Senior goaltender Clay Witt stops 38 shots for Huskies

Senior goaltender Clay Witt made 38 saves for the Huskies

BOSTON, Mass. - Junior goaltender Clay Witt made 38 saves for his first career shutout, and the Northeastern men's ice hockey team (8-5-0, 3-4-0) netted two goals in the first period to earn a sweep of Merrimack (3-8-1, 0-5-1) on Saturday night at Matthews Arena, 2-0.

Torin Snydeman and Zach Aston-Reese both scored for the Huskies, who dominated the face-off dot with a 45-of-71 performance, highlighted by Dalen Hedges' 14-of-15 showing. Merrimack, which outshot NU 38-26, received 24 stops from Rasmus Tirronen and went 0-of-7 on the man advantage. The Huskies, meanwhile, went 1-of-3 on the power play.

Merrimack held a slight 13-12 edge in shots on goal during an up and down first period, but it was the Huskies who scored twice during the opening 20 minutes to take a 2-0 lead into the dressing room.

The Huskies drew first blood near the midway mark of the stanza when Aston-Reese netted his third goal of the season. Dustin Darou began the play by corralling the puck at the point and sliding it across to Colton Saucerman. Saucerman then fired a shot towards goal that Aston-Reese redirected past Tirronen for the score. Aston-Reese continued to create offensive opportunities, and nearly helped the Huskies take a 2-0 lead when he hit Mike Szmatula with a pass from out of the corner, but Szmatula's one-timer was stopped by Tirronen.

Northeastern made it a two-goal game with less than four minutes remaining in the frame from Aston-Reese pounded home a loose puck on the doorstep off an initial shot from Cody Ferriero at the right side. Tirronen stopped Ferriero's snapshot from the right dot, but Hedges and Aston-Reese crashed the net in search of the rebound, with Aston-Reese knocking it over the goal line.

At the other end of the ice, Witt played a strong opening period, steering aside all 13 shots he saw including a highlight reel save on Kyle Singleton when Witt dove from one side of the net to the other to knock the puck out of midair on a rebound bid.

Witt continued to stymie the Warriors into the second period, making another 13 stops in the middle frame to preserve the two-goal lead, including a tough stop on Clayton Jardine early in the stanza.

Mike McMurtry almost gave Northeastern a commanding three-goal lead less than four minutes into the period when he ripped a shot from the left face-off that caught the right post square. Kevin Roy created an opportunity for NU minutes later when he took a hit to make a play, sending the puck across to John Stevens for a chance on goal that Tirronen handled.

NU continued to maintain the momentum in the game after killing off a full five-on-three power play for the Warriors, holding Merrimack to just two shots.

Szmatula nearly extended the Northeastern lead to three less than two minutes into the third period when he skated the puck down the left side before trying a wraparound that rang off the far pipe before Merrimack could clear.

MC had a chance to cut into the deficit with less than eight minutes left in regulation when Jordan Heywood rocketed a slap shot off the right post during a power play for the Warriors, but the Huskies were able to control the rebound and clear it down ice. Merrimack would pull Tirronen in favor of the extra skater with less than a minute to play, but the Huskies were able to weather the storm and secure the victory.

The Huskies will be back in action next weekend when Northeastern travels to South Bend, Ind. for the Shillelagh Tournament. NU will face Western Michigan on Friday afternoon at 4:05 p.m. before squaring off with either host Notre Dame or Alabama-Huntsville on Saturday.