No. 17 Men’s Hockey Nets Shootout Win Over Friars

By Jack Sinclair

The Northeastern Huskies were barely hanging on to their fifth-place spot coming into the last weekend of February. The difference between them and sixth-place Providence came down to a 0.03 margin in the Hockey East Power Index.

The Friars stole a game from the Huskies in Matthews Arena on Saturday, 4–2. The Huskies needed to bounce back with a win on Sunday to maintain their fifth-place spot entering the last week of the season.

Northeastern added some roster depth, as TJ Walsh returned from injury and Alex Mella made his 2021 debut. 

Providence quickly established themselves on Northeastern’s end of the ice. Mella was whistled for hooking, giving Providence a chance on the power play. The Husky penalty killers were excellent in keeping the pressure out near the boards, and kept the Friars quiet for the duration of the penalty.

Neither team generated sustained offense, and the action went back and forth for most of the period. Providence goaltender Jaxson Stauber and Northeastern netminder Connor Murphy held fast, keeping the scoresheet blank at the end of the first period.

Neither carried their stellar play over to the second period. Just 30 seconds in, Northeastern senior captain Zach Solow pounced on a rebounding puck and buried it for his ninth goal of the season.

Seconds later, Providence drew even. Freshman and Penguins prospect Chase Yoder forced a turnover behind the Husky net, then connected with sophomore Patrick Moynihan, who fired a wrist shot past Murphy. 

Minutes later, the Huskies received their first power play of the night. They boast a 28 percent power-play conversion rate — good for second best in the NCAA — and it showed tonight, as they quickly capitalized on the man advantage. Sophomore Aidan McDonough powered the puck home through Stauber’s glove side off of a quick feed from junior Jordan Harris. It was McDonough’s seventh goal (and ninth point) of the month.

“He’s a shooter,” Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan said, “and when he gets hot, he’s as good as there is.” 

Northeastern got another chance on the man advantage after Moynihan was called for roughing. But the Friars’ penalty kill adjusted, and didn’t give the Huskies any room to breathe. 

Shortly after the halfway point of the period, Solow struck again. Lovely stick handling and precise skating gave Solow a clear look, and he capitalized with his second goal of the game and his team’s third.

Providence didn’t respond immediately, and Northeastern had a couple more opportunities to score, but Stauber fought off everything the Huskies threw at him. In the dying moments of the period, sophomore and Lightning prospect Max Crozier charged towards the net and fired a shot at Murphy. The Huskies netminder made the initial save but couldn’t corral the puck, allowing Yoder to score off the rebound.

When the puck hit the ice for the third period, it was clear Providence had reset in the locker room. They immediately took over, pushing Northeastern deep into their own end. After three minutes of unrelenting pressure, the Friars scored again. Sophomore Parker Ford found senior captain Greg Printz behind Murphy, who fired a wraparound shot. Murphy again made the initial save, but failed to contain the puck; Printz was there to collect his own rebound and put it past the well-screened Murphy.

The tied score underscored the play on the ice, as neither team was giving an inch. Northeastern had their best scoring chances come on the power play late in the third, but they couldn’t find a fourth goal. The game headed into overtime tied 3–3.

Northeastern controlled possession of the puck well throughout the OT period; they just couldn’t get the puck past the Friars, who clogged up any potential shooting lanes. Anything that did get through was swallowed by Stauber.

Although the game officially ended as a 3–3 tie, there was still a shootout to come. Freshman Gunnarwolfe Fontaine opened up the tiebreaker with a snappy wrist shot past Stauber, giving the Huskies a 1–0 lead. Providence freshman and Rangers prospect Brett Berard couldn’t beat Murphy, and the story was the same for Solow on Stauber. Junior captain Tyce Thompson was next for the Friars, but he too failed to beat Murphy. McDonough was next for the Huskies, and he iced the shootout on a tight forehand to a backhand deke. 

The Huskies finished the weekend ranked sixth in HEPI, a solid 2.4 points ahead of UMass Lowell but 0.9 behind Providence. Fifth place, and the first-round playoff bye that comes with it, is not necessarily out of reach, but the Huskies will need to perform well next weekend to have a shot.

“We need to have a good week of practice.” Madigan said. “We need to get ready for whoever our opponent is. You want to finish off the season on a strong note so you’re playing well heading into the playoffs.”

Men’s Hockey Prevails, Pushing Past Providence

By Jack Sinclair

BOSTON — An extra week off of the ice usually results in one of two things. Either the team returns rested and with fewer injuries, or they look sluggish and uneasy.

Northeastern came off their 12-day break with nothing but benefits. They were rested, and the return of Julian Kislin after a four-week absence gave the Husky defense added depth.

