No. 17 Men’s Hockey Nets Shootout Win Over Friars

By Jack Sinclair

The Northeastern Huskies were barely hanging on to their fifth-place spot coming into the last weekend of February. The difference between them and sixth-place Providence came down to a 0.03 margin in the Hockey East Power Index.

The Friars stole a game from the Huskies in Matthews Arena on Saturday, 4–2. The Huskies needed to bounce back with a win on Sunday to maintain their fifth-place spot entering the last week of the season.

Northeastern added some roster depth, as TJ Walsh returned from injury and Alex Mella made his 2021 debut. 

Providence quickly established themselves on Northeastern’s end of the ice. Mella was whistled for hooking, giving Providence a chance on the power play. The Husky penalty killers were excellent in keeping the pressure out near the boards, and kept the Friars quiet for the duration of the penalty.

Neither team generated sustained offense, and the action went back and forth for most of the period. Providence goaltender Jaxson Stauber and Northeastern netminder Connor Murphy held fast, keeping the scoresheet blank at the end of the first period.

Neither carried their stellar play over to the second period. Just 30 seconds in, Northeastern senior captain Zach Solow pounced on a rebounding puck and buried it for his ninth goal of the season.

Seconds later, Providence drew even. Freshman and Penguins prospect Chase Yoder forced a turnover behind the Husky net, then connected with sophomore Patrick Moynihan, who fired a wrist shot past Murphy. 

Minutes later, the Huskies received their first power play of the night. They boast a 28 percent power-play conversion rate — good for second best in the NCAA — and it showed tonight, as they quickly capitalized on the man advantage. Sophomore Aidan McDonough powered the puck home through Stauber’s glove side off of a quick feed from junior Jordan Harris. It was McDonough’s seventh goal (and ninth point) of the month.

“He’s a shooter,” Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan said, “and when he gets hot, he’s as good as there is.” 

Northeastern got another chance on the man advantage after Moynihan was called for roughing. But the Friars’ penalty kill adjusted, and didn’t give the Huskies any room to breathe. 

Shortly after the halfway point of the period, Solow struck again. Lovely stick handling and precise skating gave Solow a clear look, and he capitalized with his second goal of the game and his team’s third.

Providence didn’t respond immediately, and Northeastern had a couple more opportunities to score, but Stauber fought off everything the Huskies threw at him. In the dying moments of the period, sophomore and Lightning prospect Max Crozier charged towards the net and fired a shot at Murphy. The Huskies netminder made the initial save but couldn’t corral the puck, allowing Yoder to score off the rebound.

When the puck hit the ice for the third period, it was clear Providence had reset in the locker room. They immediately took over, pushing Northeastern deep into their own end. After three minutes of unrelenting pressure, the Friars scored again. Sophomore Parker Ford found senior captain Greg Printz behind Murphy, who fired a wraparound shot. Murphy again made the initial save, but failed to contain the puck; Printz was there to collect his own rebound and put it past the well-screened Murphy.

The tied score underscored the play on the ice, as neither team was giving an inch. Northeastern had their best scoring chances come on the power play late in the third, but they couldn’t find a fourth goal. The game headed into overtime tied 3–3.

Northeastern controlled possession of the puck well throughout the OT period; they just couldn’t get the puck past the Friars, who clogged up any potential shooting lanes. Anything that did get through was swallowed by Stauber.

Although the game officially ended as a 3–3 tie, there was still a shootout to come. Freshman Gunnarwolfe Fontaine opened up the tiebreaker with a snappy wrist shot past Stauber, giving the Huskies a 1–0 lead. Providence freshman and Rangers prospect Brett Berard couldn’t beat Murphy, and the story was the same for Solow on Stauber. Junior captain Tyce Thompson was next for the Friars, but he too failed to beat Murphy. McDonough was next for the Huskies, and he iced the shootout on a tight forehand to a backhand deke. 

The Huskies finished the weekend ranked sixth in HEPI, a solid 2.4 points ahead of UMass Lowell but 0.9 behind Providence. Fifth place, and the first-round playoff bye that comes with it, is not necessarily out of reach, but the Huskies will need to perform well next weekend to have a shot.

