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.

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.”

Men’s Hockey Stumbles Against UMass Lowell

Story by Khalin Kapoor

Photos by Sarah Olender

BOSTON — Down 3–1 with minutes left in regulation, the Northeastern men’s hockey team pulled netminder Connor Murphy to get an extra attacker on the ice and make their last offensive stand against UMass Lowell.

That man advantage went about as well as the Huskies’ three power plays. Shorthanded, UMass Lowell cleared the puck out of their defensive zone and set up a shot from the point by Seth Barton straight into the empty net.

It was a depressing end to a depressing game for the Huskies. After starting out on fire, Northeastern (8–6–2) fell apart and lost to UMass Lowell (5–7–0) by a score of 4–1. 

Northeastern’s start was unmistakably strong. Seventy-one seconds into the game, Dylan Jackson received a pass from fellow forward Gunnarwolfe Fontaine and rifled it straight into the net. The combination of Fontaine and twins Dylan and Ty Jackson on the same line proved difficult for Lowell to handle right out of the gate.

But there were still 58 minutes left. Later in the first, Lowell scored twice in quick succession, courtesy of center Connor Sodergren and right wing Charlie Levesque.

Up 2–1, the River Hawks kept control for the rest of the game, with Levesque scoring again in the third period and Barton notching the aforementioned empty-netter. Husky netminder Connor Murphy made some nice saves throughout the game, but ultimately came up short in some key situations.

The Huskies consistently struggled to win key faceoffs and puck battles along the boards. UMass Lowell played incredibly physical hockey and continuously sent the puck down the boards trusting that they would win it. The Huskies could not match the River Hawks’ speed, and by the third period it was clear that Northeastern skaters were lagging behind. After the opening three minutes, they mustered just 13 shots on goal.

Forceful collisions at the boards and some tough hits created a palpable tension. After a particularly rough scrum, Northeastern winger Grant Jozefek was left down on the ice in visible pain. Though he limped off the ice with the trainer, he rejoined the action in the third period; head coach Jim Madigan said he was hopeful Jozefek could play tomorrow. Madigan, who just got forward Sam Colangelo and defenseman Jayden Struble back in his lineup, also confirmed that defensemen Jordan Harris and Jeremie Bucheler — who missed Friday’s game — will not play on Saturday.

Friday night’s game was supposed to build upon Northeastern’s sweep of New Hampshire last week, a sweep that started to reestablish their offensive identity after a COVID hiatus. Instead, the team took a step backward against the team directly behind them in the Hockey East standings.

Whether the Huskies can speed up and adjust their attack will be determined tomorrow, when they rematch the River Hawks in Lowell. Mike Puzzanghera and Rae Deer will call that game for WRBB, with coverage commencing at about 5:50 PM Eastern.

Huskies Domesticate Wildcats, 7–0

Story by Milton Posner and Jack Sinclair

Photos by Sarah Olender

BOSTON — For most of the game, the Huskies weren’t headed for a blowout.

Their first goal, skilled as it was, was a quick punch on the penalty kill. Their next two, both late in the second period, came on the man advantage. With 45 minutes played, it looked a fairly typical — if not fiercely competitive — contest.

And then the dam collapsed. Four unassisted Northeastern goals within five-and-a-half minutes turned Matthews Arena into a slaughterhouse. The Huskies (6–3–2) left the ice Wednesday night with a 7–0 win over New Hampshire (3–5–1).

Each team exited their locker rooms with a different agenda. For Northeastern, it was out-skating their opponents all over the ice. For New Hampshire, it was setting the physical tone of the game with heavy hits. The Wildcats made sure to finish every check, while the Huskies used the spacious ice of Matthews Arena to spread themselves out and use their speed. 

There was no better example of this plan coming to fruition than the play leading to the Huskies’ first goal. After James Davenport interfered with a Wildcat forward in the Northeastern defensive zone, Husky captain Zach Solow received the puck from Grant Jozefek in the Huskies’ zone, flew behind the Wildcats’ defense, and cooly finished with a backhand for Northeastern’s first short-handed goal of the season.

“I thought that the draw got scrummed up a little bit, and I was just sealing the wall,” Solow recalled. “The puck squirted to me, I saw that the D jumped down in the corner of my eye . . . I just took it to the middle, I beat them, and then on the two-on-one I was looking through [the goalie’s] triangle. I couldn’t really make the play and saw him turn his toes towards me, so I went to my backhand, got the goalie moving, and put it five-hole.”

After the goal, Northeastern handled the pressure from the Wildcats’ power-play unit and held on to their one-goal lead. Their speed produced an aggressive, targeted forecheck that kept the puck in New Hampshire’s zone and forced them to rely on the occasional rush to create chances. A few more scoring opportunities came the Huskies’ way, mainly created by dynamic freshmen forwards Ty Jackson, Dylan Jackson, and Gunnarwolfe Fontaine. All three leveraged their speed to skate behind the Wildcats’ defense and create quality looks. New Hampshire goaltender Mike Robinson stood fast, though, keeping the deficit at one, after one.

