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.

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.”