“We need to have a good week of practice.” Madigan said. “We need to get ready for whoever our opponent is. You want to finish off the season on a strong note so you’re playing well heading into the playoffs.”

Huskies’ Scoring Spree Comes to an End as Friars Blank Northeastern

By Christian Skroce

The Northeastern men’s hockey team’s undefeated run to begin the season came to an end Sunday afternoon as they fell to the Providence Friars, 5–0, in Rhode Island.

After an impressive shootout win over the Friars at Matthews Arena on Saturday, Northeastern came out flat in the second game of the weekend. Jason O’Neill got the scoring going for Providence with just three minutes left in the first period. The Friars’ first goal was a tough one for the Huskies, as a scrum in front of the Northeastern net led to a deflection off the skate of Northeastern defensemen Jayden Struble.

Providence doubled their lead just minutes later, as prolific scorer Tyce Thompson coolly fired a shot into the top shelf off a feed from Davis Bunz. The goal, which game with two seconds left in the first period, was a back-breaking blow for Northeastern, as Providence went into the first intermission with all of the momentum.

The Friars did not look back, and expanded their advantage just 40 seconds into the second period. A nice finish from Parker Ford gave the Friars their second power-play goal and third overall.

Greg Printz and Craig Needham would add two more goals for Providence in the closing moments of the game. Printz’s goal came with an empty net, while Needham scored with 18 seconds remaining in the game, catching the Husky defenders off guard as they poured into the offensive zone.

It was a difficult game all around for Northeastern, as the forward group could not get anything going. The Huskies produced 28 shots on goal, but few were genuine opportunities in front of the Providence net. At times it felt like there was a Providence defender in front of every Northeastern shot. Northeastern will have many questions to ask of themselves.

While the smaller rink in Providence might have contributed to some of Northeastern’s offensive woes on Sunday, Northeastern Head Coach Jim Madigan made it clear that the team wasn’t looking for excuses.

“At the end of the day you have to go out and play hockey,” he said. “Our guys didn’t make enough plays chasing pucks and finding pockets of space in the offensive zone. It’s as simple as that.”

Northeastern’s biggest concern was their mistakes in even play and poor special teams. The Huskies committed five penalties, and Providence made good on two of the ensuing power plays. The special teams woes also affected NU on the offensive end, as the team failed to convert on all four power-play chances.

“Very seldom do we lose a special teams game,” Madigan said bluntly, “but we did so today.”

The one shining piece for the Huskies was goaltender Connor Murphy, who has made several important plays over the team’s first four games. Murphy’s best play of the day came in the first period, as the netminder pulled off an impressive post-to-post shift, preventing an easy backdoor opportunity for the Friars.

“I thought he played well tonight,” Madigan said of his veteran goaltender. “Little bit of bad luck with the first goal and he faced tough chances with them [Providence] on the power play throughout the game, but he’s be playing very well for us.”

Murphy has been key to Northeastern’s strong start to the season as a replacement for touted freshmen goalie Devon Levi, who is currently with Canada’s world juniors team.

Northeastern is scheduled to take on the Vermont in two games in Burlington next weekend. WRBB will have updates on the Huskies’ games against the Catamounts as the week progresses.

Men’s Hockey Prevails, Pushing Past Providence

By Jack Sinclair

BOSTON — An extra week off of the ice usually results in one of two things. Either the team returns rested and with fewer injuries, or they look sluggish and uneasy.

Northeastern came off their 12-day break with nothing but benefits. They were rested, and the return of Julian Kislin after a four-week absence gave the Husky defense added depth.

Friday’s contest against Providence was critical in determining Northeastern’s destiny in Hockey East and NCAA as a whole. The Friars are always a fierce opponent, and they entered Matthews Arena with only one road loss. That the loss came by four goals against Northeastern guaranteed nothing for Friday night’s game.

Providence sat tied for second in the Hockey East; the Huskies, while only three points behind, sat tied for sixth. If the last few weeks of Hockey East action have taught us anything, it’s that nothing, nothing, is certain. With bottom feeders like UConn and UNH surging, and previous leaders like Northeastern and BU faltering against easier opponents, Hockey East is as wide open as ever.

