Men’s Hockey Sweeps Merrimack

By Jack Sinclair

The Northeastern Huskies notched an authoritative come-from-behind win Sunday evening at Merrimack College, winning the second game of the home-and-home, 6–3.

The Warriors (1–3–0) hosted the Huskies (2–0–0) at Lawler Rink, marking the Huskies’ first away game this season. Merrimack, fresh off of a split series with UMass, lost the first game in Matthews Arena, 8–2, and looked to turn things around on their home ice.

Merrimack opened the scoring, as Alex Jefferies put the puck past a well-screened Connor Murphy off of a feed from Pat Holway. The opportunity came during the power play after a tripping call against the Huskies. The Northeastern penalty kill unit couldn’t clear the puck out of their own zone, allowing Merrimack to work the puck around the perimeter before Jefferies found an opening.

Northeastern continued their slow start, struggling to penetrate the offensive zone as Merrimack took the game’s first seven shots. The Huskies didn’t make things any easier for themselves, either, earning three minor penalties within the first 10 minutes.

Time in the box cost Merrimack the previous night’s game, as Northeastern logged four power-play goals. It looked like the same fate would befall the Huskies, as once again Jeffries struck on the power play. This time it was a Logan Drevitch shot that rang the post and bounced to Jefferies. Connor Murphy couldn’t get to the other side of his crease in time, and Jefferies put the Warriors up 2–0.

“We weren’t giving ourselves a chance,” Northeastern Head Coach Jim Madigan said. “First five minutes we had two penalties, and they had one power-play goal. Then the penalties just kept on coming . . . We needed to play smarter.”

Northeastern was still without a single shot on goal when they finally got a power-play chance with just under seven minutes left in the opening period. The Huskies established a rhythm in the offensive zone, and with 10 seconds left on the penalty, Riley Hughes broke through the neutral zone and buried his second goal of the season.

“It gave us some life,” Madigan said. “We needed that goal. We talked about it in one of the timeouts, about cutting the lead in half. Riley had a real second effort there to make it 2–1.”

The Huskies had another opportunity with the man advantage, but couldn’t beat Zachary Borgiel, who made a series of acrobatic stops on some excellent Northeastern shots. Soon before the end of the period, Drevitch found himself on the end of a hit from Northeastern’s Jayden Struble and had to be helped off of the ice by trainers, where he disappeared into the locker room. The Warriors had already lost Patrick Kramer to injury on Saturday night after an ugly collision with the boards. The period ended soon after, with Merrimack leading 2–1.

It didn’t take long before Northeastern ended up back in the penalty box. This time, It was TJ Walsh who was penalized for a slash. However, the Huskies penalty kill clearly made some adjustments during the intermission, as they were much more compact and effective at eating away the penalty time.

After NU killed off the penalty, Merrimack’s Ben Brar was sent into the box for slashing, giving Northeastern a third power-play opportunity. Aidan McDonough cycled the puck up to Jordan Harris at the point, who found a wide open Grant Jozefek lurking on Borgiel’s back post. Jozefek easily put the puck past a still-moving Borgiel, knotting the game up at two.

Just as they had the night before, Northeastern kept their foot on the gas and continued to pressure the Warriors. As a penalty against Merrimack’s Zach Lovett expired, Gunnarwolfe Fontaine dashed down the ice and cooly slid the puck to a following Zach Solow, who zipped the puck right through Borgiel’s five-hole. 

Zach Solow was rewarded with not only a goal, but with a 10-minute game misconduct penalty for his actions after the goal. Whether he said something to the referee or one of the Merrimack players was disputed, but regardless, Solow spent the rest of the period in the box.

Northeastern’s defense continued to show out, and used their size to effectively control the neutral zone and keep Merrimack in their own half of the ice. Jeremie Bucheler was a standout physical contributor for the Huskies, as he threw around his 6’1” frame with ease, pinning Warriors skaters against the boards and shunting them off the puck like they were nothing.

After another stellar penalty-killing effort from the Huskies, Steven Agriogianis slid the puck across the ice to Aidan McDonough wide open in the slot with seconds to spare in the period. The sophomore Canucks prospect sniped the top right corner of the net to beat Borgiel glove side.

