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.

No. 18 Huskies Fall to No. 2 Eagles in Regular Season Capper

By Khalin Kapoor

CHESTNUT HILL, MA — In the final game of a 2020–21 season that presented its fair share of challenges, the No. 18 Northeastern Huskies (9–8–3) fell to the No 2. Boston College Eagles (16–4–1) by a score of 4–2.

After a rare loss the week before, BC clinched the top spot in Hockey East. The Huskies ended the regular season on a low note, but likely will finish in sixth place and earn a first-round bye in the conference tournament.

This game started at full tilt and didn’t slow down until the final horn. The first period was fast and physical, with both teams creating scoring opportunities, working well in their offensive zone, creating rushes, and making life difficult for the opposing goalie. BC forward Trevor Kuntar opened the scoring seven minutes in with a strike past Husky netminder Connor Murphy after some wicked stickhandling off an odd-man rush.

It was the only goal in the period despite 31 total shots, of which Northeastern had 17. Star BC netminder Spencer Knight put on a clinic in the first and turned them all away. It was clear that the Huskies modified their game plan for BC, as their first-period shot count was higher than the total number of shots from two of their past four games.

“We wanted to get a lot of shots,” Northeastern coach Jim Madigan said post-game. “We want to get some traffic in front of them and . . . spend more time in the offensive zone down below the dots.”

Both teams kept up the intensity in the second period. BC showed off their incredible penalty kill throughout the period, killing off three Northeastern power plays and scoring a short-handed goal courtesy of Matt Boldy.

The Huskies turned the puck over in their defensive zone often. Connor Murphy bailed out his defense with some amazing saves, including an incredible effort to stop a wraparound chance later in the second.

Down 2–0, Northeastern responded better than they had all season. Freshman Dylan Jackson put the Huskies on the board, showing off some impressive hand-eye coordination batting the puck out of the air and into the net. The goal proved that Spencer Knight wasn’t infallible.

“[It was huge] to get one in on Knight,” Madigan remarked. “There was some good momentum into the first two periods of playing on the offense zone.”

With just under five minutes remaining in the second, Northeastern captain Zach Solow received the puck from Aidan McDonough and rifled it five-hole past Knight. The fire was clear in Solow after the goal as he let out a celebratory yell while being mobbed by his teammates.

Northeastern had a number of missed scoring chances after tying the game, but nonetheless entered the third with momentum on their side.

“Yeah, I know, for two periods, I thought we played well,” Madigan said.

But BC showed everyone they were going to own the period less than two minutes in when winger Casey Carreau put the puck in off the rebound.

A one-goal deficit didn’t seem insurmountable at the time, but as the period went on it was painfully obvious that Northeastern just couldn’t keep up.

“You don’t wanna be playing from behind [against] this team,” Madigan remarked. “They’re quick on transition, and they’re very offensively gifted, and they’ve got the goaltender factor. They were really good.”

BC controlled the entire third, outshooting NU 22–7 and keeping the puck away from Northeastern attackers. Even when Northeastern managed a rush, BC quickly cleared the puck and set up their own rush. It was like watching a completely different game.

Matt Boldy increased BC’s lead with about seven minutes left in regulation, rocketing the puck past Murphy with a back-foot one-timer from the slot. His second goal of the game secured the Eagles’ victory.

“We showed good effort in the third period, but they were too much for us,” Madigan said ruefully. “We just couldn’t match that intensity in the third period.”

The game ended with little excitement. Northeastern pulled Murphy for an extra attacker but couldn’t muster any offensive pressure. Northeastern matched BC for 40 strong minutes, but the last 20 showed why BC is among the top teams in the nation and that Northeastern has some serious work to do heading into the playoffs.

“And in the [third] period, you know, they came at it, and we just didn’t match the same intensity,” Madigan said.

