Northeastern Loses Battle of the Huskies

Story by Rae Deer

Photos by Sarah Olender

BOSTON  — For the Northeastern men’s hockey team, Friday night’s game against Connecticut was supposed to be one of redemption. Coming off of a 6–2 loss to No. 1 Boston College, they hoped to shake off the still-present rust from their three-week COVID hiatus. 

However, the game proved to be the opposite, as the Northeastern Huskies lost to the Connecticut Huskies 4–1 after a strong start led to a flat finish. 

“We got beat by a better team.” Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan stated. “They were more physical, heavier on pucks, wanted it more.”

That wasn’t the case to start the game though, as both teams played physical, aggressive, energetic hockey. Northeastern used this aggression to generate several shots on goal in the first few minutes. However, it wasn’t until a power play after a hooking call on UConn’s Ryan Tverberg that Northeastern, more specifically Jordan Harris and Zach Solow, capitalized.

Northeastern used this momentum to keep UConn from responding in the first period, and made a series of nice blocks to defend goaltender Connor Murphy’s blind spot.

But things began to go south in the second. Northeastern attempted a series of poorly executed stretch passes which drew a number of offside and icing calls. These passes were also easily intercepted by UConn forwards like Vladislav Firstov, who took advantage of a bad pass to feed linemate Artem Shlaine for a breakaway goal.

From there, UConn couldn’t be stopped. Three minutes later, Jonny Evans got an open shot on Murphy and potted it for a 2–1 lead. 

“We took a 1–0 lead and then we gave it away on two bad plays,” Madigan remarked. “We’re a little bit fragile right now and we gave those two goals away, it was almost like we deflated with half of the game left and only down by a goal.”

Northeastern couldn’t keep up with UConn’s physicality and it showed. They stopped generating as many shots on net and were having issues intercepting passes and giving the pressure back to their opponents. 

Going into the third Northeastern only continued to slow down, while UConn seemed faster and more aggressive than ever. Bad defensive decisions abounded, like this one that allowed Ryan Wheeler to stroll right down the middle and put another one in the back of the net.

And it didn’t end there. With two minutes to play, Northeastern made a last-ditch effort and pulled Murphy in favor of a six-man rush. UConn ended that effort quickly when Kale Howarth scored an empty netter off of a face-off to cement their victory at 4–1.

Northeastern will play on Tuesday against No. 9 UMass at 6 PM Eastern. Mike Puzzanghera, Jack Sinclair, and Khalin Kapoor will call that game, with coverage beginning a few minutes before puck drop.

2020–21 Men’s Hockey East Preview: UConn Huskies

Last Season: 15–15–4 (12–10–2, fifth in Hockey East)

Head Coach: Mike Cavanaugh (eighth season)

Preseason poll projected finish: Seventh

Departures: F Alexander Payusov, D Wyatt Newpower, F Justin Howell, F Benjamin Freeman, D Bryan Nelson

Additions: F Cassidy Bowes, F Gavin Puskar, D John Spetz, F Nick Capone, F Hudson Schandor, G Matt Pasquale, F Artem Shlaine

By Jordan Baron

The 2019–20 UConn Huskies, like many teams in Hockey East, were a middle-of-the-pack squad as the season wound down. They ended up qualifying for the fifth seed in the cancelled playoffs.

The Huskies lost some key players during the offseason, including senior defenseman Wyatt Newpower, who signed with the Cleveland Monsters of the AHL. Newpower led UConn defensemen in scoring last year with 22 points and was second in blocked shots with 42, totals that ranked sixth and ninth in the conference, respectively.

The Huskies also lost two-year captain Benjamin Freeman, who signed with the Maine Mariners of the ECHL. Freeman slotted 77 career points over 135 college games.

Still, the Huskies’ freshman class is impressive. It includes two forwards selected in the fifth and sixth rounds of the 2020 NHL Draft in Artem Shlaine and Nick Capone. 

Capone played the 2019–20 season for the Tri-City Storm, totaling seven goals and 12 assists before the season was cut short. Shlaine is a Moscow native who played for Shattuck-St. Mary’s Prep School in Minnesota, shooting for 78 points last season.

In addition to these two, Husky defenseman Yan Kuznetsov was selected in the second round by the Calgary Flames. Kuznetsov, a sophomore, played in all 34 games as a freshman, blocking 20 shots and scoring 11 points.

Bottom Line: The Huskies, like the Boston University Terriers, are poised to be another center-of-the-pack team. The loss of their captain may sting a little, but a group of promising freshmen and the added bonus of Kuznetsov coming into his sophomore season with the confidence of an NHL draftee could make this UConn team dangerous.