Huskies’ COVID Season Ends with 4–1 Quarterfinal Loss to UMass

By Christian Skroce

Northeastern and UMass Amherst have both seen their Hockey East fortunes change drastically over the past several seasons. The teams had frequently been referred to as the little brothers of Hockey East, but impressive coaching and talented recruiting classes have turned both into true conference powerhouses.

They have almost met in the Hockey East Tournament several times during the past few seasons. Two years ago, the programs seemed destined to meet in the title game; UMass secured the one seed, while Northeastern finished third. Both teams were rolling heading into the semifinals, but an upset by Boston College forced the Minutemen out of the tournament, leading to an NU–BC final (and we all know how that ended).

Northeastern and UMass were finally slated to face off in the first round of the 2020 Hockey East Tournament, but COVID-19 cancelled this meeting just as the Huskies were set to arrive in Amherst. Fast forward one year, and the two finally went at it in postseason play, the same date they were scheduled to just a year prior.

The two meetings between the Massachusetts schools this season ended in two UMass victories by a combined scored of 9–6. A third meeting was cancelled due to COVID protocols. But as the Hockey East Tournament drew near, there would be nothing getting in the way of the long-awaited playoff matchup.

“With the one-and-done format, you have to bring everything you’ve got into each game – that’s been the message we’ve been sending our players,” Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan said before the game. “Now it’s up to them to make the most of this opportunity.”

Northeastern received positive injury news before the game, as touted freshman forward Sam Colangelo returned to the lineup for the Huskies. Meanwhile, the third-seeded Minutemen headed into the tournament fully healthy and ready to finally make their mark.

Junior forward Garrett Wait got the scoring going for Amherst just three minutes in. The goal came after an impressive push from UMass, with fellow junior Bobby Trivigno setting up his linemate with an impressive pass from behind the Northeastern net.

Sophomore defenseman Zac Jones doubled the UMass lead just six minutes later, as Trivigno picked up yet another assist. The goal came off an odd-man rush that found Jones in the slot with just the goalie to beat. With NU defenders trailing back, Jones coolly finished off a wrister to give UMass the 2–0 lead.

Northeastern’s best chance to get on the board in the first came in the period’s dying minutes, as the Huskies went on their first power play. Despite some nice chances, the Minutemen’s kill proved too much for the Huskies.

The Minutemen continued to dominate through the first few minutes of the second period, but their two-goal lead would not hold for long. Northeastern finally got their first goal halfway through the second, as sophomore defenseman Jeremie Bucheler scored with an impressive wrister from just in front of the goal line. Bucheler’s defensive linemate Jayden Struble was crucial, as he opened up room on the ice before finding his teammate on the blue line. Bucheler then employed a nifty shot fake before firing the wrister into the back of the net.

Despite the new Husky confidence, the Minutemen continued their assault. While UMass certainly had their fair share of chances, Northeastern goaltender Connor Murphy came up big to keep the score 2–1.

Northeastern continued to make defensive plays and generated their fair share of chances, but the UMass attack proved too much as Bobby Trivigno would showed why he’s a finalist for Hockey East Player of the Year, finishing off a two-on-one with a calm five-hole shot against Murphy. The chance came almost completely against the run of play, as Northeastern had enjoyed extended zone time prior to the break lead. The goal came with under two minutes remaining in the second period, giving UMass a 3–1 lead and all the momentum heading into the final frame.

It would not take long for UMass to widen their margin, as Philip Lagunov made it 4–1 four minutes into the third period. While the Huskies continued to fight, the score would remain 4–1, sending UMass into a semifinal matchup against Providence.

Madigan was candid after the game, explaining that today was “a game similar to the last few games . . . chasing from behind. Can’t be playing from behind against good teams. Been chasing the last few weeks. 9–9–3, being .500, is not what this program is about.” But he noted later that “these guys faced a lot this season and dealt with it with class; I’m proud of all of them and I’m excited for the future.”

Madigan also mentioned the injuries his team has dealt with throughout the campaign, specifically during the past month. Almost every Northeastern player was dealing with some type of knock at this point, and simply being in the lineup did not make a player fully healthy.

