LOWELL, MA — After suffering a brutal 4–1 loss to UMass Lowell on Friday night, the Northeastern Huskies badly needed to set a positive tone for their last sets of the season. On Saturday night, they found exactly what they were looking for, emerging from the Tsongas Center with a 4–0 win.
“This was by far our best game of the season,” head coach Jim Madigan said. “Straight from the get go we had good legs, we were hunting pucks, we were good in the offensive zone, the neutral zone, defensively in and around our net was the hardest we played.”
The Huskies were quick to the draw in the beginning minutes, as we’ve seen in similar contests — skating fast, applying pressure, and getting early shots on goal. However, when this tactic didn’t generate an early goal like it did in previous games, it looked like they had begun to slow down a bit, perhaps to take their time and assess the team in front of them.
And that’s when the pieces came together. Maybe it was a boost from their stellar coast-to-coast play, or maybe it was the spectacular saves made by goaltender Connor Murphy, but the Huskies lit their fire and let it spread.
Once again, Northeastern opened the scoring, this time with a beautiful bit of tic-tac-toe action from Sam Colangelo to Ty Jackson to Mike Kesselring for the front-net finish. It was the red-hot Kesselring’s fifth goal in the team’s six games.
Four minutes later, the Huskies struck again. Tyler Spott took a break from his gold-star defensive play and fired a rocket from right below the blue line to notch his second of the season and put the Huskies up 2–0.
The Husky hot streak continued well into the second, despite a hooking call on Colangelo. Northeastern’s offensive aggression intensified and it seemed like they were Lowell’s puppet masters, controlling every moment in the River Hawks’ zone. With tensions like this, battles were bound to break out, like the one that resulted in coincidental penalties for Northeastern defenseman Jayden Struble and Lowell forward Andre Lee.
However, the Huskies didn’t let Lowell’s pushback slow them down and continued to show that they were both bark and bite by getting back on the board. All it took was a little fancy footwork around the back of the net from defensemen Johnny DeRoche to find reigning Hockey East Player of the Week Aidan McDonough in front.
The third period saw aggression at a new high. Both teams killed several penalties, and the Huskies’ physicality rhythm seemed to come naturally. They skated hard to pucks and pinned their opponents to the boards during good shifts.
The River Hawks tried their best to match the intensity, but couldn’t keep up or keep themselves from getting on the Huskies’ bad side. Lowell’s Lee once again found himself in a bad spot after disobeying the golden rule of hockey: don’t touch the tender.
That was the last nail in the coffin for Lowell. They cracked under the pressure and couldn’t make a comeback. With a few seconds left, Ty Jackson finally got his piece from a clean feed by star of the night Connor Murphy. It was Jackson’s seventh goal of the season and Murphy’s second assist, the first coming during his first career shutout back in January.
This was the kind of game the Huskies needed to prove they could handle tough teams.
“We’ll see the areas we got better at today and that’s what the standard is,” Madigan said. “That was a playoff atmosphere game for us, how we approached it and for us to continue playing well, we’re gonna have to play like this. That’s the standard. We’ve got to reach the next level in our next game.”
BOSTON — Down 3–1 with minutes left in regulation, the Northeastern men’s hockey team pulled netminder Connor Murphy to get an extra attacker on the ice and make their last offensive stand against UMass Lowell.
That man advantage went about as well as the Huskies’ three power plays. Shorthanded, UMass Lowell cleared the puck out of their defensive zone and set up a shot from the point by Seth Barton straight into the empty net.
It was a depressing end to a depressing game for the Huskies. After starting out on fire, Northeastern (8–6–2) fell apart and lost to UMass Lowell (5–7–0) by a score of 4–1.
Northeastern’s start was unmistakably strong. Seventy-one seconds into the game, Dylan Jackson received a pass from fellow forward Gunnarwolfe Fontaine and rifled it straight into the net. The combination of Fontaine and twins Dylan and Ty Jackson on the same line proved difficult for Lowell to handle right out of the gate.
But there were still 58 minutes left. Later in the first, Lowell scored twice in quick succession, courtesy of center Connor Sodergren and right wing Charlie Levesque.
Up 2–1, the River Hawks kept control for the rest of the game, with Levesque scoring again in the third period and Barton notching the aforementioned empty-netter. Husky netminder Connor Murphy made some nice saves throughout the game, but ultimately came up short in some key situations.
The Huskies consistently struggled to win key faceoffs and puck battles along the boards. UMass Lowell played incredibly physical hockey and continuously sent the puck down the boards trusting that they would win it. The Huskies could not match the River Hawks’ speed, and by the third period it was clear that Northeastern skaters were lagging behind. After the opening three minutes, they mustered just 13 shots on goal.