Friday’s contest against Providence was critical in determining Northeastern’s destiny in Hockey East and NCAA as a whole. The Friars are always a fierce opponent, and they entered Matthews Arena with only one road loss. That the loss came by four goals against Northeastern guaranteed nothing for Friday night’s game.

Providence sat tied for second in the Hockey East; the Huskies, while only three points behind, sat tied for sixth. If the last few weeks of Hockey East action have taught us anything, it’s that nothing, nothing, is certain. With bottom feeders like UConn and UNH surging, and previous leaders like Northeastern and BU faltering against easier opponents, Hockey East is as wide open as ever.

The game started off slowly for both teams, with no fantastic chances for either side. After about 10 minutes, the Huskies found their footing in the dynamic of the game, and their forward check came into full swing. Northeastern, with the help of Matt Filipe and Zach Solow, put considerable pressure on Providence and its goaltender Mike Lackey. The puck rarely made its way to Northeastern’s side of the ice, and Providence began to tire. That fatigue became most apparent when Tyler Madden forced a turnover in the neutral zone and carried the puck all the way to the goal, putting the Huskies up 1–0. 

The Huskies continued to dominate the physical and mental tempo of the game. Only four minutes after Madden’s breakaway goal, Matt Filipe and Matt DeMelis found themselves in a two-on-one rush, and netted another goal for the Huskies.

The period ended with both teams receiving penalties, resulting in a four-on-four that only saw more Northeastern dominance over the puck. The period ended with the Huskies holding onto their 2–0 lead.

As tame as the start of the first period was, the second period was insane. Providence came out with some good looks on net, but Craig Pantano had absolutely none of it, making some difficult saves look trivial.

When two quick Northeastern penalties gave Providence a five-on-three, Mike Kesselring displayed his spectacular stick skills on the penalty kill and willingly put his body on the line. He took a scorching shot high off the arm and was clearly in considerable pain, but fought through until the best opportunity for him to make a change.

Kesselring did not return to the ice for the duration of the kill, and that is perhaps what led to Providence breaking through and putting themselves on the score sheet. Tensions ran high between the two teams, with forwards Greg Printz and Zach Solow exchanging pushes and what could only have been the most pleasant of compliments.

The physicality of the game skyrocketed, with both teams exchanging savage stick slaps and brutal body blows. This culminated with Biagio Lerario’s massive check against Printz right in front of the Providence bench, which drew a five-minute major penalty against and Lerario’s ejection.

The Northeastern penalty kill took the ice and took no prisoners. It didn’t even feel like a penalty kill, as they held Providence to a grand total of zero shots for the first 4:40. The whole PK unit skated their butts off, beating every Friar they could to the puck and making Pantano’s job between the pipes easier. This momentum carried into five-on-five play after the penalty, as Aidan McDonough netted his ninth goal of the season less than a minute later. 

McDonough’s goal only made the Friars upset, as they played most of the rest of the period on Northeastern’s side of the ice. Patrick Moynihan forced a turnover right in front of the goal on the forward check, spun, and slipped the puck past Pantano. The tumultuous second period concluded with the Huskies leading 3–2. 

Providence dominated the beginning of the third period. The only thing keeping the Friars from tying the game was an admirable performance by Pantano, who went so far as to lay across the ice to keep the puck out of the net. But Jack Dugan made the most of a Providence faceoff win on their offensive side, pounding the puck past Pantano to tie the game. 

Northeastern soon went to the power play, but unlike those earlier in the game, the top line of McDonough, Madden, and Jozefek was unable to get things done, and almost allowed a shorthanded goal. The unceremonious power play resulted in the return of Providence dominance, and more amazing saves from Pantano.

With only a quarter of the period remaining, Providence’s Parker Ford was sent to the penalty box for hooking. This Northeastern power play began much like their last, but about halfway through it, they worked the puck into the offensive zone. This kicked off a beautiful sequence of about 20 passes where the power play unit methodically broke down the Friars’ defense, slowly applying pressure and working the puck closer and closer to the net.

Finally, the breakthrough came. Zach Solow found himself, and more importantly, the puck, right in front of the net, after a precise pass by McDonough right to his stick. Solow’s job was made easy and he executed perfectly, placing the puck into the bottom left of the cage, giving the Huskies the lead with only five minutes remaining. 

After the game, Providence head coach Nate Leaman expressed his displeasure with his team’s physicality, saying that it “hardly felt like [they] checked anybody all night.” On the flip side of the hockey coin, Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan expressed his pleasure with his team’s approach to the game.

“You can’t sit back and wait for goals to happen,” he said. “You have to go out and earn them against a team like this.”

