Huskies’ COVID Season Ends with 4–1 Quarterfinal Loss to UMass

By Christian Skroce

Northeastern and UMass Amherst have both seen their Hockey East fortunes change drastically over the past several seasons. The teams had frequently been referred to as the little brothers of Hockey East, but impressive coaching and talented recruiting classes have turned both into true conference powerhouses.

They have almost met in the Hockey East Tournament several times during the past few seasons. Two years ago, the programs seemed destined to meet in the title game; UMass secured the one seed, while Northeastern finished third. Both teams were rolling heading into the semifinals, but an upset by Boston College forced the Minutemen out of the tournament, leading to an NU–BC final (and we all know how that ended).

Northeastern and UMass were finally slated to face off in the first round of the 2020 Hockey East Tournament, but COVID-19 cancelled this meeting just as the Huskies were set to arrive in Amherst. Fast forward one year, and the two finally went at it in postseason play, the same date they were scheduled to just a year prior.

The two meetings between the Massachusetts schools this season ended in two UMass victories by a combined scored of 9–6. A third meeting was cancelled due to COVID protocols. But as the Hockey East Tournament drew near, there would be nothing getting in the way of the long-awaited playoff matchup.

“With the one-and-done format, you have to bring everything you’ve got into each game – that’s been the message we’ve been sending our players,” Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan said before the game. “Now it’s up to them to make the most of this opportunity.”

Northeastern received positive injury news before the game, as touted freshman forward Sam Colangelo returned to the lineup for the Huskies. Meanwhile, the third-seeded Minutemen headed into the tournament fully healthy and ready to finally make their mark.

Junior forward Garrett Wait got the scoring going for Amherst just three minutes in. The goal came after an impressive push from UMass, with fellow junior Bobby Trivigno setting up his linemate with an impressive pass from behind the Northeastern net.

Sophomore defenseman Zac Jones doubled the UMass lead just six minutes later, as Trivigno picked up yet another assist. The goal came off an odd-man rush that found Jones in the slot with just the goalie to beat. With NU defenders trailing back, Jones coolly finished off a wrister to give UMass the 2–0 lead.

Northeastern’s best chance to get on the board in the first came in the period’s dying minutes, as the Huskies went on their first power play. Despite some nice chances, the Minutemen’s kill proved too much for the Huskies.

The Minutemen continued to dominate through the first few minutes of the second period, but their two-goal lead would not hold for long. Northeastern finally got their first goal halfway through the second, as sophomore defenseman Jeremie Bucheler scored with an impressive wrister from just in front of the goal line. Bucheler’s defensive linemate Jayden Struble was crucial, as he opened up room on the ice before finding his teammate on the blue line. Bucheler then employed a nifty shot fake before firing the wrister into the back of the net.

Despite the new Husky confidence, the Minutemen continued their assault. While UMass certainly had their fair share of chances, Northeastern goaltender Connor Murphy came up big to keep the score 2–1.

Northeastern continued to make defensive plays and generated their fair share of chances, but the UMass attack proved too much as Bobby Trivigno would showed why he’s a finalist for Hockey East Player of the Year, finishing off a two-on-one with a calm five-hole shot against Murphy. The chance came almost completely against the run of play, as Northeastern had enjoyed extended zone time prior to the break lead. The goal came with under two minutes remaining in the second period, giving UMass a 3–1 lead and all the momentum heading into the final frame.

It would not take long for UMass to widen their margin, as Philip Lagunov made it 4–1 four minutes into the third period. While the Huskies continued to fight, the score would remain 4–1, sending UMass into a semifinal matchup against Providence.

Madigan was candid after the game, explaining that today was “a game similar to the last few games . . . chasing from behind. Can’t be playing from behind against good teams. Been chasing the last few weeks. 9–9–3, being .500, is not what this program is about.” But he noted later that “these guys faced a lot this season and dealt with it with class; I’m proud of all of them and I’m excited for the future.”

Madigan also mentioned the injuries his team has dealt with throughout the campaign, specifically during the past month. Almost every Northeastern player was dealing with some type of knock at this point, and simply being in the lineup did not make a player fully healthy.

Madigan closed his final press conference of the season by praising this year’s senior class, the best in Northeastern’s history, one that often exceeded expectations and continued the program’s upward trajectory.

“Those seniors deserved a better finish to their careers, but they’ve all enjoyed successful careers here,” Madigan said, listing the accolades and hardware the class collected, which includes two Hockey East championships and three Beanpot titles.

“The culture was changed by Josh Manson, passed down to the Solows and Jozefeks and the graduating group,” he continued. “They’ve continued the passing of the torch.”