Forceful collisions at the boards and some tough hits created a palpable tension. After a particularly rough scrum, Northeastern winger Grant Jozefek was left down on the ice in visible pain. Though he limped off the ice with the trainer, he rejoined the action in the third period; head coach Jim Madigan said he was hopeful Jozefek could play tomorrow. Madigan, who just got forward Sam Colangelo and defenseman Jayden Struble back in his lineup, also confirmed that defensemen Jordan Harris and Jeremie Bucheler — who missed Friday’s game — will not play on Saturday.
Friday night’s game was supposed to build upon Northeastern’s sweep of New Hampshire last week, a sweep that started to reestablish their offensive identity after a COVID hiatus. Instead, the team took a step backward against the team directly behind them in the Hockey East standings.
Whether the Huskies can speed up and adjust their attack will be determined tomorrow, when they rematch the River Hawks in Lowell. Mike Puzzanghera and Rae Deer will call that game for WRBB, with coverage commencing at about 5:50 PM Eastern.
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.
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.
BOSTON — For the Northeastern men’s hockey team, Friday night’s game against Connecticut was supposed to be one of redemption. Coming off of a 6–2 loss to No. 1 Boston College, they hoped to shake off the still-present rust from their three-week COVID hiatus.
However, the game proved to be the opposite, as the Northeastern Huskies lost to the Connecticut Huskies 4–1 after a strong start led to a flat finish.
“We got beat by a better team.” Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan stated. “They were more physical, heavier on pucks, wanted it more.”
That wasn’t the case to start the game though, as both teams played physical, aggressive, energetic hockey. Northeastern used this aggression to generate several shots on goal in the first few minutes. However, it wasn’t until a power play after a hooking call on UConn’s Ryan Tverberg that Northeastern, more specifically Jordan Harris and Zach Solow, capitalized.
Northeastern used this momentum to keep UConn from responding in the first period, and made a series of nice blocks to defend goaltender Connor Murphy’s blind spot.
But things began to go south in the second. Northeastern attempted a series of poorly executed stretch passes which drew a number of offside and icing calls. These passes were also easily intercepted by UConn forwards like Vladislav Firstov, who took advantage of a bad pass to feed linemate Artem Shlaine for a breakaway goal.
From there, UConn couldn’t be stopped. Three minutes later, Jonny Evans got an open shot on Murphy and potted it for a 2–1 lead.
“We took a 1–0 lead and then we gave it away on two bad plays,” Madigan remarked. “We’re a little bit fragile right now and we gave those two goals away, it was almost like we deflated with half of the game left and only down by a goal.”
Northeastern couldn’t keep up with UConn’s physicality and it showed. They stopped generating as many shots on net and were having issues intercepting passes and giving the pressure back to their opponents.
Going into the third Northeastern only continued to slow down, while UConn seemed faster and more aggressive than ever. Bad defensive decisions abounded, like this one that allowed Ryan Wheeler to stroll right down the middle and put another one in the back of the net.
And it didn’t end there. With two minutes to play, Northeastern made a last-ditch effort and pulled Murphy in favor of a six-man rush. UConn ended that effort quickly when Kale Howarth scored an empty netter off of a face-off to cement their victory at 4–1.
Northeastern will play on Tuesday against No. 9 UMass at 6 PM Eastern. Mike Puzzanghera, Jack Sinclair, and Khalin Kapoor will call that game, with coverage beginning a few minutes before puck drop.
BOSTON — It was hard to know whether Tuesday night’s Northeastern–Boston College men’s hockey matchup was an attempt to recreate the Beanpot — which begins in the first week of February in non-pandemic years — or merely a resumption of the schedule Northeastern would have played had a positive COVID test not robbed them of two weeks’ worth of games.
Either way, the Huskies hung tough with the newly minted top team in the nation for about half the game, but ultimately fell, 6–2. The fifth-place Huskies dropped to 6–4–2, while the second-place Eagles rose to 10–2–1.
Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan remarked on Monday that he wasn’t sure how much energy and stamina his team would have. After all, COVID testing protocol meant that players were rejoining the team one by one, with some only being cleared on Sunday. Nonetheless, the Huskies began the game with plenty of energy and aggression, with Zach Solow in particular proving impactful on breakouts. This energy gave them a chance when BC’s Patrick Giles went to the box for boarding, and Riley Hughes tipped in a Dylan Jackson rocket from the point.
“I thought at times we had good energy,” Madigan said. “I thought our guys who logged a lot of minutes — like [Jordan] Harris and Solow — had good legs.”
But the 20 days between games did leave the Huskies’ conditioning short of ideal. Madigan confirmed that goaltender Connor Murphy and forward Grant Jozefek exited the game due to cramps and dehydration. Both are likely to play on Friday. In addition, defenseman Jayden Struble exited with a lower-body injury; his status for Friday is uncertain.