In the second period, the Wildcats displayed more aggression, tighter passes, and cleaner zone entries than they did in the first. Then Northeastern’s penalty bug struck again. First it was Mike Kesselring for interference. Right after the Huskies killed it off, Solow went to the box . . . again for interference. The Huskies’ penalty killers kept the center of the ice clear, and Connor Murphy’s positioning in net did 90 percent of the job.

“We talked about it every TV timeout,” associate head coach Jerry Keefe said of the team’s many penalties. “Our guys recognize it. There’s a couple times tonight I thought we were a little unlucky — so to speak — on a couple of calls. I thought we were playing hard and maybe they were penalties, but I didn’t think they were reckless penalties, which is a good start . . . But there’s no question that we have to be disciplined. It takes you out of your rhythm.”

Nikolai Jenson was sent to the box soon after for hooking. The Northeastern power-play unit took the ice and quickly made their presence felt. Jozefek passed left and drew defenders as he charged toward the net, leaving Harris to blast an unobstructed one-timer to Robinson’s glove side. Northeastern led 2–0.

A few minutes later, Wildcat Charlie Kelleher found himself in the sin bin, yielding another Northeastern power play that would spell “DOOM” for New Hampshire. Sam Colangelo, in just his third college game, charged into the zone and snapped a pass to Jozefek, who was open on the back side. It was Colangelo’s first point as a Husky and Jozefek’s third goal of the year.

“We had the attack mindset,” Solow said of the power play. “We didn’t really generate enough against Merrimack. So the days that we could prep, we were focused on getting shots through and trying to create more chances that way, and clearly it helped out tonight big time.”

The Wildcats started the third period clawing at any chance to get back into the game. Line tweaks allowed them to get more time in the offensive zone, but Connor Murphy stood strong en route to his first career shutout.

“The guys in front of me did a hell of a job getting pucks outside the dots and keeping the shots where I could control them,” Murphy said. “Makes my job a lot easier.”

And then came the five-and-a-half minute stretch in the middle of the third where Northeastern made the Wildcats look like kittens. First, a Jayden Struble screamer caromed off Robinson and right onto Gunnarwolfe Fontaine’s stick.

Less than a minute later, Zach Solow mounted a similar rush to his short-handed goal in the first and beat Robinson five-hole again.

“His 200-foot game has been outstanding the last few games,” Keefe gushed. “He hasn’t really got on the scoresheet as much as he used to and it hasn’t changed his game at all. Tonight was a great way for him to get rewarded for playing the right way.”

The replacement of Mike Robinson in net with Ty Taylor produced some quiet . . . for four minutes. Then Julian Kislin justified his spot in the top defensive pairing by dropping Eric Esposito to his knees . . . 

. . . and firing a shot at Robinson. The netminder coughed up a rebound, and Ty Jackson — who was hanging out at the edge of the crease — didn’t need to be asked twice.

Fifteen seconds later, Jayden Struble got as uninhibited a path to the goal as anyone had all night and put it home to yield the 7–0 final score, the largest blowout of the season for the Huskies.

The Huskies looked energetic all game, while the Wildcats looked energetic only in stretches. By the time the Huskies reeled off four goals in the middle of the third, the Wildcats looked dead. And despite a 37–29 Wildcat shot advantage, the Huskies had many more quality looks.

“We’re not a big shot-taking team. We haven’t been built that way for years,” Keefe noted. “There’s going to be a lot of games where we might be out shot . . . If we’re not giving up grade As, I’m fine with it . . . We like to try to wear you down. We like to hold on to the puck, and we like to look for quality [over] quantity.”

The Huskies pulled off the rout with several notable absences. Freshman goaltender Devon Levi, who has yet to play for Northeastern after a magnificent run for Team Canada in World Juniors, remains out with an upper body injury and no timetable to return. Jeremie Bucheler was out after sustaining an injury against Merrimack. And head coach Jim Madigan was absent after a close contact with a non-player who tested positive for COVID-19; Keefe has the reins at least until the end of the week.

“It’s a little nerve-wracking just because you don’t want to mess it up,” Keefe said. “We all miss Coach Madigan . . . I think the whole staff felt that way.”

The Huskies will face the #3 Boston College Eagles in a home-and-home, with games at 7 PM on Friday and Saturday. Mike Puzzanghera and Sarah Olender will call the Friday game for WRBB, with coverage commencing a few minutes before puck drop.

“They’re dangerous in transition,” Keefe said of the Eagles. “So a lot of the messaging that we talked to our group about heading into today’s game is not going to change against BC. If you don’t check against BC you’re not going to give yourself a chance.”

“This is a big series,” Solow said. “We know what BC is capable of. We know who they have. They got us last year in a regular season game, so we’re going to come out flying. They’re a good team, but I think we can match that.”

Northeastern Men’s Hockey Triumphs Over Vermont

By Jack Sinclair

‘Tis the season for college hockey!

