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Northeastern 4, Merrimack 2: Hockey East opener goes to Huskies

BOSTON -- After earning a victory over No. 5 Union last Saturday night, things were certainly looking up for the Merrimack Warriors as they entered Matthews Arena on Wednesday to face the Northeastern Huskies. However, the Hounds had other plans as they scored three times in the first period and never looked back in a 4-2 win to open the Hockey East league schedule.

With the win, the Huskies stopped a four-game winless streak against Merrimack and picked up their first victory in the all-time series since Dec. 4, 2010 when they won on the road in the cozy confines of North Andover's Lawler Arena.

NU's highly touted freshman Kevin Roy delivered his first-collegiate goal all the way back in the first period, beating Warrior freshman Rasmus Tirronen (30 saves), who was making the first start of his career. Three of Roy's classmates - Ryan Belonger, Colton Saucerman, and Dax Lauwers - posted an assist each for their first collegiate points on the evening.

Goaltending was a bit of a question mark for the Huskies but senior Chris Rawlings stood true to form in the contest as he posted his 40th win as a Husky, stopping 32 shots.

Senior Garrett Vermeersch wasted no time getting on the board as he redirected Saucerman's first-ever shot past Tirronen just 53 seconds into the contest. After falling short on a power play, NU made it 2-0 when sophomore Joseph Manno fired a soft backhand into the back of the net, while Roy took the pass from senior captain Vinny Saponari for the one-time over Tirronen's glove.

The Warriors crept back into the contest with two second-period goals from sophomores Quinn Gould at 4:20 and Justin Mansfield at 15:08.

In the waning moments at 19:02, senior assistant captain Robbie Vrolyk fired a shorthanded goal into an empty net to lift the Huskies to the 4-2 final score and head coach Jim Madigan's first-career victory over the Warriors.

The win was also NU's first to open a season since the 2007-08 season when Greg Cronin was at the helm. The Huskies beat Providence in that contest as Chris Donovan scored the game-winning goal just 44 seconds into overtime.

Northeastern returns to the ice on Saturday as it hosts defending NCAA champion Boston College at 7 p.m. during the school's annual Homecoming contest. Merrimack has the rest of the week off as it prepares to trek to Alaska for the Goal Rush Tournament next weekend.