Despite a lackluster end to the season, the Huskies’ future is bright. Northeastern will take the offseason to reassess and continue improving the program Madigan and company have built during the last decade. While NU will again enjoy an impressive recruiting class next season, perhaps the greatest change will come between the pipes, as goalie Devon Levi will likely make his Husky debut to start next season. After being sidelined this season due to an injury suffered during World Juniors, Levi will look to finally make his mark and step into the large shoes left by Cayden Primeau two years ago.

Northeastern will also return its top freshman class, including Sam Colangelo and all-rookie selection Gunnarwolfe Fontaine. The bar has unquestionably been raised for this program.

Huskies Stop the Sweep, Rule Over River Hawks

By Rae Deer

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.”

Men’s Hockey Stumbles Against UMass Lowell

Story by Khalin Kapoor

Photos by Sarah Olender

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.

Huskies Domesticate Wildcats, 7–0

Story by Milton Posner and Jack Sinclair

Photos by Sarah Olender

BOSTON — For most of the game, the Huskies weren’t headed for a blowout.

Their first goal, skilled as it was, was a quick punch on the penalty kill. Their next two, both late in the second period, came on the man advantage. With 45 minutes played, it looked a fairly typical — if not fiercely competitive — contest.

And then the dam collapsed. Four unassisted Northeastern goals within five-and-a-half minutes turned Matthews Arena into a slaughterhouse. The Huskies (6–3–2) left the ice Wednesday night with a 7–0 win over New Hampshire (3–5–1).

Each team exited their locker rooms with a different agenda. For Northeastern, it was out-skating their opponents all over the ice. For New Hampshire, it was setting the physical tone of the game with heavy hits. The Wildcats made sure to finish every check, while the Huskies used the spacious ice of Matthews Arena to spread themselves out and use their speed. 

There was no better example of this plan coming to fruition than the play leading to the Huskies’ first goal. After James Davenport interfered with a Wildcat forward in the Northeastern defensive zone, Husky captain Zach Solow received the puck from Grant Jozefek in the Huskies’ zone, flew behind the Wildcats’ defense, and cooly finished with a backhand for Northeastern’s first short-handed goal of the season.

“I thought that the draw got scrummed up a little bit, and I was just sealing the wall,” Solow recalled. “The puck squirted to me, I saw that the D jumped down in the corner of my eye . . . I just took it to the middle, I beat them, and then on the two-on-one I was looking through [the goalie’s] triangle. I couldn’t really make the play and saw him turn his toes towards me, so I went to my backhand, got the goalie moving, and put it five-hole.”

After the goal, Northeastern handled the pressure from the Wildcats’ power-play unit and held on to their one-goal lead. Their speed produced an aggressive, targeted forecheck that kept the puck in New Hampshire’s zone and forced them to rely on the occasional rush to create chances. A few more scoring opportunities came the Huskies’ way, mainly created by dynamic freshmen forwards Ty Jackson, Dylan Jackson, and Gunnarwolfe Fontaine. All three leveraged their speed to skate behind the Wildcats’ defense and create quality looks. New Hampshire goaltender Mike Robinson stood fast, though, keeping the deficit at one, after one.

In the second period, the Wildcats displayed more aggression, tighter passes, and cleaner zone entries than they did in the first. Then Northeastern’s penalty bug struck again. First it was Mike Kesselring for interference. Right after the Huskies killed it off, Solow went to the box . . . again for interference. The Huskies’ penalty killers kept the center of the ice clear, and Connor Murphy’s positioning in net did 90 percent of the job.

“We talked about it every TV timeout,” associate head coach Jerry Keefe said of the team’s many penalties. “Our guys recognize it. There’s a couple times tonight I thought we were a little unlucky — so to speak — on a couple of calls. I thought we were playing hard and maybe they were penalties, but I didn’t think they were reckless penalties, which is a good start . . . But there’s no question that we have to be disciplined. It takes you out of your rhythm.”

Nikolai Jenson was sent to the box soon after for hooking. The Northeastern power-play unit took the ice and quickly made their presence felt. Jozefek passed left and drew defenders as he charged toward the net, leaving Harris to blast an unobstructed one-timer to Robinson’s glove side. Northeastern led 2–0.

A few minutes later, Wildcat Charlie Kelleher found himself in the sin bin, yielding another Northeastern power play that would spell “DOOM” for New Hampshire. Sam Colangelo, in just his third college game, charged into the zone and snapped a pass to Jozefek, who was open on the back side. It was Colangelo’s first point as a Husky and Jozefek’s third goal of the year.

