By Patrick Garriepy
The Northeast Generals returned to action this past weekend as they worked to close the gap between themselves and the final playoff spot, currently being occupied by the Maryland Black Bears. The Generals, trailing in the standings by 7 points, returned to Maine for the final time this season for a crucial 3 game set. The Nordiques have been just ahead of the Generals in the standings throughout the last several weeks, but that gap is now closing.
Game one on Friday night was easily the most spirited of the weekend, as both teams would combine for 113 penalty minutes and 17 goals in a wild one at the Adroscoggin Bank Colisee. While the Nordiques were able to seize the early 2-0, the Generals were able to respond with 4 consecutive goals in the first and never relinquished the lead from there, as they went on to a 10-7 victory. Following the Generals tenth goal, a massive scrum broke out, leading to filled penalty-boxes as referees worked to sort out all of the infractions. Dylan Schuett would finish a hat trick and 24 minutes in penalties, while linemate Gerard Marretta filled the scoresheet with a goal and 6 assists. Joey Stanizzi stopped 21 shots on 28 attempts in the victory for Northeast.
After Friday’s wild third period, the Generals would return to the ice on Saturday, minus Captain Schuett, who was suspended for his involvement in the previous night’s fights. The Nordiques did everything in their power to take advantage of the loss for the Generals, including tallying the opening goal thanks to Cannon Green. Gerard Marretta’s quick response within 31 seconds drew the teams even at that point, but Maine would go on to score the next three goals en route to a 5-2 rebound win. Casper Soderling, Trent Grimshaw, Cale Dubrul and Andrius Kulbis-Marino all scored goals for Maine, while Thad Marcola scored Northeast’s second goal.
With both teams exchanging victories in the first two games, Sunday’s rubber match became all the more vital as Maryland, the current occupier of the final playoff spot, dropped both of their games to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The Generals were already able to close the gap to 5, and now could take advantage of one of their games-in-hand as they welcomed Dylan Schuett back to the lineup. After both teams put home 12 goals in two nights, the Nordiques and Generals would find themselves in a tight matinee contest that stayed that way until the final buzzer. Gerard Marretta stayed hot as his 16th goal of the season opened the scoring, but Maine would respond within 30 seconds thanks to Isaiah Fox, who has been a dangerous pest to the Generals throughout the season.
Just a minute after Fox’s equalizer, the Generals took the lead right back on the strength of Kyle Schroeder’s first with the club since joining. That lead would last into the third, where Maine would once again tie things up, thanks to Andrius Kulbis-Marino’s unassisted goal. The tie remained in place as the clock ticked below seven minutes-remaining in regulation. Kulbis-Marino, with the puck in his own defensive zone, looked to make a stretch pass into neutral ice. His pass was picked off by defender Kyle Gierman, who quickly sent the puck back the other direction to a streaking Clark Kerner. Kerner was able to get a step on the suddenly out-of-place defensive duo for Maine and snap home a wrist shot, giving the Generals the go-ahead goal that they so-badly needed. From there, Joey Stanizzi would shut the door, securing a big victory for Northeast.
With the two wins on the weekend, the Generals inched closer to a playoff birth by narrowing the gap to just three points between themselves and Maryland. With the differential so low now, four teams (including the Generals) find themselves competing for the East Division’s final playoff spot. Northeast returns to action this upcoming weekend as they welcome back former Captain Joe Nagle and the East Division-leading New Jersey Titans for a two-game set at the New England Sports Village, starting Friday night at 7pm.
Gerard Marretta finished the weekend with three goals and six assists, bringing his season scoring line to 16-14-30 in 46 games.
Dylan Schuett continued his strong play since being named Captain, tallying three goals and an assist in two games.
Defenseman Mick Heneghan notched 4 assists in Friday night’s 10-7 win. He leads the Generals in scoring with 34 points in 44 games.
Adam Smith’s registered his first NAHL point with an assist on Kyle Schoeder’s goal on Sunday.