.
A replay of this game is available on GoNUxstream. GoNUxstream is free to all viewers and features live and on-demand video and audio broadcasts, as well as live game stats, and is accessible on PC and Mac computers, as well as on iPhones, iPads and Android phones.