Madigan closed his final press conference of the season by praising this year’s senior class, the best in Northeastern’s history, one that often exceeded expectations and continued the program’s upward trajectory.

“Those seniors deserved a better finish to their careers, but they’ve all enjoyed successful careers here,” Madigan said, listing the accolades and hardware the class collected, which includes two Hockey East championships and three Beanpot titles.

“The culture was changed by Josh Manson, passed down to the Solows and Jozefeks and the graduating group,” he continued. “They’ve continued the passing of the torch.”

Despite a lackluster end to the season, the Huskies’ future is bright. Northeastern will take the offseason to reassess and continue improving the program Madigan and company have built during the last decade. While NU will again enjoy an impressive recruiting class next season, perhaps the greatest change will come between the pipes, as goalie Devon Levi will likely make his Husky debut to start next season. After being sidelined this season due to an injury suffered during World Juniors, Levi will look to finally make his mark and step into the large shoes left by Cayden Primeau two years ago.

Northeastern will also return its top freshman class, including Sam Colangelo and all-rookie selection Gunnarwolfe Fontaine. The bar has unquestionably been raised for this program.

Husky Comeback Falls Short Against UMass

By Peyton Doyle

Northeastern (3–3–2) entered the back half of their weekend series with a sour taste in their mouth after giving up a late lead the night before and falling, 4–3, to UMass Amherst (8–3–1). The Huskies couldn’t avenge that loss Sunday night, as they allowed three first-period goals en route to a 5–3 defeat.

Early on, the Minutemen made the Huskies pay for laxness with the puck, with Jerry Harding scoring his first career goal soon after a Northeastern turnover just two minutes into the first. 

Northeastern had a couple of opportunities to get their offense going with some early two-on-twos but were quickly shut down by a stout UMass defense. During an early stretch of four-on-four play Matt Kessel picked the pocket of Dylan Jackson and looked poised for a quality shot on goal before a Julian Kislin tackle set up a penalty shot for the Minutemen. 

Northeastern couldn’t stay out of the penalty box in the first period; right after killing one off, they received a minor for too many men and were disadvantaged again. The Huskies struggled to get much offense going early as they were constantly forced unto their back paws by an unrelenting Minutemen attack.

When Northeastern got the man advantage, it could not capitalize. UMass goalie Matt Murray made an incredible glove save off of a rebound attempt from Aidan McDonough, coming all the way across the net to thwart it, halting the Husky power play, and recording the play of the game in the process.

Coming off a huge kill, UMass’s Zac Jones fired a shot from near the blue line, pinging it off the piping into the net, narrowly avoiding three Minutemen who screened Murphy. 

Entering the second period with a 3–0 lead, UMass continued to bear down on the Northeastern defense. Two minutes into the period, Carson Gicewicz redirected a shot to net his team’s fourth goal of the game and his eighth of the season.

Two minutes later, senior captain Zach Solow got the Huskies on the board, knocking in a rebound off of a laser from Aidan McDonough.

Northeastern began to look more comfortable in the offensive zone following the Gicewicz goal, setting up sustained attacks on Murray.

“Solow’s goal gave us life,” Madigan said. “In the second and third period I thought we responded, and I think that the third period was our best period.”

Despite not registering another goal in the period, the Huskies showed some real fire following their score. The Minutemen played bend-but-don’t-break on defense for the remainder of the period, not getting many scoring chances but unwilling to give further momentum to Northeastern. 

A tripping penalty three minutes into the third period by Minuteman Garrett Wait created another Husky power play. McDonough got revenge on Murray during the man advantage, catching him off-balance and netting his team’s second power-play goal of the evening. It was McDonough’s second multi-point effort of the season. 

It seemed as though the Huskies wanted it more than the Minutemen in the second and third, who were playing in their third game in four days.

Northeastern locked down in the third, not giving up a single power-play goal. But Madigan pointed out that there is still much defensive work to be done..