Early in the third period, Merrimack’s Dominic Dockery took a nasty spill into the boards after a tussle with Gunnarwolf Fontaine for the puck. Dockery was helped into the locker room, and Fontaine was given a five-minute major penalty and an ejection from the game. Northeastern’s penalty kill took this as a challenge, and they were more than up to the task. The Huskies did not allow the Warriors to put a single shot on net for the first two minutes of their power play. Then Merrimack’s Ryan Nolan was sent to the box for interfering with Connor Murphy, leaving both sides with four skaters. Ty Jackson scored his first collegiate point after Agriogianis collected his own rebound and dished the puck to Jackson on the back post.

Merrimack, despite allowing five unanswered goals, proved they were not out of the game yet. Less than thirty seconds after Jackson’s goal, Merrimack’s Conor Lovett scored after the Huskies abandoned him in the slot. 

Merrimack sensed the Huskies sleeping on defense and upped the ante on their offensive efforts. Connor Murphy, still between the pipes for Northeastern in Devon Levi’s absence, stood on his head, keeping the lead at two. Merrimack pulled Borgiel with two minutes to go, and after a minute of offensive zone time, Aidan McDonough scored his second goal of the game on an empty net, icing the victory.

“I thought we played solid,” said Madigan of the third period, “Our lines were all jumbled up because of penalties . . . we killed off way too many penalties. We have to address that.” The Huskies were whistled for nine penalties overall, totaling 37 minutes in the box.

Northeastern’s success continues to come from all over the team. Senior captain Zach Solow is expected to produce, but players like Jackson, Fontaine, and Agriogianis, all freshmen, have been contributing too.

“[We were] down 2–0, there was no panic on the bench. The younger guys stuck with it, and the older guys led the way,” Madigan said. “From a coaching perspective, we learned a lot about our guys.”

Northeastern’s net scheduled game is an away series against Vermont on December 26 and 27, though it is possible a game is scheduled for this weekend.

Northeastern Men’s Hockey Thrashes Merrimack to Kick Off Season

By George Barker and Mike Puzzanghera

BOSTON — Eight was great for the Huskies Saturday night, as they tallied multiple goals in each frame to claim their first win of the season over Merrimack, 8–2.

Northeastern (1–0–0) hosted Merrimack (1–2–0) for their first game of the season at Matthews Arena. While the Huskies had yet to hit the ice competitively, the Warriors split a home-and-home against a very talented UMass team the prior weekend.

It was the Huskies’ fourth line that created the first goal. The top defensive pairing of Michael Kesselring and Jordan Harris connected as Harris crept in from the blue line. Harris played a slick pass across the ice to freshman Steven Agriogianis, who ripped the puck past Merrimack goalie Troy Kobryn on his glove side for his first college goal.

Northeastern went glove side again on Kobryn later in the frame, as Harris picked up a power-play goal to go with his assist. It was almost a carbon copy of the first goal, as Grant Jozefek passed it low to Zach Solow, who shuttled it across the ice for Harris to fire home.

The Huskies held a two-goal lead entering the break. But they continued relentlessly and picked up four tallies in the second period.

“As the game went along, we got better,” Northeastern Head Coach Jim Madigan said. “Early in the year, the first game, you’re trying to play to your identity. Every hockey club has their identity and I thought as the first period transitioned to the second period, we started to play more to our identity. In the second period, we had a lot of offensive zone possession time.”

For the first goal, TJ Walsh and Solow combined to win the puck in the offensive zone, catching Merrimack napping. Solow sliced across the ice to set up a forehand and, rather than beating Kobryn high like the first two goals, slipped the puck five-hole for his first of the year.

Photo by Jordan Baron

Solow played provider once again for the fourth, as he patiently waited for sophomore Tyler Spott to enter the zone on the power play. Spott came screaming in, took a sharp feed from his captain, and one-timed it into the top corner, beating Kobryn glove side for the third time on the night. It was Spott’s first career goal.

“The bench went nuts for that one,” Harris said. “He teed it up too, he got good wood on that puck. We were all just so happy for him.”

Harris picked up his second goal of the night on the power play a few minutes later. He played a neat one-two with Jozefek to set up a shot at the point and, with the help of a great Solow screen, rifled yet another puck by Kobryn glove side. The goal went to review, but the officials determined Solow did not interfere with Kobryn in front.