For the first 10 minutes, Northeastern’s energy made up for some discombobulated breakouts, which the Eagles’ size, strength, and speed made exceedingly tricky. But after an entry from the blue line ricocheted off Murphy’s pad, Nikita Nesterenko buried the rebound to even the score.
Less than a minute later, the Eagles caught the Huskies in the middle of a line change. A quick-hit stretch pass from Eamon Powell to Giles was all it took to post another tally.
Going into the second, the Huskies seemed to have solved the breakout issue. They skated with vigor, aggression, and precision, and were finally working in sync. The offense generated chances and put pressure on the Eagles’ blue line. These chances paid off when Mike Kesselring glided unimpeded to Spencer Knight’s doorstep to tie the game at two.
Kesselring, who was bumped off the first line earlier in the season for performance reasons, had notched his first goal of the year and justified Madigan restoring him to the top line. However, BC captain Marc McLaughlin could not let the score go unanswered, scoring his team-leading eighth goal of the year a mere 40 seconds later.
“We worked hard to get it to 2–2 there in the second and then we gave a goal right back at them, we gave it to them within 40 seconds.” Madigan stated. “For me, that was a turning point and then they got the next goal.”
Marshall Warren’s goal seemed to be the point of no return, as the Husky offense seemed to lose its spark. For the rest of the period, even when Northeastern went on the man advantage, their best outcomes were a flurry of strikes in Knight’s general direction, only a few of which necessitated a save. BC, meanwhile, seemed entirely in control, as only a spectacular Murphy save prevented Matt Boldy from slotting home a breakaway.
The period also marked an escalation of the tensions that had pervaded the game until that point.
“It was a good, physical game,” BC head coach Jerry York remarked. “The refs reffed the type of game that both clubs like. There were no ticky-tack penalties.”
However, the small displays of aggression came to a head with the first of a few scuffles throughout the night. Knight made a save off of a Julian Kislin wrister, then Jozefek and BC’s Jack McBain kicked off with some pushing and shoving in front of the goal. It only amplified when Nesterenko inserted himself into the mix to defend his linemate, resulting in roughing penalties for the trio.
The aggression and skirmishes continued in the third, particularly when a frustrated Solow was whistled for an obvious hooking. Tempers were still running high as the teams departed the ice post-game, with Eagles players waving a still-barking Solow off the ice.
The third period featured two more BC goals, most notably the first collegiate goal for senior defender Michael Karow, who was playing his 120th BC game. The jubilant leaping and piling-on of his linemates, as well as the eruption from the bench, said everything.
Both goals were ceded by Curtis Frye, who took over for Murphy a few minutes into the third. It was Frye’s second appearance in three-and-a-half years with the Huskies; in both, he was inserted in the third period to halt a BC team that had Northeastern on the ropes. With the Huskies struggling to match BC’s aggression, passing precision, shot volume, and overall cohesion, the 6–2 lead was too much to overcome.
The Huskies next play Friday at 6 PM against Connecticut. WRBB will call that game, with coverage beginning a few minutes before puck drop.
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.”
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.
BOSTON — In Merrimack’s last series, which was nearly a month ago, they lost to Northeastern. Or, more accurately, Northeastern obliterated them, sweeping the series by a combined 14–5 score.
“They didn’t believe me when I said it’s not going to be a 6–3 or 8–3 game,” Northeastern Head Coach Jim Madigan said of Saturday night’s contest.
The Warriors hadn’t played a game in nearly a month. The Huskies had established themselves as the dominant team and were even getting Sam Colangelo back from World Juniors, as the second-round NHL draftee had just won gold with Team USA.
The Huskies went in confident, but quickly realized that Madigan was right. Expecting Merrimack to be rusty, Northeastern came in sluggish, relaxed, lazy, and even sloppy. They missed passes, found themselves in the penalty box far too often, and created few offensive opportunities.
It wasn’t long before Merrimack made them pay. Filip Forsmark caught a rebound that Northeastern goaltender Connor Murphy couldn’t control. He knocked it into the net and Northeastern ended the first period down 1–0.
In the second period, Northeastern didn’t improve their lackluster performance much. They remained slow, lazy, and they made, for lack of a better word, stupid plays. With their lack of presence on both sides of the ice, it took barely any effort for Merrimack to put another tally on the board. Chase Gresock tipped a pass from Mac Welsher right behind Murphy to double the lead.
The Huskies started the third period a little better, and responded well when Ty Jackson was given a penalty for goalie interference. On the penalty kill, Northeastern’s Grant Jozefek rushed into the offensive zone on a break out; Patrick Holway caught up to him and slashed Jozefek’s stick to prevent a goal. The slash cost Merrimack a penalty, and since Jozefek was on a prime scoring opportunity, he got a penalty shot. After 45 minutes of play, the Huskies finally made it onto the board.