The Northeastern men’s hockey team made the trip up to Vermont Saturday afternoon to face off against Vermont. The Huskies entered Gutterson Fieldhouse with a record of 2–1–1, coming off of a split home and home series with Providence the weekend before. The Catamounts played UMass Amherst the weekend before, coming out of the series without a win. 

The Huskies and Catamounts last faced off shortly before the pandemic put a stop to the 2019–20 season. The Catamounts won both games, spoiling the Huskies’ hopes of home ice during the Hockey East playoffs. Those two wins were the first and only conference wins for the Catamounts in the past 22 months.

Northeastern decided that they would start off the game on the back foot, as Julian Kislin found himself in the penalty box not even a minute into the game. The Huskies penalty kill, which struggled in their last game against Providence, showed improvements in coverage across the ice, and handled the UVM power play with relative ease.

Soon after, the Catamounts found themselves with a man in the box, allowing the stellar Husky power play to go to work. It was not long before Riley Hughes found the back of the net off of a backdoor feed from Dylan Jackson for Hughes’s third goal of the young season. 

The Catamounts attempted to respond by establishing themselves in the Northeastern defensive zone, but the Huskies’ defense didn’t allow the Cats to even sniff the ice past their blue line. The Huskies kept the pressure on Vermont’s senior goaltender Tyler Harmon, and the Catamounts couldn’t clear the puck. The Huskies’ efforts soon paid off, as a rebounding puck ended up on the stick of Ty Jackson, who cooly slotted it into the net for his third goal of the season.

Both teams traded penalties as the first period wound to an end. Northeastern held on to a two-goal lead.

With just over a minute of penalty time to kill off, the Huskies began the second period much like they had the first. The penalty kill held fast, not allowing a single shot on goal. Once the Huskies were back to even strength, they floored the gas. 

Less than a minute later, they found themselves with a man advantage. A fantastic effort from Captain Zach Solow in the neutral zone allowed the Huskies to force things. A spinning Solow slid the puck to a surging Gunnarwolfe Fontaine, who fired a scorching wrist shot past Harmon for his first collegiate goal. 

Once again, the teams traded penalties, rotating from the penalty kill to four-on-four to the power play. When the Huskies found themselves on the power play, they once again put the man advantage to use. Fontaine continued to put his talent on display, as his slapshot managed to beat Harmon once again. Catamount Head Coach Todd Woodcroft had seen enough, and pulled his senior goalie for freshman Gabe Carriere.

Carriere made an immediate impact in his first college appearance, stopping screaming slap shots from Mike Kesselring and Jordan Harris. The teams continued to trade penalties, as it felt like more time was spent on special teams than at even strength. The period ended after a flurry of quick shots on Carriere, but no new Husky points to show for it. 

The Catamounts came out of their locker room with renewed energy, no doubt inspired by Carriere’s stellar play at the end of the second period. Northeastern goaltender Connor Murphy held fast, but struggled a little with holding onto the puck. A few juicy rebounds almost allowed Vermont onto the scoreboard, but the Husky defense cut out second-chance shots off of rebounds.

The action moved up and down the ice as each team struggled to establish its offense. Eventually, there was a break in the five-on-five action, as Jayden Struble was sent into the box for a phantom embellishment call. Vermont got the momentum they needed, as Conner Hutchinson found Tristan Mullin lurking on Connor Murphy’s back post, and Mullin slipped the puck past Murphy as the goalie came across his crease.

Northeastern would have a number of excellent chances, but nothing could beat Gabe Carriere, who looked right at home protecting the UVM net. A couple breakaways created by the fearsome freshmen forwards of Fontaine, Ty Jackson, and Dylan Jackson were fought off by Carriere, keeping the score at 4–1. The Catamounts did their best to create some semblance of offensive rhythm, but excellent back checking by Struble and Kesselring eliminated any scoring threats. 

The game ended with a score of 4–1, but the action on the ice continued after the final whistle. A late hit by Vermont’s Hutchinson on Hughes caused tempers to flare. Struble was the first to arrive on the scene, followed by a number of enraged Huskies. Punches were thrown, and Hutchinson’s helmet was removed, but since the game was over, there were no penalties to be handed out.

The Huskies are back at it again on Sunday, once again playing UVM at the Gutterson Fieldhouse. The Huskies will look to improve their record to 4–1–1, and the Catamounts will look to avoid falling to 0–4–0.

Men’s Hockey Bests Providence! Sort of.

By Sarah Olender

BOSTON — The Providence Friars and the Northeastern Huskies came into Saturday’s game filled with confidence, having bested opponents the week prior. The Friars won against UMass Lowell on Sunday and Northeastern won both games of a home-and-home against Merrimack. 

The confidence was evident as both teams started the game off filled with energy. It took only three minutes for Northeastern’s Jayden Struble to fire a shot into the back of the net past Providence pipe protector Jaxson Stauber. 

The Huskies played strong throughout the first half of the first period, barely letting Providence control the puck and beating them in most faceoffs.

