Jerry Keefe was discouraged. His team had just lost a 5-3 decision at home to Connecticut, dropping its record to 3-3 overall, 0-2 in Hockey East. But the first-year Northeastern men’s hockey coach maintained his resolve.
“We’re not desperate enough as a hockey team,” said Keefe after the Oct. 26 loss. “Obviously I’m not pushing the right buttons. I’m going to have to start doing that, because we’ve got some guys that aren’t performing at the level they need to.”
The Huskies have responded, reeling off five straight wins, with weekend sweeps of Maine and New Hampshire preceding a wildly entertaining 2-1 overtime win over a previously unbeaten Harvard squad Monday night. They have had goals from 14 different skaters through the first 11 games, led by Milton’s Aidan McDonough with eight.
“We’re starting to win different ways,” said Keefe. “We’re getting different contributions from other guys. The whole team, really, which is huge.”
Senior Jakov Novak, playing in his first season with the Huskies after transferring from Bentley, broke through for four goals in two games against UNH after going scoreless the first eight. The Windsor, Ontario, native has made the adjustment to his new teammates.
“Being an older guy here, there’s a great group and great leadership,” said Novak, who was named Hockey East Player of the Week for his efforts. “There was a little bit of an adjustment. I came in playing center and I moved back to the wing a little bit, so back to where I was playing, so that’s it, just keeping it simple.”
Defenseman Jordan Harris of Haverhill has a pair of goals to go along with seven assists. The senior captain likes what he has seen from the team during the winning streak.
“I think it’s our ability to play a full three periods,” said Harris, a third-round draft pick of the Canadiens in 2018. “We have our hitches here and there, but that consistency and relentlessness is really important because we’re a young group.”
Sophomore goalie Devon Levi made 20 saves and surrendered just one goal to a Harvard squad that averaged six through its first four games. He picked up his eighth win of the season and has a .945 save percentage.
“We have a ton of confidence in him,” said Keefe. “He’s going to give us a chance to win every night. Knowing that he’s back there, the guys feel confident.”
Both Harvard and Northeastern played three games in four nights. Harvard entered the matchup having defeated Cornell and Colgate, rallying from a 2-0 deficit for a 3-2 win over the Big Red Friday. In the 5-1 win over Colgate Saturday, sophomore forward Alex Laferriere scored four goals.
“Overall it was a good weekend for us as far as learning lessons against good teams that pushed us,” said Harvard coach Ted Donato., whose squad cracked the top 10 in both polls last week. “We’re learning as a team. We’ll get back on it this weekend.”
The Crimson (4-1) will hit the road for games at Clarkson and St. Lawrence. Northeastern travels to face UMass Lowell Friday night.
UMass finds momentum
UMass came away with a pair of impressive wins over Providence to extend its winning streak to six games and move up to No. 8 in the polls. Senior goalie Matt Murray stopped 69 of 70 shots in the series sweep, including a 28-save shutout performance in the 1-0 win Friday night.
“I think the team is starting to figure out its identity and starting to get some momentum,” said coach Greg Carvel. “The new players are starting to add more to what we have. It’s great to see that things are coming together.”
Next up for UMass (6-2) is a home-and-home series with Boston University beginning Friday night at Agganis Arena. The Terriers swept the season series last year, but enter the weekend on a four-game losing streak that has dropped them to 3-7.
“BU will be the most talented team we’ve played so far,” said Carvel. “We’ve played some heavy teams, but BU will be the most talented, so our defensive game is going to have to be really solid.”
Growing pains at BC
Boston College (5-4-1) hits the road to face UConn (6-3) and UMass Lowell (4-1-2). The Eagles split a series with Merrimack last weekend, winning on the road Friday night before dropping a 4-3 decision at Conte Forum Saturday.
“Growth takes time,” said BC coach Jerry York. “We’re going to be a pretty good hockey team, I think. We’ve shown flashes of it, but not a lot in back-to-back games.”
UConn (6-3) is playing at home for the first time since Oct. 8, having played the last seven games on the road. The Huskies have a four-game winning streak and will be back on the road after hosting BC to face Providence Saturday.
Follow Andrew Mahoney on Twitter @GlobeMahoney.