Huskies Stop the Sweep, Rule Over River Hawks

By Rae Deer

LOWELL, MA — After suffering a brutal 4–1 loss to UMass Lowell on Friday night, the Northeastern Huskies badly needed to set a positive tone for their last sets of the season. On Saturday night, they found exactly what they were looking for, emerging from the Tsongas Center with a 4–0 win.

“This was by far our best game of the season,” head coach Jim Madigan said. “Straight from the get go we had good legs, we were hunting pucks, we were good in the offensive zone, the neutral zone, defensively in and around our net was the hardest we played.”

The Huskies were quick to the draw in the beginning minutes, as we’ve seen in similar contests — skating fast, applying pressure, and getting early shots on goal. However, when this tactic didn’t generate an early goal like it did in previous games, it looked like they had begun to slow down a bit, perhaps to take their time and assess the team in front of them.

And that’s when the pieces came together. Maybe it was a boost from their stellar coast-to-coast play, or maybe it was the spectacular saves made by goaltender Connor Murphy, but the Huskies lit their fire and let it spread.

Once again, Northeastern opened the scoring, this time with a beautiful bit of tic-tac-toe action from Sam Colangelo to Ty Jackson to Mike Kesselring for the front-net finish. It was the red-hot Kesselring’s fifth goal in the team’s six games.

Four minutes later, the Huskies struck again. Tyler Spott took a break from his gold-star defensive play and fired a rocket from right below the blue line to notch his second of the season and put the Huskies up 2–0. 

The Husky hot streak continued well into the second, despite a hooking call on Colangelo. Northeastern’s offensive aggression intensified and it seemed like they were Lowell’s puppet masters, controlling every moment in the River Hawks’ zone. With tensions like this, battles were bound to break out, like the one that resulted in coincidental penalties for Northeastern defenseman Jayden Struble and Lowell forward Andre Lee.

However, the Huskies didn’t let Lowell’s pushback slow them down and continued to show that they were both bark and bite by getting back on the board. All it took was a little fancy footwork around the back of the net from defensemen Johnny DeRoche to find reigning Hockey East Player of the Week Aidan McDonough in front.

The third period saw aggression at a new high. Both teams killed several penalties, and the Huskies’ physicality rhythm seemed to come naturally. They skated hard to pucks and pinned their opponents to the boards during good shifts.

The River Hawks tried their best to match the intensity, but couldn’t keep up or keep themselves from getting on the Huskies’ bad side. Lowell’s Lee once again found himself in a bad spot after disobeying the golden rule of hockey: don’t touch the tender.

That was the last nail in the coffin for Lowell. They cracked under the pressure and couldn’t make a comeback. With a few seconds left, Ty Jackson finally got his piece from a clean feed by star of the night Connor Murphy. It was Jackson’s seventh goal of the season and Murphy’s second assist, the first coming during his first career shutout back in January.

This was the kind of game the Huskies needed to prove they could handle tough teams.

“We’ll see the areas we got better at today and that’s what the standard is,” Madigan said. “That was a playoff atmosphere game for us, how we approached it and for us to continue playing well, we’re gonna have to play like this. That’s the standard. We’ve got to reach the next level in our next game.”

2020–21 Men’s Hockey East Preview: UMass Lowell River Hawks

Last season: 18–10–6 (12–7–5, third in Hockey East)

Head coach: Norm Bazin (tenth season)

Preseason poll projected finish: Fourth

Departures: F Kenny Hausinger, F Colin O’Neill, G Tyler Wall

Additions: F Matthew Allen, F Andranik Armstrong-Kingcade, D Brehdan Ehgum, F Matthew Kinash, F Josh Latta, D Ben Meehan, F Jackson Sterrett, G Henry Welsch

By Mike Puzzanghera

Norm Bazin’s squad has a lot to build on from last year with very few departures, but one loss leaves a huge hole. Starting goaltender Tyler Wall leaves the program after posting a 2.10 GAA and .931 save percentage in his senior season and being named a finalist for the Mike Richter Award.

The big question is whether sophomore Logan Neaton can step up after subpar performances in his three appearances last season. The Jets prospect went 0–2–0 in two starts, allowing eight goals in just under 125 minutes between the pipes. At 6’4”, Neaton showed his ability during his time in the BCHL with Prince George. That has yet to translate to Tsongas Arena, but the River Hawks need him to improve.

They retain their top three scorers and seven of their top eight. Matt Brown is coming off a 24-point freshman year (tops on the team) and fellow sophomore Carl Berglund led the team with 12 goals (23 points). Their 6’4” sophomore forward Andre Lee notched 20 points of his own last season.

The defense is led by juniors Chase Blackmun and Seth Barton, who combined for 24 assists and eight goals in 2019–20. A third-round pick of the Detroit Red Wings, Barton is another player Lowell will hope to develop this season. 

Joining them on the blueline is freshman Ben Meehan. A local name from Dexter Southfield, Meehan was a fifth-round pick by the Los Angeles Kings this year. He’s played six times for Team USA in the World Junior A Challenge.

Other freshmen of note are forward Matt Allen (57 points in 54 games for Amarillo in the NAHL), forward Andranik Armstrong-Kincade (44 points in 50 games for Minot in the NAHL), and goaltender Tyler Welsch (1.99 GAA and .926 save % for Aberdeen in the NAHL).

Bottom Line: As a team, Lowell has improved offensively and defensively. As for individuals, the loss of Wall in net is huge. With the skill added in the forward group and on the blue line, Lowell’s floor is qualifying for the tournament — Neaton’s play in net will decide whether Lowell contends for a conference crown.