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.”

Men’s Hockey Secures Second Sweep of Merrimack

By Jack Sinclair

Northeastern made the trip up to Andover, MA Sunday afternoon to conclude their home-and-home with Merrimack. It was the fourth time the teams had played in the last month, courtesy of a last-minute schedule change. 

Northeastern, still carrying the momentum from last night’s thrilling come-from-behind win, entered with a ton of energy. The first line of Zach Solow, Grant Jozefek, and newly minted World Juniors gold medalist Sam Colangelo was putting loads of pressure on Merrimack goaltender Troy Kobryn.

The Husky defense was also impressive to start. Top pairing defensemen Jordan Harris and Julian Kislin did well to keep the puck away from the center of the ice in the defensive zone, making goaltender Connor Murphy’s job much easier.

The Merrimack style of dumping the puck into the offensive zone and chasing after it wasn’t working against this strong Northeastern defense, so they shifted things up. The Warriors started trying to find stretch passes to forwards on the blue line; this increased aggression left some Huskies open in the neutral zone, allowing for easier zone entry.

It wasn’t long before Northeastern’s second line got something going. It was a quick sequence, with Jordan Harris working the puck around the boards to Aidan McDonough. McDonough found his linemate Matt DeMelis cutting into the slot with a head of steam, and Demelis scored the one-timer to put the Huskies up. 

About a minute later, the Huskies struck again. Riley Hughes skated the puck all the way from the goal line past the blue line, and a rocket was all it took to beat Kobryn again. The Huskies finished the period with a two-goal edge.

The Huskies took the ice for the second period with the same intensity. It didn’t take long for their full-ice pressure to pay off; Kobryn couldn’t control a shot from Gunnarwolfe Fontaine and Dylan Jackson netted the rebound. James Davenport, in his third college game, earned his first point as the secondary assistant. The Huskies led 3–0.

Connor Murphy, still playing between the pipes for Northeastern as Devon Levi recovers from a minor upper body injury, played admirably. His only blemish in the first two periods was a nice Logan Drevitch snipe late in the second period.

Northeastern forward Austin Goldstein headed to the box for interference, and the Huskies ended the second period on the penalty kill. They killed it off with ease in the beginning of the third, and immediately resumed their oppressive offensive pace.

About five minutes in, offsetting penalties yielded about a minute of four-on-four hockey. In the tight confines of Lawler Rink, Sam Colangelo displayed his NHL-level puck handling, weaving in and out of a number of Merrimack skaters and slinging a couple of shots on net.

“We’ve watched him on TV for the past month,” Northeastern Head Coach Jim Madigan said. “It’s his second college game. So the pace and the tempo, and learning how to play at this level each and every shift, I thought he did really well.”

Kobryn was tested more and more throughout the period as the Northeastern forecheck clamped down on the Merrimack defense. Fontaine created a couple of chances for himself, picking the pocket of the Merrimack defense a few times before turning and firing a quick shot toward the net.

After Murphy fought off a quick breakaway chance, Merrimack’s Filip Forsmark found himself in the box, giving Northeastern their fourth power play. Less than 20 seconds later, Jozefek joined him, marking the third time that a Northeastern penalty ended their own power play.

“The referees were calling a lot today, which is fine,” Madigan said. “The referees set the strike zone, and we didn’t do a good job at adjusting to that strike zone. We had some power plays on calls that probably Merrimack wasn’t happy with, but we should’ve learned how the referee was calling the game, and we didn’t.”

In the four-on-four action that followed, Merrimack clawed back into the game. Mac Welsher was the scorer this time, winning the puck back in the offensive zone and firing a wrister into the top corner.

The scrappy goal added wind to Merrimack’s sails, and the Warriors put even more pressure on the Huskies. Merrimack started to keep Northeastern on their heels, and flung a few shots toward Murphy. The increased pressure exposed a chink in their defense, which Colangelo exploited, getting a one-on-one look against Kobryn. Kobryn kicked Colangelo’s shot away, then neutralized Jozefek’s backhand shot off the rebound.

With under two minutes left to go, a phantom call against Jozefek gave Merrimack their best scoring chance of the afternoon. The Warriors pulled their goaltender, giving them a six-on-four. Down by a goal with under a minute to go, Merrimack threw everything but the kitchen sink at the Huskies, but the penalty kill unit withstood the pressure, the Warriors could not beat Murphy, and the Huskies held on for a 3–2 win.

The Huskies rose to 5–3–2, good for second place in the Hockey East standings behind UMass. Merrimack, having played fewer games and sitting at 1–5–0, is second-to-last.

Northeastern’s next game is at home against Providence at 6 PM on Wednesday. WRBB will call that game, with coverage commencing a few minutes before puck drop.

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

By Michael Vincent Puzzanghera

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 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.

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.

Northeastern’s Beanpot Dynasty

By Christian Skroce

“From 30 years, to three in a row, Northeastern is a Beanpot dynasty.”