“We were out of sync, Madigan said. “He gave us life there.”
“When [Jozefek] got that breakaway and he had that penalty shot, we got a lot of momentum from that,” said Dylan Jackson. “When someone scores, it just gives everyone energy on the bench.”
Soon after that, Madigan changed up the lines. His risky choice to pair Gunnarwolfe Fontaine with the Jackson twins paid off, as the Jacksons fed Fontaine a pass and he shot a bar down goal right behind Borgiel. At the end of the third, the game was tied 2–2.
“Once we started getting our legs, we started getting more chances, and you try to carry that,” Dylan Jackson said.
Northeastern entered overtime with all the momentum, plus a power play after a Forsmark goalie interference penalty at the end of the third. Zach Solow, Aidan McDonough, Jordan Harris, and Fontaine generated some good opportunities but didn’t capitalize. At this point, Merrimack had run out of steam and was barely making an offensive effort. They were in survival mode.
As the penalty expired and three-on-three hockey commenced, the Jackson twins took the ice with Jayden Struble. The twins broke out on a two-on-one, passed back and forth in front to knock Borgiel out of position, and ended the game when Dylan Jackson found the back of the net.
“We’ve been playing together for 15 years now so we have that chemistry,” Jackson said. “We just kind of know where each other are going to be.”
The Huskies will face Merrimack again Sunday at 3 PM in North Andover.
Northeastern (3–3–2) entered the back half of their weekend series with a sour taste in their mouth after giving up a late lead the night before and falling, 4–3, to UMass Amherst (8–3–1). The Huskies couldn’t avenge that loss Sunday night, as they allowed three first-period goals en route to a 5–3 defeat.
Early on, the Minutemen made the Huskies pay for laxness with the puck, with Jerry Harding scoring his first career goal soon after a Northeastern turnover just two minutes into the first.
Northeastern had a couple of opportunities to get their offense going with some early two-on-twos but were quickly shut down by a stout UMass defense. During an early stretch of four-on-four play Matt Kessel picked the pocket of Dylan Jackson and looked poised for a quality shot on goal before a Julian Kislin tackle set up a penalty shot for the Minutemen.
Northeastern couldn’t stay out of the penalty box in the first period; right after killing one off, they received a minor for too many men and were disadvantaged again. The Huskies struggled to get much offense going early as they were constantly forced unto their back paws by an unrelenting Minutemen attack.
When Northeastern got the man advantage, it could not capitalize. UMass goalie Matt Murray made an incredible glove save off of a rebound attempt from Aidan McDonough, coming all the way across the net to thwart it, halting the Husky power play, and recording the play of the game in the process.
Coming off a huge kill, UMass’s Zac Jones fired a shot from near the blue line, pinging it off the piping into the net, narrowly avoiding three Minutemen who screened Murphy.
Entering the second period with a 3–0 lead, UMass continued to bear down on the Northeastern defense. Two minutes into the period, Carson Gicewicz redirected a shot to net his team’s fourth goal of the game and his eighth of the season.
Two minutes later, senior captain Zach Solow got the Huskies on the board, knocking in a rebound off of a laser from Aidan McDonough.
Northeastern began to look more comfortable in the offensive zone following the Gicewicz goal, setting up sustained attacks on Murray.
“Solow’s goal gave us life,” Madigan said. “In the second and third period I thought we responded, and I think that the third period was our best period.”
Despite not registering another goal in the period, the Huskies showed some real fire following their score. The Minutemen played bend-but-don’t-break on defense for the remainder of the period, not getting many scoring chances but unwilling to give further momentum to Northeastern.
A tripping penalty three minutes into the third period by Minuteman Garrett Wait created another Husky power play. McDonough got revenge on Murray during the man advantage, catching him off-balance and netting his team’s second power-play goal of the evening. It was McDonough’s second multi-point effort of the season.
It seemed as though the Huskies wanted it more than the Minutemen in the second and third, who were playing in their third game in four days.
Northeastern locked down in the third, not giving up a single power-play goal. But Madigan pointed out that there is still much defensive work to be done..
“We defended harder in the second and third period but we have to do that for three periods,” he said. “We have to be heavy on pucks. We have to be heavier at our net front defending, defending earlier and defending harder. Mostly that’s our defensemen but it’s our forwards as well. Until we are ready to make a full commitment to blocking shots all the time and to defending harder at the net and be harder to play against, we are going to have fleeting success.”
With just under six minutes to play and after continued pressure from Northeastern, Dylan Jackson netted his first collegiate goal right in front of the net to pull his team within one.
Madigan pulled his goalie in the game’s final minutes, but Wait notched an empty net goal with 30 seconds remaining to put away the Huskies for good.
The Huskies and Minutemen remain third and first respectively in the Hockey East standings. Northeastern next game is on Friday.