Huskies Fall to Friars in Critical Matchup

Story by Khalin Kapoor

Photos by Sadie Parker

BOSTON — The Northeastern Huskies (9–7–2) fell to the Providence Friars (10–7–4) in the first half of a home-and-home series on Saturday evening at Matthews Arena.

Providence was reeling after a tough 8–1 loss the week before, but outclassed the Huskies throughout. It was a disappointing game for the Huskies, who were looking to build momentum after their shutout win last week against UMass Lowell. They were also looking to distance themselves from Providence, who started the day 0.02 points behind Northeastern in the Hockey East Power Index but ended it 1.79 points ahead.

“It wasn’t good enough,” Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan said. “We let them dictate the pace . . . and played their type of game.”

The first period was incredibly fast and physical right out of the gate, with both teams getting some quality offensive zone time and scoring chances. The back-and-forth continued until the 13-minute mark, when Providence winger Tyce Thompson took the puck off a deflection off of the side of the goal and whipped it into the net. It was an unfortunate sequence for Husky netminder Connor Murphy, who lost track of the puck after the deflection.

“You can’t give good teams like Providence goals like that and expect to win,” Madigan said.

Providence flexed their strength throughout the opening period, consistently winning key puck battles at the boards and laying some solid hits. They forced Northeastern to play their style of hockey, which denied the Huskies sustained offensive zone time.

Coming into this game, Northeastern’s power play conversion rate was ranked first in Hockey East and second in the country at 28 percent. Halfway through the first, Northeastern defenseman Jordan Harris sniped the puck right over Providence goalie Jaxson Stauber’s shoulder to tie the game at one.

Northeastern captain Zach Solow was credited for the assist, making him the 53rd Northeastern player to notch 100 points.

“I’m very happy for him,” Madigan said. “He’s going to go down as one of our better players in the history of this program.”

But the Friars struck back with a power play goal of their own when Jason O’Neill deflected a clearing attempt and chipped the puck over Murphy’s glove. 

In the second period, the Friars looked better than the Huskies and spent most of their time controlling the puck in the neutral zone. Murphy made some incredible saves, even doing a full split to keep the score at 2–1.

The third period began a little better for the Huskies, who seemed better adjusted to the Friars’ style of play. But a bad turnover led to a two-on-two chance, and Jamie Engelbert beat Murphy five-hole to increase the Providence lead to 3–1.

“It was a bad turnover,” Madigan remarked. “They work hard . . . but we contributed to their three goals.”

With just over a minute left in the game, Northeastern forward Gunnarwolfe Fontaine cut the deficit with a screamer from the point, giving the Huskies a chance to tie the game before time expired.

Northeastern pulled Murphy to get an extra attacker, but a key turnover led to an easy open-net goal for Providence’s Matt Koopman to ice the game. The Friars killed off Northeastern’s top-ranked power play three times in the final period to secure the series opener. Northeastern will attempt to salvage a series split on Sunday.

“We need to respond better,” Madigan said. “We have to want it more than them.”

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 Outlast Wildcats, Secure Sweep

Story by Khalin Kapoor

Photos by Sadie Parker

BOSTON — In game two of a home-and-home series against the New Hampshire Wildcats (6–12–2), the Northeastern Huskies men’s hockey team (8–5–2) hung on to win a 5–4 thriller at Matthews Arena on Saturday night. Aidan McDonough put the Huskies on his back once again, notching two more goals including the game winner with just under four minutes left in regulation.

“He’s a shooter,” Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan said of McDonough. “He’s a threat.”

It was a battle between two teams with nothing but animosity toward each other following Eric MacAdams’s suspension-drawing blindside hit on Northeastern winger Marco Bozzo the night before. The tension manifested in a number of penalties on both sides throughout Saturday’s contest. After scoring on the power play, Northeastern forward Gunnarwolfe Fontaine was given a ten-minute misconduct penalty for taunting Wildcat skater Kohei Sato, who was sitting in the box for a kneeing penalty.