But then Providence had a scrappy play in front of the net, and one slipped by Husky goaltender Connor Murphy, tying the game. The goal was technically scored by Matt Koopman, although all five of the Friars on the ice had some hand in it. 

Entering the second period Northeastern needed to regain the energy and speed they had at the start. But with Aidan McDonough serving out a slashing penalty, the team struggled to find its confidence. After spending too much time in their defensive zone, they couldn’t stop Providence forward Uula Ruikka from finding the back of the net and putting the Friars in front, 2–1.

This was the wake-up call the Huskies needed, and they answered with a textbook breakout. A pass from Struble to Matt DeMelis seamlessly found the tape on freshman Ty Jackson’s stick. Jackson weaved between the Friar defenders as if they were traffic cones, and fired a shot right into the back of the net to re-tie the score. 

In order for the Huskies to stand a chance at winning the third period, they needed to get more shots on goal. And that’s exactly what they did. On multiple occasions, the Huskies shot rebound after rebound, hitting it directly to Stauber or getting unlucky as Stauber would save the puck or deflect it away from any Northeastern forwards. 

But 17 minutes into the third period, Zach Solow finally beat Stauber, breaking the tie and taking back the lead for the first time since the first period. On the shot, Solow broke his stick and created a legendary celly, warming his hands over the tinder of his broken stick. 

With only a minute left, Providence answered, pulling Stauber and adding another skater. They capitalized on a face-off win and snuck a puck by Murphy. 

After a five-minute overtime, the score remained tied, so Bucheler, McDonough, and Solow all took a turn in a shootout. Bucheller fired it right at Stauber, McDonough found the back of the net with ease, and Solow, trying for his second goal of the day, took a fast approach to the shootout but shot it right into Stauber’s glove. 

After a strong performance, it was only poetic that Murphy saved all three shots in the overtime shootout to seal the game.  

The game goes down as a tie for record purposes, meaning Northeastern sits at 2–0–1 and Providence at 1–2–1. But the shootout win also counts as two points for Northeastern — as opposed to one for Providence and three for a regulation win.

Northeastern will travel to Providence tomorrow to finish the home-and-home in Schneider Arena. Puck drop is 3:30 PM Eastern.

2020–21 Men’s Hockey East Preview: Northeastern University Huskies

Last Season: 18–13–3 (11–12–1, t-seventh in Hockey East)

Head Coach: Jim Madigan (tenth season)

Preseason poll projected finish: Fifth

Departures: F Tyler Madden, F Matt Filipe, F John Picking, F Brendan van Riemsdyk, F Biagio Lerrario, D Ryan Shea, G Craig Pantano

Additions: F Sam Colangelo, F Gunnarwolfe Fontaine, F Dylan Jackson, F Ty Jackson, F Marco Bozzo, D James Davenport, G Devon Levi

By Christian Skroce

Northeastern’s 2019–20 season began about as well as anyone could have hoped. The Huskies started with a convincing sweep of Union and two signature wins against UMass Amherst and St. Cloud State. However, the Huskies’ fortunes would take a turn for the worse, as heartbreaking losses to teams like Vermont, UNH, and BC placed NU as the seventh seed in the Hockey East playoffs, setting them up to face the Minutemen once again in the quarterfinals.

But as we all know, Northeastern would not play in that series. As the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States with a boisterous fury, Northeastern quietly dissolved into the offseason with questions of what went wrong, instead of what could have been.

There was significant offseason turnover. The Huskies lost key pieces at all three positions, including captain defenseman Ryan Shea, Mr. Bright Lights himself Tyler Madden, and veteran net-minder Craig Pantano. Rounding out the losses are senior forwards Matt Filipe, John Picking, and Brendan van Riemsdyk.

Northeastern emphasized experience going into last season, as seen in their aggressive pursuit of graduate transfers. Pantano and van Riemsdyk, along with the other seniors, contributed to NU’s impressive start and will certainly be missed in the locker room. But despite losing the offensive prowess of Tyler Madden and the veteran leadership from other skaters, this is still a hopeful Huskies squad that will be helped by a second straight top-ten recruiting class in the nation.

This team’s strength is its defense, which is easily the most experienced unit on the roster. As we’ve seen in recent seasons, Northeastern has adopted an aggressive, grind-it-out style with its physically imposing defensemen at the forefront. NU employs multiple counterattacking defensemen who force the issue in the offensive zone. Their leader this year is junior Jordan Harris, who logged three goals and 18 assists last season, including the game-winning overtime goal in the 2020 Beanpot final against Boston University.

Joining Harris is fellow Canadiens’ draft pick Jayden Struble, who will look to rebound after an injury-riddled freshman campaign. Struble’s physical prowess is undeniable, as he finished in the top five of several NHL Combine categories heading in 2019, which helped him get drafted in the second round. Struble will be one of the best athletes on the ice this season, which should prove invaluable for the Huskies as they face draft-pick-filled teams like BC, UMass Amherst, and BU.