The Huskies head to TD Garden this Monday to face Harvard in the first game of the Beanpot. Christian Skroce, Matt Neiser, and Dale Desantis will call that one, with coverage beginning at 4:45 PM EST.

Men’s Hockey Buries Providence with Offensive Onslaught

Image Credit: nuhuskies.com

By Christian Skroce

BOSTON —Providence coach Nate Leaman summed up tonight’s game the only way he could: “We got our butts kicked. That’s my opening statement.”

It had been three years since the Huskies had last beaten Providence, and it looked like that streak would continue tonight. After falling to the Friars in Providence last night, 3–2, Northeastern knew it had to pull off a win at Matthews Arena, especially given the muddled landscape of Hockey East early this season.

“Last night I thought that we weren’t physical; we let Providence dictate the game and their space, and we didn’t respond,” Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan said after the game. “One of the things we said here tonight, ‘let’s punch them in the mouth before they punch us in the mouth,’ because they are a heavy, hard team to play against, and I thought we were a little too passive last night.”

Jason O’Neill got the scoring going for the Friars 17 minutes into the first period with a weak attempt that slid underneath Northeastern netminder Craig Pantano. The Providence lead did not last long, as just 38 seconds later, freshman defenseman Mike Kesselring netted his first collegiate goal to level the score at one. After a nice juke from the blue line, Kesselring slid a shot through the legs of Providence goalie Michael Lackey. Madigan praised the goal after the game, saying “I liked how we responded immediately after that first goal. It was important to make sure they didn’t get too comfortable.”

After the first-period stalemate, the Huskies came alive in the second frame, putting together their best period of the season. Grant Jozefek began the period by finishing off an excellent feed from sophomore defenseman Jordan Harris.

Harris was not done yet, as a minute later he fired a power-play shot from the blue line past Lackey to give the Huskies a two-goal lead.

Senior forward Matt Filipe extended the Husky lead to 4–1 soon after with an impressive breakaway finish off a neutral-zone feed from freshman defenseman Jayden Struble. The goal forced Lackey out of the game, as Leaman let junior goalie Gabe Mollot-Hill finish the game for Providence.

Providence got one back toward the end of the second frame with a Patrick Moynihan goal, but the Huskies didn’t panic. With two minutes remaining in the period, freshman defender Jeremie Bucheler put away his own blue-line shot for his first goal of the season, giving the Huskies a 5–2 lead. Northeastern scored four second-period goals, more than they’ve scored in all but one of their 11 games this year.

Providence rebounded nicely to begin the final period, pulling within two goals after a nice finish from forward Vimal Sukumaran. The Friars pushed forward during the first ten minutes of the frame and got two power play chances to bring the game within one goal. Despite numerous close calls, Northeastern killed off both power play chances. The second penalty kill of the final period turned out to be the difference, as the Providence players were visibly deflated after failing to cut the lead to one.

Northeastern continued its physical play for the final ten minutes, eventually earning a 7–3 win after empty-net goals from Tyler Madden (his eighth of the year) and Filipe (his second of the game and third point on the night).

Northeastern’s entire penalty kill unit was tonight’s MVP. The Huskies killed all four Providence power plays, including two in the third period.

“We’ve worked on that a lot in practice, and we’ve tried to build our identity on the penalty kill,” Filipe remarked. “We have a lot of guys who want to be out there on the kill, and it’s nice to be able to rotate guys throughout.” Filipe also complimented Pantano, who had two nice games this weekend.

It was a big night for Northeastern’s impressive freshman class, with two defensemen getting their first goals of the season and two more adding assists. Madigan noted that “[Struble, Bucheler, and Kesselring] have been incredible recently. [Providence] are a heavy team, and they’re a fast team, so we knew that some of our younger guys would have to step up.”

The Huskies also got important contributions from a significant second year player. In addition to his goal and assist, Jordan Harris made several key defensive plays, logging the best game of his career in arguably the Huskies’ most important early-season contest. Harris was key to stopping Providence’s Jack Dugan, the nation’s points leader. When asked about Dugan after the game, Madigan explained, “He’s such a good player, and they use him a lot. He’s coming over the boards, [it seems like] every shift there, and then with the TV timeouts you can really use that to your advantage. It’s kind of like how we used Gaudette and Sikura a couple years ago.”

The win boosted the Huskies to 6–4–2 (3–3–1 HEA) and sets the team up nicely for next weekend’s home series against Maine. WRBB will cover both contests, starting with Friday night’s game at Matthews Arena. Jonathan Golbert and Mack Krell will call the action, with coverage starting at 6:45 PM ET.