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 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: UMass Amherst Minutemen

Last Season: 21–11–2 (14–8–2, second in Hockey East)

Head Coach: Greg Carvel (fifth season)

Preseason poll projected finish: Second

Departures: F Mitchell Chaffee, F Marco Bozzo, F Niko Hildenbrand, F Jack Suter, D Jake McLaughlin

Additions: F Josh Lopina, F Oliver MacDonald, F Ryan Sullivan, D Alger Linden, D Aaron Bohlinger

By Christian Skroce

Like many teams, UMass Amherst was disappointed by the way last season ended, as it deprived them of the chance to flex their muscles in postseason play. Most would say Cornell or Boston College were most negatively affected by the COVID-19 shutdown, but UMass absolutely belongs in that conversation. The Minutemen had locked up the second seed in the Hockey East playoffs and were set to take on a reeling Northeastern team when the world shut down. Suddenly, UMass saw their opportunity to avenge a semifinals loss a year prior vanish, as did their chance to reach the Frozen Four for a second year in a row. UMass found itself wondering what could have been, and this upcoming season will be their chance to answer that question.

As has been the case over the last two seasons under Greg Carvel, this year’s Minutemen squad is poised not only to contend for a Hockey East Championship, but for a national championship as well. UMass entered the season ranked seventh in the country and was selected to finish second in Hockey East behind Boston College in this year’s preseason poll. The team has experienced a meteoric rise under Carvel, ascending from 5–29–2 during his first year at the helm to 31–10–0 (and the NCAA runner-up) in his third season. Interestingly enough, Carvel owns both the single-season loss and win records for UMass.

Carvel has become known as a master recruiter, crafting two straight top-five classes in his second and third offseasons with the team. Although this year’s incoming freshman class is not as highly touted as Carvel’s previous groups, it will do well to fill key holes left by UMass’s departing players. Most notably, the Minuteman lost captain forwards Mitchell Chafee and Niko Hildenbrand, both of whom are members of the historic class that included current NHL star Cale Makar.

Amherst brings in freshmen forwards Josh Lopina and Oliver MacDonald to help replace its stars. Lopina brings unmatched size and physicality to the forward group, while MacDonald is more of a skillful forward with impressive skating and playmaking ability. Jake Gaudet, Oliver Chau, and Bobby Trivigno will be the important veteran presence for UMass’s forward group. 

While the team may not have any true attacking stars, their impressive forward depth can wreak havoc. Despite not having any-top tier forwards, UMass can employ dangerous third and fourth lines to wear down opponents and allow for multiple scoring opportunities.

The team’s strength will continue to be defense and goaltending, as it has for the last several years under Carvel. The defensive unit is led by captain Marc Del Gaizo, who has logged at least 15 points in both of his seasons with the Minutemen. Joining him on the blue line will be returnees Ty Farmer, Colin Felix, Zac Jones, and Matthew Kessel, all four of whom like to be involved in the offense and set up crippling counterattacks.

The Minutemen also added freshman defensemen Linden Alger and Aaron Bohlinger to round out the unit. Bohlinger will be a name to watch all season long and should be considered a favorite to make the all-freshman team for Hockey East. He is undersized, but provides an excellent spark on offense and offers tremendous upside.

If an impressive group of defensemen wasn’t enough, UMass also boasts one of the best goalie combinations in the country. The team’s starting netminder for most of the season will likely be senior Matt Murray, who has a 42–23–2 record during his three years at UMass. The Minutemen can also call on junior Filip Lindberg, who might be the best backup goalie in the country. In a season as strange as this one, having two capable goalies may prove to be a significant advantage. Both Murray and Lindberg posted goals against averages of less than 1.90 last season and have plenty of experience to lean on.

UMass’s schedule this season certainly favors a late-season run, but the Minutemen have some difficult stretches early in the season. In December, they play New Hampshire and BU back to back, and in January they play BC and Providence back to back. The weekend to watch will be January 15 and 16, when UMass takes on Hockey East favorites Boston College.

Bottom Line: Despite their offseason losses, the Minutemen will once again rank among the nation’s best. They have retooled their lineup and should have one of the best goals against averages in the country by the season’s end. Tack on elite coaching and the absence of Cornell after the Ivy League cancelled its season, and UMass — like BC — has a legitimate shot at a national title.