Filling out the defensive unit are juniors Julian Kislin and AJ Villella, as well as sophomores Mike Kesselring, Jeremie Bucheler, and Tyler Spott. Coming in at 6’4” and 190 pounds each, Kesselring and Bucheler will bring the physical defensive play they became known for during their freshman years. Freshman defenseman James Davenport will also look to contribute to a deep defensive unit.

The biggest question for the Huskies is consistent scoring from their forwards. Gone are the days of relying on Adam Gaudette and Dylan Sikura to make plays and find the back of the net. In recent years, Northeastern has focused on depth and scoring across all four lines, which has been especially apparent in the Huskies’ two most recent recruiting classes. Northeastern is filled with hardworking forwards who break down opposing defensemen as games go on, but talent will not be the issue with NU’s forwards this season. The real problem will be their lack of college experience.

Returning upperclassmen Grant Jozefek and Zach Solow will provide veteran leadership for NU’s forwards, with the latter unsurprisingly earning the honor to captain this year’s squad. Solow has been a mainstay in NU’s top two lines since he arrived on campus, and displayed invaluable leadership qualities even as a freshman and sophomore. He has a fire that is rare in young players and he can always be counted on to emotionally spark his team on and off the ice. Jozefek shares this passion with Solow, and the two have been a handful for opposing teams whenever they are on the ice together.

Also returning for the Huskies is an impressive group of sophomore forwards, all of whom were members of last year’s top-ten recruiting class. Leading this group is last year’s top freshman goal scorer: Aidan McDonough. McDonough’s offensive abilities were especially potent on the power play, as he logged six goals on the man advantage last season, good for third in the conference. McDonough would often work on the same lines as Solow or Jozefek, which will no doubt continue this season. His elite vision and knack for being in the right place at the right time should come in handy. Returning forwards Matt Demelis, Riley Hughes, TJ Walsh, and Neil Shea should all have larger roles this season.

But all eyes will be on the newcomers for the Huskies, led by USHL teammates Sam Colangelo and Gunnarwolfe Fontaine. Both were selected in the 2020 NHL Draft, with Colangelo going to the Anaheim Ducks in the second round and Fontaine heading to the Nashville Predators in the seventh round. The two connected often on goals for the Chicago Steel and will look to continue their record production.

Colangelo will look to be the primary cog in this year’s attack. The Stoneham native is a gravity well who attracts opposing defensemen no matter where he is on the ice. Colangelo’s stick skills and elite vision should allow him to set up his teammates and find the back of the net often. At 6’2”, his size will also allow him to compete in front of goal against some of the best defensemen in Hockey East.

Fontaine will prove to be a valuable two-way forward, as he excels at back-checking and covering his defenders during counterattacks. Brothers Dylan and Ty Jackson complete the tremendous freshman forward class and will look to contribute on the third and fourth lines.

Northeastern’s most important addition may be goaltender Devon Levi, who will look to fill the massive shoes left by Cayden Primeau and Craig Pantano. The French-Canadian netminder is a bit undersized at just under 6 feet tall, but his agility and puck tracking have allowed for his meteoric rise. Levi’s stock skyrocketed last year as he posted a 1.47 goals against average and 0.941 save percentage for Carleton Place Canadians in the CCHL, both of which were easily the best in the league. Levi’s impressive season undoubtedly put him on every NHL team’s radar and led to the Florida Panthers drafting him in the seventh round of the 2020 NHL Draft, despite the team drafting BC goalie Spencer Knight in the first round a year prior. Connor Murphy and Nick Scarpa complete the goalie room for NU.

The most important stretch for NU this season may be from January 22 to February 13. During that month, Northeastern will take on New Hampshire and Connecticut in home-and-home series, while also facing off against Maine twice at Matthews Arena. Those three teams have given the Huskies fits in recent years, and given how close the Hockey East standings will be, winning any less than four of those six games could spell disaster for Northeastern.

Bottom Line: The Huskies will go as far as their impressive freshmen can carry them. Transition to college will be difficult, especially given the abnormal season, but their overwhelming talent alone may be enough to win a decent number of games this season. If Northeastern can start strong, they will position themselves nicely to host a playoff series come March.

Goal-angelo: The Story of Northeastern’s Newest NHL Draft Pick

By Milton Posner and Christian Skroce

On Wednesday afternoon, the Anaheim Ducks nabbed Sam Colangelo with the 36th pick in the NHL Entry Draft, making him the highest Northeastern selection since Jamie Oleksiak in 2011. He was also the first Hockey East player selected this year and the first college player off the board in the second round.

It was, he says, the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. But Anaheim can wait for now. Colangelo, who grew up about 25 minutes from Matthews Arena, has some local hockey left to play first. 

***

Sam Colangelo’s ties to Northeastern don’t end with his nearby upbringing in Stoneham, MA. They don’t end with his reunion with high school teammate Neil Shea, or with high school and USHL teammate Gunnarwolfe Fontaine, or with summer skating partner Aidan McDonough. The roots run even deeper; he’s skated with Jayden Struble, Jordan Harris, and Riley Hughes since they were all five or six years old.