“He’s an elite player so we expect him to play at a high level,” Madigan said of Harris. “It’s nice that he got those goals and got us on the board, two really nice plays. Solow made a nice play to him on his first power-play goal, finding him and he was really good back there just moving pucks.”

The second Harris goal wrapped up Kobyn’s day. The sophomore forfeited five goals in just under a period and a half, and Merrimack head coach Scott Borek had seen enough, replacing him with freshman Zachary Borgiel.

Not that it made a dent in Northeastern’s momentum, as three minutes later, the fourth line combined for another goal.

Photo by Jordan Baron

Spott capitalized on a poor pass from Merrimack and took it into the offensive zone himself. Agriogianis broke forward and continued the rush after receiving it from Spott, and he pushed a neat pass over to Neil Shea, who made no mistake with his finish, beating Borgiel high blocker side.

“I’ll enjoy it for the night,” Agriogianis said. “Obviously, Jordan Harris made a great play and like I said, I’ll enjoy it for tonight but quick turnaround for tomorrow.”

Photo by Jordan Baron

With an increasingly lopsided score, the game got increasingly chippy. Merrimack typically puts out a very physical side, but the Huskies matched their physicality on numerous occasions. Hard hits came across the ice from Northeastern’s Marco Bozzo and Gunnarwolfe Fontaine and Merrimack’s Patrick Kramer. Kramer eventually left the game with an injury after a hit from Northeastern’s Jeremie Bucheler sent him sliding into the boards.

“Every team has certain types of DNA and that’s been a big part of their game: being physical, heavy, they’re strong on pucks,” Madigan said of the Warriors. “One of the things we wanted to adjust a little bit was that hey, we have to be heavier, we had to get over pucks a little bit more because we thought they were a little bit stronger on pucks.”

Photos by Sarah Olender

The Warriors pulled a goal back with a slick rush before the period ended. Logan Drevitch seized the puck at center ice, broke through the Huskies’ defensive line, and fed the onrushing Dominic Dockery with a crisp pass. Dockery beat Husky goaltender Connor Murphy glove side to bring the period to a close at 6–1, NU.

The third period was marred by more physical play and a big scrum after Merrimack’s Patrick Holway grabbed one of the Jackson twins around the neck and attempted to throw him to the ice. Holway received only two minutes alongside Drevitch and Northeastern’s Fontaine.

“I thought we were throwing the body around well, and it’s a smaller building as you know tomorrow,” Solow said of the Sunday tilt at Lawler rink. “So it’s going to be a physical game and we’re ready for it.”

There were no goals until the 17-minute mark, as Agriogianis grabbed his second of the night. Bucheler gave him a great feed in front of the net and the freshman put a pretty redirect on it to take it over the outstretched Borgiel.

Riley Hughes got in on the act just over a minute later to cap the scoring for Northeastern. The sophomore picked the pocket of a Merrimack defender in his own zone and beat Borgiel high blocker side to score the only unassisted goal of the night, and Northeastern’s eighth in total.

The Warriors grabbed the final tally as a bit of consolation, as Liam Walsh fed the puck right across the face of goal to freshman Conor Lovett, who scored his first career goal with ease.

Connor Murphy got his first career win between the pipes, saving 20 of 22 shots and looking comfortable doing so. With Devon Levi off playing for Team Canada, Murphy stepped up and got the job done in game one.

“I thought he did a real good job there,” Madigan said of Murphy. “A couple early rebounds were put back in front, but he knew it and I thought he did a really good job and played with some poise.”

Photo by Sarah Olender

Also standing out for Northeastern were the bottom six forwards. While the Jackson–Jackson–Fontaine line didn’t register any goals, they constantly created chances and caused problems with their speed and agility. The Shea–Agriogianis–Austin Goldstein fourth line created three goals, but also kept steady pressure on Merrimack with the forecheck, something Madigan said the whole team did well.

The two teams will make the hour-long trek up to Merrimack Sunday to cap off the home-and-home.

“We know it’ll be much more of a different situation tomorrow night in their building,” Madigan said. “The confines are a little bit tighter and they play very well at home . . . They’ll be looking to avenge tonight’s game.”

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.