The Huskies had five other penalties in this game, three of which yielded New Hampshire scores.

The Huskies dominated the first 22 minutes of the game, lighting the lamp twice on the power play and twice on even strength.

Northeastern did everything right in the first; they controlled the puck well, avoided costly mistakes, and looked great on the penalty kill. Eighteen seconds into the second period, forward Mike Kesselring rocketed a one-timer past Wildcat netminder Ty Taylor to put the Huskies up 4–0. The Huskies were continuing their spectacular play from the last 20 minutes of their forceful 6–2 win Friday night, and it looked like they were cruising to a blowout win.

However, the Huskies started playing sloppy, allowing the Wildcats back into the game with three straight power-play goals. 

The Wildcats completely shifted the momentum, a shift that culminated with a game-tying Lucas Hermann goal just five minutes into the third period.

For the first half of the third period, New Hampshire held Northeastern in the Huskies’ defensive zone, dominating puck possession and allowing only one shot on goal. When the Northeastern defense couldn’t respond with the same team-wide pressure, Husky netminder Connor Murphy made some spectacular saves to bail them out and ensure the game-tying goal would be the Wildcats’ last.

“Hats off to the leadership and guys sticking to it,” Madigan said. “When you start the third period up 4–2, you don’t expect to give up two goals in the first five minutes, which is what we did. And they were coming, they had momentum, they were feeling pretty good on their power play.”

With just under four minutes left in regulation, Aidan McDonough took the puck off a blocked shot and deposited it into the net to give the Huskies a 5–4 lead and, a few minutes later, the win. The Wildcats were stunned. For the second straight night, McDonough had provided the fireworks in an absolute thriller.

“For us to be able to weather the storm a little bit then find a way to get the win, that’s important,” Madigan said. “That’s what clubs have to do this time of the year. It gives you momentum getting ready for the next opponent next weekend.”

The Wildcats came into this weekend series on a hot streak, but ran into a buzzsaw. Northeastern faltered a bit late in the game, but ultimately stood their ground to secure the weekend sweep. After a statement win on Friday, Northeastern bent but did not break on Saturday.

Men’s Hockey Declaws Wildcats

By Khalin Kapoor

DURHAM, NH — Coming off two tough losses last week, the Northeastern men’s hockey team looked like a different breed Friday night, notching a tough, physical, 6–2 road win over the New Hampshire Wildcats. Winger Aidan McDonough led the scoring with a hat trick of power-play goals, netminder Connor Murphy made 22 saves, and Northeastern scored two goals late in the third period to ice the game.

“We blocked more shots, we got in shot lanes, we defended a little bit better in our D-zone,” Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan said. “Having lost the last two, we just needed a confidence boost and I thought our guys played well here tonight.”

The two teams were heading in opposite directions coming in, with UNH (5–11–2) coming off a weekend sweep of UMass Lowell and Northeastern (7–5–2) reeling from back-to-back losses against Boston College and UConn. 

In the beginning of the first period, Northeastern looked lackluster and slow, and repeatedly failed to clear their own zone. Halfway through, New Hampshire’s Patrick Grasso snuck the puck past Murphy off a rebound to give the Wildcats a 1–0 advantage. 

The Huskies of last week may have folded in the face of this one-goal deficit, but on Saturday they struck back with two of their own. With New Hampshire sniper Angus Crookshank in the box for a high stick, McDonough whipped a one-timer from Grant Jozefek past goalie Mike Robinson to knot the score at one.

“Those are confidence boosts also for your club when they happen,” Madigan said. “We played with purpose after going down one and there was no panic, and we still had a little bit of swagger there.”

Just 29 seconds later, Riley Hughes put the Huskies on top with a wicked shot off a slick feed from Matt DeMelis.