He had an actual relationship with Northeastern early on, too. It was the first college he visited, back at the age of 14.

“I was still in middle school and I didn’t even know where I was going to high school yet, so it was pretty crazy,” Colangelo told WRBB. “I love being in a city. Obviously Northeastern is a great school as well. So it was kind of a no-brainer for me. I kind of fell in love with the school right away.”

Northeastern Associate Head Coach Jerry Keefe, who spearheads the team’s recruiting, told us the feeling was mutual.

“I’ve known Sam since he was about 11 years old . . . and he was just a little guy back then,” Keefe recalls. “When he was a 14, 15-year-old he started to pop hard. He was always a good skater, but then all of a sudden, the pop in his legs came. He started to become a more powerful skater. He was always really smart, and then he started to play the game faster.”

“Coach Keefe was straightforward with me on what I needed to work on,” Colangelo remembers. “He believed in me from the start and I always trusted him from the start. He’s a great guy and a great offensive style coach, and that’s my game . . . I just thought [the coaches] knew my game better than anyone else.”

Colangelo was also attracted by the experiences of former Huskies — including Adam Gaudette and Dylan Sikura — who the Huskies developed into NHL-quality talents. But there was yet another draw for the local kid: a little hockey tournament in early February, one he attended every year growing up.

“When you’re a young kid and you commit to a Beanpot school, everyone talks about ‘Oh, you’re gonna play in the Beanpot!’” Colangelo says with a grin. “That was when I was 15; I’m almost 19 now, and realizing I’m going to be playing in TD Garden hopefully pretty soon is a cool thing to think about. Going to it every year growing up, I was always dreaming about playing in it.”

After sharing a line with Neil Shea at Lawrence Academy, Colangelo and Gunnarwolfe Fontaine hopped to the Chicago Steel of the USHL. Colangelo tied for third in the league in points and goals, and the team was on pace to break numerous league records en route to a championship. But COVID-19 didn’t care, and the season shut down in mid-March, leaving Colangelo to shift his focus to the NHL draft earlier than he’d anticipated.

“I was able to meet with some teams in person, but I was supposed to go to the NHL combine when you do all the interviews with the GMs and stuff like that, which would have been a cool experience,” he tells us. “I ended up having to do it basically the same way I’m doing this right now: sitting in front of my computer.”

But even if Zoom calls dulled the pre-draft experience, it couldn’t dull the emotion when the moment finally came.

“I’m an only child,” he says. “And [my parents] invested so much in me and I’m excited to see how happy they are. I definitely wouldn’t be here without them.”

***

Sam Colangelo is one of the most promising players Northeastern has seen in years. Though he’ll likely still be 18 years old when the season kicks off, the 6’2”, 208-pound forward will be one of the strongest players in Hockey East.

“He’s a big, powerful guy with skill,” Keefe observes. “So he’ll end up being a power forward with a great stick that has great vision.” Keefe also noted his goal scoring and all-around offensive game, saying “we’re expecting big things from him right away.”

Colangelo cited his hockey IQ and shot as strengths, and mentioned that he’s worked hard to boost his speed over the last few years. But his biggest strength might be his elite vision and playmaking; he excels at being in the right place at the right time, and consistently creates offensive opportunities for teammates. But he acknowledged that he’d like to improve his first three steps and, though he’s a stronger defender now, he wants to be the sort of player his coaches can trust in all three zones.

“I’m definitely a hockey junkie,” he says. “I love the game and I’ll do whatever it takes to get to the next level.”

Keefe cited Colangelo’s down-low game as a key area to improve, noting its importance for NHL-caliber forwards. But he’s already psyched about the offensive possibilities Colangelo can help the Huskies unlock.

“We want to work hard to get the puck back, but when we do get it back, we want to go to work offensively,” he explains. “Any time we can get someone with really good hockey sense and hockey IQ offensively, it really does fit into the style we want to play. And he skates really well for a big guy. We want to play fast in transition and he fits that mold.”

When asked about his favorite current NHL player comparisons, Colangelo mentioned several offensive power forwards, including Charlie Coyle, Kasperi Kapanen, and Mark Scheifele, but noted that the list doesn’t stop there: “I could probably sit here and name 10 to 15 guys that I’ve watched all their shifts from the season. In Chicago, we’ve watched film every single day. And there are a lot of guys I like to just take bits and pieces from their games and keep that in mind.” 

Colangelo sees himself as a true all-around player, which has often been echoed in profiles from NHL experts and draft analysts. One cited Colangelo’s “bulldozing strength and near pathological need to shoot the puck” with accurate, powerful snapshots and wristers. Another lauded his strength, which gives him not only scoring range and accuracy, but makes him powerful enough to hold off defenders, throw checks, snag loose pucks, and muscle into corners, the slot, and the crease. They acknowledged, as does he, that his speed and acceleration are improving but remain a work in progress, especially given his professional potential. He also excels at clogging passing lanes, creating zone exits, stifling opponents on the penalty kill, distributing to teammates, picking corners from distance and bad angles, and securing the puck while handling.