That was our final call on air Monday night as the Northeastern Huskies raised the Beanpot trophy for the third time in as many years. It was a moment that Husky players, coaches, fans, and yes, even radio guys, will never forget, and it just might be the greatest moment in Northeastern hockey history.

Northeastern is not the first team to win three Beanpots in a row; that honor goes to the 1963–65 Boston College squads. Nor is the Huskies’ streak the longest; for that we look to Boston University’s six consecutive titles from 1995 to 2000. Northeastern’s three-peat is the ninth in Beanpot history and the first by a team not named BC or BU. But make no mistake, this hat trick is as historic as they come, and its countless moments remind us why we love sports and why we love calling games for this team.

Northeastern broke its 30-year Beanpot drought in 2018, pulling out victories against perennial powerhouses BC and BU. The Huskies were led by the best top line in the country, and possibly team history — Nolan Stevens, Dylan Sikura, and eventual Hobey Baker winner Adam Gaudette. The trio showed up in the biggest game of their lives, and a hat trick from Gaudette propelled the Huskies to a 5–2 win over their cross-town rivals and sent TD Garden into a frenzy.

The whole night was unforgettable, but perhaps the most popular image was of a fan in the crowd holding a sign — it turned out to be an XXXXL t-shirt — that simply read, “I can graduate in peace.” Flashes of Gaudette parading the Beanpot trophy around TD Garden danced through the minds of Husky fans for weeks to come after that first Beanpot win. None of them could fathom the run that was to come.

A year later, Northeastern flexed its muscles and asserted itself as one of the premier programs in college hockey. It began in the semifinal against BU, when, less than a minute into overtime, Tyler Madden arrived in dramatic fashion.

In the post-game press conference, I grabbed a mic and sheepishly asked the freshman forward, “How were you able to stay so calm with everything on the line?” At the podium, Madden simply nodded, leaned forward, and announced, “Well, there were bright lights out there tonight, and I shine in those.” Thus was born the legend of Mr. Bright Lights.

A week later, Northeastern retained their trophy with a win over BC. Despite leaping out to a 3–0 lead, Northeastern, ever content to give its fans a show, let Boston College storm back in the third period to make the score 3–2 late in regulation. But the Huskies had been here before. Struggling to maintain their narrow lead, the Huskies found another gear, and with a late push and an even later goal, hung on to become back-to-back Beanpot champions.

Northeastern goalie and future NHL player Cayden Primeau shone during the 2019 tournament, allowing just three goals in two games between the pipes and winning the Eberly Award and Tournament MVP. The team went on to secure the Hockey East title and break the Northeastern single-season win record.

But the Huskies weren’t done, as just a year later, they found themselves in the Beanpot Championship again after a 3–1 semifinal victory over Harvard. The final promised to be a heated affair, as Northeastern faced a BU team fresh off a thrilling 5–4 overtime upset victory over BC in the semifinal.

It was a nightmare start for the Huskies, as BU forwards Jake Wise and Trevor Zegras each scored in the first eight minutes to stun the Huskies right out of the gate. The score held for the next 12 minutes, and the Huskies headed to the locker room searching for answers.

They found them.

Northeastern came out buzzing in the second period, as sophomore forward Tyler Madden brought NU within one with a perfectly placed wrister from the slot. Talented freshman Aidan McDonough evened the game just three minutes later, but the Huskies weren’t done there.

With eight minutes gone, consecutive BU penalties gave Northeastern a five-on-three. After a remarkable passing display, junior forward Zach Solow scored to give Northeastern a 3–2 lead, all on the first power play, meaning NU would kept a man advantage after the goal.

And they took full advantage. One minute after Solow’s goal, senior forward Grant Jozefek notched Northeastern’s fourth straight goal after an incredible individual effort. 4–2 Northeastern.

Despite taking full control of the game, Northeastern didn’t let up in the second period and brought a whole new meaning to “close but no cigar.” One of the craziest plays of the game came just minutes after the Huskies’ fourth goal, as Zach Solow found himself with the puck and an open net just in front of him. While facing away from the net, Solow attempted a backhanded shot that ricocheted off the near post, somehow crossed the goal-line to hit the second post, and ricocheted out of the crease. Husky fans’ mouths dropped as the TD Garden replay showed the puck soaring perfectly over the goal-line while remaining nanometers away from counting as a goal.

A second near-miss came a few minutes later, as Northeastern again found themselves on a breakaway. A close-range shot from Madden was popped into the air, deflected twice, and seemed destined to float over BU goalie Sam Tucker for Northeastern’s fifth score of the period. But freshman forward Robert Mastrosimone came to the Terriers’ rescue and batted the midair puck out of the crease.

Eventually the hectic second period ended, and both teams headed to their locker rooms to prepare for a third period that no one could have anticipated.

Just two minutes into the third, BU began its comeback with David Farrance’s brilliantly placed shot from the left dot. With the lead shrunk to one, both teams desperately tried to grab the palpable momentum that pervaded the game, and in one of the most insane regulation finishes in Beanpot history, the hockey gods had one more trick up their sleeves.