The game started off slowly for both teams, with no fantastic chances for either side. After about 10 minutes, the Huskies found their footing in the dynamic of the game, and their forward check came into full swing. Northeastern, with the help of Matt Filipe and Zach Solow, put considerable pressure on Providence and its goaltender Mike Lackey. The puck rarely made its way to Northeastern’s side of the ice, and Providence began to tire. That fatigue became most apparent when Tyler Madden forced a turnover in the neutral zone and carried the puck all the way to the goal, putting the Huskies up 1–0. 

The Huskies continued to dominate the physical and mental tempo of the game. Only four minutes after Madden’s breakaway goal, Matt Filipe and Matt DeMelis found themselves in a two-on-one rush, and netted another goal for the Huskies.

The period ended with both teams receiving penalties, resulting in a four-on-four that only saw more Northeastern dominance over the puck. The period ended with the Huskies holding onto their 2–0 lead.

As tame as the start of the first period was, the second period was insane. Providence came out with some good looks on net, but Craig Pantano had absolutely none of it, making some difficult saves look trivial.

When two quick Northeastern penalties gave Providence a five-on-three, Mike Kesselring displayed his spectacular stick skills on the penalty kill and willingly put his body on the line. He took a scorching shot high off the arm and was clearly in considerable pain, but fought through until the best opportunity for him to make a change.

Kesselring did not return to the ice for the duration of the kill, and that is perhaps what led to Providence breaking through and putting themselves on the score sheet. Tensions ran high between the two teams, with forwards Greg Printz and Zach Solow exchanging pushes and what could only have been the most pleasant of compliments.

The physicality of the game skyrocketed, with both teams exchanging savage stick slaps and brutal body blows. This culminated with Biagio Lerario’s massive check against Printz right in front of the Providence bench, which drew a five-minute major penalty against and Lerario’s ejection.

The Northeastern penalty kill took the ice and took no prisoners. It didn’t even feel like a penalty kill, as they held Providence to a grand total of zero shots for the first 4:40. The whole PK unit skated their butts off, beating every Friar they could to the puck and making Pantano’s job between the pipes easier. This momentum carried into five-on-five play after the penalty, as Aidan McDonough netted his ninth goal of the season less than a minute later. 

McDonough’s goal only made the Friars upset, as they played most of the rest of the period on Northeastern’s side of the ice. Patrick Moynihan forced a turnover right in front of the goal on the forward check, spun, and slipped the puck past Pantano. The tumultuous second period concluded with the Huskies leading 3–2. 

Providence dominated the beginning of the third period. The only thing keeping the Friars from tying the game was an admirable performance by Pantano, who went so far as to lay across the ice to keep the puck out of the net. But Jack Dugan made the most of a Providence faceoff win on their offensive side, pounding the puck past Pantano to tie the game. 

Northeastern soon went to the power play, but unlike those earlier in the game, the top line of McDonough, Madden, and Jozefek was unable to get things done, and almost allowed a shorthanded goal. The unceremonious power play resulted in the return of Providence dominance, and more amazing saves from Pantano.

With only a quarter of the period remaining, Providence’s Parker Ford was sent to the penalty box for hooking. This Northeastern power play began much like their last, but about halfway through it, they worked the puck into the offensive zone. This kicked off a beautiful sequence of about 20 passes where the power play unit methodically broke down the Friars’ defense, slowly applying pressure and working the puck closer and closer to the net.

Finally, the breakthrough came. Zach Solow found himself, and more importantly, the puck, right in front of the net, after a precise pass by McDonough right to his stick. Solow’s job was made easy and he executed perfectly, placing the puck into the bottom left of the cage, giving the Huskies the lead with only five minutes remaining. 

After the game, Providence head coach Nate Leaman expressed his displeasure with his team’s physicality, saying that it “hardly felt like [they] checked anybody all night.” On the flip side of the hockey coin, Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan expressed his pleasure with his team’s approach to the game.

“You can’t sit back and wait for goals to happen,” he said. “You have to go out and earn them against a team like this.”

The Huskies head to TD Garden this Monday to face Harvard in the first game of the Beanpot. Christian Skroce, Matt Neiser, and Dale Desantis will call that one, with coverage beginning at 4:45 PM EST.