For a Huskies team that lost leading scorer Tyler Madden to the pros this offseason — plus two of their top point men to graduation — the offensive boost is a must-have.

***

For the next few days, Colangelo and teammate Jayden Struble will be in Michigan for the US National Junior Team Evaluation Camp, which is used to gauge players for next year’s National Junior Team. If Colangelo can make it, he’ll follow in the footsteps of his friend Jordan Harris, as well as former Huskies Tyler Madden and Cayden Primeau.

“My birthday is December 26, and that’s when the World Juniors start every year,” he says. “Since I was a little kid, I’d always wake up the day after Christmas, it would be my birthday, and I got to watch World Juniors. That was my favorite tournament to watch growing up.

“If I have a chance to make that team, I’m gonna go there and work my hardest and hopefully have a chance. To go with Jayden is awesome as well. I know we both worked hard for this. And we’re both super excited to get there.”

But for now, Colangelo is, in many respects, just like any other Northeastern freshman, taking classes online and limiting in-person socializing due to COVID-19 safety protocols. Though his first puck drop at Matthews Arena likely won’t arrive until late November, his eyes are trained on the prizes already.

“We have the same three goals every year,” he states bluntly. “Beanpot, Hockey East, national championship. If you don’t win all three of those there’s definitely some stuff left on the table.”

And as for moving from the USHL to Hockey East, where he’ll face players up to six years older than him?

“I’m a pretty confident kid and I think my game will adjust well,” he offers. “I’m not really the type of kid who gets nervous. I get excited and let the adrenaline take over.”

Men’s Hockey Sweeps UMass Lowell

By Matt Neiser

BOSTON — Hockey East is the closest it’s ever been this late in the season. Coming into Saturday night, three points separated second and ninth place. Northeastern sat at the low end of that range, in a three-way tie for seventh with 19 points. UMass Lowell, with 22, was atop the scrum — tied with Boston College for second place. With the top eight teams making the playoffs in Hockey East, every point is essential for making the playoffs and earning a higher seed.

“My tenure with this league goes back to the first year,” said Husky head coach Jim Madigan. “I was a senior in that first year of Hockey East in 84–85. I’ve got a lot of history with this league and I’ve never seen it this bunched up . . . It’s going to be a dogfight all the way to the end.”

Northeastern clearly understood the importance of this series. Despite missing key players, the Huskies scrapped their way to a 2–1 win over Lowell on Saturday night at Matthews Arena, completing the season sweep of the Riverhawks after defeating them in Lowell the night before.

Northeastern (17–8–3, 10–7–1 HEA) was missing a few major pieces. Jayden Struble is out for the season after sustaining a lower-body injury against Maine on February 7. Matt Filipe missed his third-straight game and is currently day-to-day. Tyler Madden, the Huskies’ star forward and Hobey Baker hopeful, picked up an injury late in Friday’s game. 

Madigan said after tonight’s game that Madden would be evaluated on Monday and the team would have a return timeline after that. However, Jeff Cox of New England Hockey Journal reported that Madden could miss 4–6 weeks with a fractured finger. That’s just a rumor, of course, but it’s worth noting until the team gives more info.

The game itself was much less intriguing than its circumstances. Full of sloppy passes and neutral zone battles, it seemed like neither team wanted to snag the points up for grabs. The Huskies came out of the gates looking disheveled, misplacing passes and struggling to clear their zone.

The River Hawks’ (15–9–5, 9–6–4 HEA) opening goal was borne out of a defensive miscommunication as the Huskies scrambled to find their footing. Carl Berglund made his way into the Husky zone, dropping it off for the trailing Reid Stefanson. Having just lost his stick in a collision at center ice, Jordan Harris was out of his normal defensive position. Stefanson took advantage, finding acres of space on the left side of the zone to step in close and beat Husky goaltender Craig Pantano. 

Much like in their Beanpot victory against Boston University on Monday, the Huskies changed their tune in a big way in the second frame. Whatever was said in the locker room during the break worked, as Northeastern played with more energy, finishing checks and moving the puck around much more cleanly.

That clean, beautiful puck movement paved the way for the Huskies’ second-period equalizer. Starting with Matt Thomson, the puck touched all five skaters’ tapes on its trip around the Lowell zone. The fifth skater was freshman Mike Kesselring, who blasted a one-timer at the opposing net off a feed from Jordan Harris to beat a screened Tyler Wall.

The two sides battled into the third period; neither team found paydirt for the first half of the frame. Finally, with 10:34 remaining, Northeastern broke the deadlock. Remember how their first goal involved crisp passing and a clear shot? Their second was about as far in the other direction as you can go. Instead of trying to describe what happened, we’ll just let you watch the replay:

Not nearly as pretty as the first, but they all count for one point in the end.