“We defended harder in the second and third period but we have to do that for three periods,” he said. “We have to be heavy on pucks. We have to be heavier at our net front defending, defending earlier and defending harder. Mostly that’s our defensemen but it’s our forwards as well. Until we are ready to make a full commitment to blocking shots all the time and to defending harder at the net and be harder to play against, we are going to have fleeting success.” 

With just under six minutes to play and after continued pressure from Northeastern, Dylan Jackson netted his first collegiate goal right in front of the net to pull his team within one.

Madigan pulled his goalie in the game’s final minutes, but Wait notched an empty net goal with 30 seconds remaining to put away the Huskies for good.

The Huskies and Minutemen remain third and first respectively in the Hockey East standings. Northeastern next game is on Friday.

UMasst Be Kidding: Huskies Fall to Minutemen, 4–3

By Michael Vincent Puzzanghera

BOSTON — In a Friday night game of oddities, Northeastern left a chance for a huge win go begging as they gave up two rebound goals in the third period to allow No. 9 UMass to waltz out of Matthews Arena with a 4–3 win.

No. 10 Northeastern (3–2–2) set up for the top-ten tilt against the Minutemen (7–3–1) without freshman forward Steven Agriogianis, who sustained an upper body injury. Agriogianis was one of Northeastern’s best players through the first three weeks of the season, with two goals and three assists to his name. Despite his absence, the Huskies started on the right foot.

It’s a new year, but it’s still the same Jordan Harris. The junior scored his third goal of the season with an excellent shot from the slot. This was the first oddity of the night: a shot from Aidan McDonough left UMass’ Cal Kiefiuk down in a heap in their own zone. The officials let the game continue, though, and Harris took advantage to give the Huskies the lead seven minutes in.

A few minutes later, Zach Solow took a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct after shoving and jawing after the whistle, giving the Minutemen a chance to use their elite power-play unit. That unit had converted 12 goals in 46 tries entering Friday’s game, and it didn’t take them long to notch their 13th. The imposing Carson Gicewicz tapped in a loose puck twenty seconds into the power play. It was his seventh goal in the last six games, as the St. Lawrence transfer continued his torrid stretch.

Immediately after the UMass goal, Northeastern took another penalty for a bench minor (served by extra skater Michael Outzen in his first collegiate action). This allowed UMass to continue to build pressure, though nothing came of the power play.

The second period may have been Northeastern’s sloppiest of the season. The power play didn’t string passes together like they did in the first frame and UMass kept Northeastern on the back foot. The Minutemen took advantage, scoring another power-play goal through Garrett Wait. Husky goalie Connor Murphy was caught out of position as Wait strode up from behind the net and ripped his shot to the near post.

“We’ve got to bear down on our power plays and on their power-play goals, we didn’t defend well enough and we can’t go to the box as many times as we did,” Northeastern Head Coach Jim Madigan said.

Plenty of solid play came in the third period, as Ty Jackson scored his team-leading fifth goal of the year by flicking a pass off the back of UMass goalie Matt Murray to tie the game with 13 minutes to play.

Less than three minutes later, Harris once again gave Northeastern the lead, this time with a howitzer from the point. Ty Jackson won the puck along the boards and fed Harris, who struck it well and beat Murray glove side to give Northeastern the 3–2 lead.

But just as soon as they had taken the lead, they lost it. UMass scored two nearly identical goals off rebounds in front of Murphy. First, Josh Lopina locked up the game at three by diving to tap in a loose puck.

And a few minutes later, Oliver Chau did the same minus the dive to give the Minutemen the 4–3 advantage.

Northeastern kept the pressure up until Jayden Struble took a five-minute major for spearing with a minute to play. Northeastern couldn’t get the puck into the UMass zone, and they left the ice with the loss.

“We’re down 4–3 at the end against good teams like that, we’ve got too many penalties, some warranted, some weren’t, Madigan said. “Some good calls, some bad calls. But that’s the game of hockey. You’ve got to work with it, and we didn’t manage it well when we did get poor calls.”

The two teams tangle again tomorrow in Amherst at 6 PM.