“He’s getting to the scoring areas more, he’s shooting the puck more — he’s got a real good shot,” Madigan said of Hughes. “He’s just ready. He’s got that year of experience under his belt . . .  There’s still more there — he’s continuing to get stronger, he’s got a real good skating stride, he’s quick and handles the puck well.”

This 30-second stretch reversed the vibe of the first period, which had been heavily controlled by the Wildcats. The Huskies ended the first period with a great penalty kill to maintain their 2–1 lead.

The first half of the second period featured three penalties but no goals. It was clear, however, that New Hampshire was controlling the game. They were constantly in Northeastern’s defensive zone, rifling shot after shot at Murphy. Thirteen minutes in, the Huskies left winger Benton Maass open on the right side of the goal while the puck slid over to the left boards. The puck slipped out of the scrum directly to Maass, who whipped it right past Murphy to tie the game. 

Up to this point, the Huskies had not put a single shot on goal, and it looked like things were on the verge of slipping away from them. Mike Kesselring had other plans, however; he got a pass from DeMelis, faked out two defenders, then deked the goalie to the left while he slipped the puck in on the right to make it 3–2 Huskies. 

“Tonight he provided some offense, and he’s getting a little bit more opportunity on the power play,” Madigan said. “His game is defending and using that long reach and transitioning pucks quickly, making smart and quick decisions with the puck. He did that, then it’s nice to get rewarded on the power play also.”

Two minutes later, McDonough scored his second power-play goal of the night from the same spot where he scored his first.

That made two periods in a row where Northeastern played poorly in the first half and gave up a goal, then scored twice in quick succession. New Hampshire controlled the second, with the Huskies firing only two shots on goal to the Wildcats’ 12. But what really matters is the goals, and Northeastern capitalized on their chances with devastating efficiency. 

Just like they had the period prior, the Huskies entered the final frame with momentum on their side. But this time, they controlled the entire period. Ten minutes in, McDonough completed his power-play hat trick with yet another goal from the same spot. Neither substitute Wildcat goaltender Ty Taylor nor the skaters in front of him could adjust to the Northeastern power play.

Two minutes later, Wildcat skater Eric MacAdams laid a late hit on Marco Bozzo, blindsiding him and knocking him to the ice. MacAdams was tossed and the Wildcats were charged with a five-minute major penalty. Bozzo lingered on the ice in pain for a while, but eventually rose and skated to the locker room. 

“It was a tough hit,” Madigan said. “Certainly a blindsided, unsuspecting, one I’m sure the supervisor will take a look at . . . He escaped a major blow.”

If McDonough’s third goal didn’t seal this game for the Huskies, the illegal hit definitely did. Kesselring added to Northeastern’s lead during the power play, cashing in from McDonough’s spot to yield the 6–2 final score.

“When you lose a couple of games in a row, and both were at home of course . . . but you lose a little bit of that swagger, a little bit of that attitude,” Madigan said. “You can bring it back in practice . . . but it needs to manifest itself in a game.”

The Huskies and Wildcats will battle again Saturday night at Matthews Arena. Mike Puzzanghera and Khalin Kapoor will be on the call for WRBB, with coverage beginning at 5:45 PM.

Northeastern Loses Battle of the Huskies

Story by Rae Deer

Photos by Sarah Olender

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#1 Eagles Make Their Nest in Matthews

Story by Rae Deer and Milton Posner

Photos by Sarah Olender

BOSTON — It was hard to know whether Tuesday night’s Northeastern–Boston College men’s hockey matchup was an attempt to recreate the Beanpot — which begins in the first week of February in non-pandemic years — or merely a resumption of the schedule Northeastern would have played had a positive COVID test not robbed them of two weeks’ worth of games.

Either way, the Huskies hung tough with the newly minted top team in the nation for about half the game, but ultimately fell, 6–2. The fifth-place Huskies dropped to 6–4–2, while the second-place Eagles rose to 10–2–1.

Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan remarked on Monday that he wasn’t sure how much energy and stamina his team would have. After all, COVID testing protocol meant that players were rejoining the team one by one, with some only being cleared on Sunday. Nonetheless, the Huskies began the game with plenty of energy and aggression, with Zach Solow in particular proving impactful on breakouts. This energy gave them a chance when BC’s Patrick Giles went to the box for boarding, and Riley Hughes tipped in a Dylan Jackson rocket from the point.

“I thought at times we had good energy,” Madigan said. “I thought our guys who logged a lot of minutes  — like [Jordan] Harris and Solow — had good legs.”

But the 20 days between games did leave the Huskies’ conditioning short of ideal. Madigan confirmed that goaltender Connor Murphy and forward Grant Jozefek exited the game due to cramps and dehydration. Both are likely to play on Friday. In addition, defenseman Jayden Struble exited with a lower-body injury; his status for Friday is uncertain.

For the first 10 minutes, Northeastern’s energy made up for some discombobulated breakouts, which the Eagles’ size, strength, and speed made exceedingly tricky. But after an entry from the blue line ricocheted off Murphy’s pad, Nikita Nesterenko buried the rebound to even the score.

Less than a minute later, the Eagles caught the Huskies in the middle of a line change. A quick-hit stretch pass from Eamon Powell to Giles was all it took to post another tally.

Going into the second, the Huskies seemed to have solved the breakout issue. They skated with vigor, aggression, and precision, and were finally working in sync. The offense generated chances and put pressure on the Eagles’ blue line. These chances paid off when Mike Kesselring glided unimpeded to Spencer Knight’s doorstep to tie the game at two.

Kesselring, who was bumped off the first line earlier in the season for performance reasons, had notched his first goal of the year and justified Madigan restoring him to the top line. However, BC captain Marc McLaughlin could not let the score go unanswered, scoring his team-leading eighth goal of the year a mere 40 seconds later. 

“We worked hard to get it to 2–2 there in the second and then we gave a goal right back at them, we gave it to them within 40 seconds.” Madigan stated. “For me, that was a turning point and then they got the next goal.”

Marshall Warren’s goal seemed to be the point of no return, as the Husky offense seemed to lose its spark. For the rest of the period, even when Northeastern went on the man advantage, their best outcomes were a flurry of strikes in Knight’s general direction, only a few of which necessitated a save. BC, meanwhile, seemed entirely in control, as only a spectacular Murphy save prevented Matt Boldy from slotting home a breakaway.

The period also marked an escalation of the tensions that had pervaded the game until that point.

“It was a good, physical game,” BC head coach Jerry York remarked. “The refs reffed the type of game that both clubs like. There were no ticky-tack penalties.”

However, the small displays of aggression came to a head with the first of a few scuffles throughout the night. Knight made a save off of a Julian Kislin wrister, then Jozefek and BC’s Jack McBain kicked off with some pushing and shoving in front of the goal. It only amplified when Nesterenko inserted himself into the mix to defend his linemate, resulting in roughing penalties for the trio.

The aggression and skirmishes continued in the third, particularly when a frustrated Solow was whistled for an obvious hooking. Tempers were still running high as the teams departed the ice post-game, with Eagles players waving a still-barking Solow off the ice.

The third period featured two more BC goals, most notably the first collegiate goal for senior defender Michael Karow, who was playing his 120th BC game. The jubilant leaping and piling-on of his linemates, as well as the eruption from the bench, said everything.

Both goals were ceded by Curtis Frye, who took over for Murphy a few minutes into the third. It was Frye’s second appearance in three-and-a-half years with the Huskies; in both, he was inserted in the third period to halt a BC team that had Northeastern on the ropes. With the Huskies struggling to match BC’s aggression, passing precision, shot volume, and overall cohesion, the 6–2 lead was too much to overcome.

The Huskies next play Friday at 6 PM against Connecticut. WRBB will call that game, with coverage beginning a few minutes before puck drop.

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.”