With just a minute remaining in the third period, BU pulled its goalie to give them a man advantage. The Terriers used it well, peppering Northeastern netminder Craig Pantano with shot after shot. Despite the rapid opportunities, the NU defense remained strong, turning away chance after chance. That is, until Trevor Zegras struck again.

With just 1.2 seconds remaining, Zegras found the puck just to the right of Pantano and threw everything he had into a backhanded shot that wound up in the back of the net. With bated breath, Husky fans quickly turned their gaze from BU celebrating to the clock overhead that showed a few tenths left, and although many didn’t want to admit it, everyone in the stadium knew that the Beanpot final would be headed to overtime.

After the game, Northeastern players were asked about their thoughts when BU tied the game. Head coach Jim Madigan interjected, “Well, the coaches were saying WTF . . .”

The teams returned to the ice for an initial five-minute overtime period. The Terriers kept the momentum from Zegras’ goal, earning chance after chance, but Northeastern’s defense stayed strong enough to keep the game even and give both teams a much-needed break before the 20-minute second overtime.

“I looked around the locker room and saw no panicked faces,” senior defenseman and team captain Ryan Shea said. “Everyone was just focused on their game and was ready to go.”

The overtime was a defensive struggle, with both teams trading chances. That is, until Shea pulled off a remarkable hustle play to draw a holding penalty with just about six minutes remaining in the overtime frame to give the Huskies a two-minute power play. And that was all they needed.

With 5:27 to go and under 30 seconds remaining on the power play, sophomore defenseman Jordan Harris collected the puck near the blue line in the offensive zone. With his eyes fixed on the goal and the trophy, Harris coolly skated into the slot and let a shot fly. With Zach Solow planted in front of BU goalie Sam Tucker, the puck soared through the air, through the crowd, and into the back of the net.

Harris and his teammates flung their gloves and sticks into the air and sprinted down to the other end to mob Pantano. TD Garden erupted, and I mean erupted. Twelve full sections of Northeastern students and countless more in the arena screamed and cheered as the improbability of the Huskies’ accomplishment sank in.

“Coaches said that if we get the puck near the blue line to push it to the middle and get a shot on net,” Harris said. “Hopefully a lane opens up, which it did, and I took my opportunity, and luckily it paid off.”

The Eberly Award for best goaltender of the tournament went to Pantano, who recorded 40 saves in the championship game. Pantano grew up watching the Beanpot as a local Massachusetts kid, and continued to watch during his time just north of us at Merrimack College. This was his only opportunity to make his own mark on this historic tournament, and when it mattered most, he didn’t blink.

Zach Solow was crowned MVP for his two-goal performance. Though his stats speak for themselves, it’s Solow’s on-ice tenacity and off-ice leadership that have impressed Husky fans and coaches.

But perhaps his greatest trait is this: he doesn’t know what it means to lose a Beanpot game. None of Northeastern’s juniors do either. After three decades of heartbreaking losses, gutsy performances to no avail, and seeing another team lift that pot of beans, Northeastern has achieved all-time greatness in Boston’s most personal and meaningful sports tournament.

The heart-attack Huskies had the added benefit of pulling out their improbable win in front of 17,850 fans, the largest crowd in Beanpot history. BU fans made their mark, but it was the Northeastern faithful who truly took over TD Garden (as they have for years) and made it Northeastern’s home away from home. In the past three seasons, Northeastern is 8–1 there. The bright lights were out on Monday night, and the Huskies shine in those.

“It was a great Beanpot game; I’ve seen a lot of them over the years,” Madigan said. “Congratulations to our players . . . they’ve set the bar incredibly high for this program and they’ve represented the school well.”

“The winning culture that we’ve built — along with the guys before us — has been everything,” Shea noted. “I came to Northeastern to win a Beanpot, and now we’ve got three of them.”

There was a distinct theme throughout the postgame press conference: “Never forgot their roots.” Northeastern has 14 Massachusetts natives on its roster, all of whom grew up watching the Beanpot and dreamt of winning it someday. Milton, Massachusetts resident Jim Madigan praised two Huskies who also grew up there — Ryan Shea and Aidan McDonough, who had an impressive four-point performance in the Championship game.

“I had [McDonough] at my house during the Stanley Cup when he was nine,” said Madigan. “I’ve known him a long time and he’s grown into a great young man, and an even better hockey player . . . we’re a Mass team now.

“These young men have separated themselves from every other team in the 90-year history of this program,” Madigan said. When asked about a potential four-peat, Madigan smiled, shook his head, and said, “I think we’re just going to enjoy tonight.”

On a personal note, thank you to everyone involved with Northeastern hockey. This has been a truly incredible ride that thousands of people — alumni old and new, current freshmen, family — have loved being a part of.

And to my WRBB Sports family, thank you for everything. There are so many people who deserve to be a part of this run, and I like to believe that everyone at WRBB, past and present, was a crucial part of this broadcast. Like Jim Madigan said, I think I’m just going to enjoy this for a little while.