As the clock ticked down, the game became more and more frenetic. At one point, a loose puck in front of the Husky net squirted out to an open Lowell skater on the left side of the crease. Pantano, out of position on the right side, flung his leg out at the last second to make an incredible kick save and keep the Huskies on top.

Pantano, when asked about his great play as of late (40 saves in the Beanpot and a shutout win the night before), said, “I think it has to do with the play in front of me right now. They’ve been letting me see shots, and they’ve been giving me the easy plays. I think we’ve been dialing in our defensive game, and that’s helped me too.”

“Other than adjusting our lines, we didn’t change our game plan,” Madigan said of the injured players. “We didn’t really talk much about Tyler [Madden] not being in the lineup tonight . . . Guys stepped up, which is what you need and expect.

“The lines are going to be shuffled. We might as [well] not even put out a lineup chart,” he said to laughter from himself and the gathered media. “The lines are going to be shuffled for the rest of the year. I think you guys got a lineup chart; there’s 11 forwards and 11 doesn’t go equally, at least in my math. It’s going to be that way for the rest of the year.”

The Huskies will look to build off these wins heading into a huge matchup next weekend against Boston College. The home-and-home will kick off on Thursday at Matthews Arena, with Christian Skroce and Matt Neiser on the call for WRBB. Pregame coverage will commence at 6:45 PM EST.

Third-Period Comeback Falls Short as UNH Tops Men’s Hockey in OT

By Matt Neiser

DURHAM, New Hampshire — “That effort tonight was unacceptable.”

A clearly irritated Jim Madigan was none too happy with his team postgame, and for good reason. His Northeastern men’s hockey squad had just finished a Hockey East duel with New Hampshire in Durham, and suffice to say it certainly wasn’t their best performance of the season. Despite rallying to tie the game twice in the third period, the Huskies could not cap off the comeback as the Wildcats scored in overtime to claim a 5–4 victory.

Right from the start, Northeastern (13–6–2, 7–5–1 HEA) looked off their game. New Hampshire (11–8–1, 5–5–0 HEA) outplayed the away squad throughout the first period, outshooting them 11–6. The Huskies almost escaped the period unscathed, but a Wildcats goal with less than three minutes to go ensured that the better team went into the intermission with the lead. A flubbed power play one-timer from a teammate fell right to the feet of Eric MacAdams, who slotted home the puck to open the scoring.

If the energy in the first period was a little weird, the energy in the second was downright strange. The middle frame included eight penalties, four for each side, keeping either team from getting into any real rhythm. One of those eight penalties allowed Northeastern to tie the game a little under halfway through the period, as Grant Jozefek tucked home a rebound in front of the net on the man advantage.

The deadlock was short-lived, however, as a Patrick Grasso goal 54 seconds later put New Hampshire back in front.

Madigan said after the game that the officials apologized to him for missing a hitting to the head penalty against Northeastern in the play leading up to the goal. The officials went to video review to check the goal, which allowed them to see the missed call after the fact. “It resulted in a goal then penalty on us . . . so a two-goal swing against us,” Madigan said, putting extra emphasis on the last two words.

The second goal Madigan referred to happened after a wild flurry two minutes later, allowing the Wildcats to extend their lead. With the Huskies already on the penalty kill, freshman Jeremie Bucheler committed a tripping violation, allowing New Hampshire to clear out their goalie and create a six-on-four advantage on the delayed penalty. After moving the puck around for a solid 20–30 seconds, Angus Crookshank found an opening and scored his team-leading 10th goal of the season.

With 40 minutes gone, the Huskies looked dead in the water. They were thoroughly outskated in the first two periods, and a third-period comeback seemed unlikely. Defying expectations, Northeastern emerged with a renewed energy. Tyler Madden scored his 16th goal of the season less than two minutes in, and freshman Jayden Struble followed it up with a goal of his own a few minutes later to even the score.

New Hampshire quieted the run with a Kohei Sato goal at the 7:14 mark, but Matt Filipe answered just 37 seconds later to pull the Huskies back again. Neither team gained ground in the ensuing tug-of-war, sending the game to overtime.

When asked if it was a matter of effort that allowed his team to get back into the game in the third period, Madigan agreed and added that his players stuck to the game plan. “We had a lot of offensive zone possession time in there.”

The Wildcats came into the game with a nation-leading four overtime wins, and they showed why in the extra frame. Dominating much of the possession in the first half of overtime, New Hampshire eventually generated a clean chance as Liam Blackburn found Will MacKinnon streaking into the Northeastern zone down the slot. MacKinnon wasted no time, firing a one-timer past Husky goaltender Craig Pantano to win the game.

“We went into the game with a game plan and we didn’t stick to it,” Madigan lamented, adding that they didn’t play 60 minutes tonight and UNH took advantage. “If we want to get to where we need to get to as a team, we can’t be exchanging goals and giving up five goals in a game.”

Northeastern has a week off between games, with their next contest coming January 18 against UConn at Matthews Arena. Christian Skroce and Matt Cunha will call the game, with coverage beginning at 3:45 PM EST.