“We had the attack mindset,” Solow said of the power play. “We didn’t really generate enough against Merrimack. So the days that we could prep, we were focused on getting shots through and trying to create more chances that way, and clearly it helped out tonight big time.”

The Wildcats started the third period clawing at any chance to get back into the game. Line tweaks allowed them to get more time in the offensive zone, but Connor Murphy stood strong en route to his first career shutout.

“The guys in front of me did a hell of a job getting pucks outside the dots and keeping the shots where I could control them,” Murphy said. “Makes my job a lot easier.”

And then came the five-and-a-half minute stretch in the middle of the third where Northeastern made the Wildcats look like kittens. First, a Jayden Struble screamer caromed off Robinson and right onto Gunnarwolfe Fontaine’s stick.

Less than a minute later, Zach Solow mounted a similar rush to his short-handed goal in the first and beat Robinson five-hole again.

“His 200-foot game has been outstanding the last few games,” Keefe gushed. “He hasn’t really got on the scoresheet as much as he used to and it hasn’t changed his game at all. Tonight was a great way for him to get rewarded for playing the right way.”

The replacement of Mike Robinson in net with Ty Taylor produced some quiet . . . for four minutes. Then Julian Kislin justified his spot in the top defensive pairing by dropping Eric Esposito to his knees . . . 

. . . and firing a shot at Robinson. The netminder coughed up a rebound, and Ty Jackson — who was hanging out at the edge of the crease — didn’t need to be asked twice.

Fifteen seconds later, Jayden Struble got as uninhibited a path to the goal as anyone had all night and put it home to yield the 7–0 final score, the largest blowout of the season for the Huskies.

The Huskies looked energetic all game, while the Wildcats looked energetic only in stretches. By the time the Huskies reeled off four goals in the middle of the third, the Wildcats looked dead. And despite a 37–29 Wildcat shot advantage, the Huskies had many more quality looks.

“We’re not a big shot-taking team. We haven’t been built that way for years,” Keefe noted. “There’s going to be a lot of games where we might be out shot . . . If we’re not giving up grade As, I’m fine with it . . . We like to try to wear you down. We like to hold on to the puck, and we like to look for quality [over] quantity.”

The Huskies pulled off the rout with several notable absences. Freshman goaltender Devon Levi, who has yet to play for Northeastern after a magnificent run for Team Canada in World Juniors, remains out with an upper body injury and no timetable to return. Jeremie Bucheler was out after sustaining an injury against Merrimack. And head coach Jim Madigan was absent after a close contact with a non-player who tested positive for COVID-19; Keefe has the reins at least until the end of the week.

“It’s a little nerve-wracking just because you don’t want to mess it up,” Keefe said. “We all miss Coach Madigan . . . I think the whole staff felt that way.”

The Huskies will face the #3 Boston College Eagles in a home-and-home, with games at 7 PM on Friday and Saturday. Mike Puzzanghera and Sarah Olender will call the Friday game for WRBB, with coverage commencing a few minutes before puck drop.

“They’re dangerous in transition,” Keefe said of the Eagles. “So a lot of the messaging that we talked to our group about heading into today’s game is not going to change against BC. If you don’t check against BC you’re not going to give yourself a chance.”

“This is a big series,” Solow said. “We know what BC is capable of. We know who they have. They got us last year in a regular season game, so we’re going to come out flying. They’re a good team, but I think we can match that.”

Men’s Hockey Secures Second Sweep of Merrimack

By Jack Sinclair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Action Jackson: Twins Combine for OT Winner

Story by Sarah Olender

Photos by Jordan Baron

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.

Classes, Practice, and Getting Drafted in a Pandemic

By Jack Sinclair

Freshman year of college is usually a massive step in someone’s life. The adjustment to living away from home, having a roommate and a more rigorous workload is tough for all students. That transition is even harder in the age of COVID-19, as health and safety guidelines make it difficult to meet new friends and the challenge of hybrid or online classes.

Gunnarwolfe Fontaine’s transition to college has been more eventful than most.

The first-year student from Rhode Island is a forward on Northeastern’s men’s hockey team, and was recently selected by the Nashville Predators in the NHL draft. His transition into college was much the same as his peers, with the added challenge of continuing to market himself to NHL teams and staying in shape for an undetermined start to the season. 

“It’s certainly not what I imagined,” Fontaine said, “but I am making the most of it.” He mentioned that despite the challenges and inconveniences brought on by the pandemic, he was still enjoying classes and time with his friends. 

At age 20, Fontaine is a couple of years older than most of his first-year classmates, having spent two years playing hockey for the Chicago Steel in the USHL. Fontaine made a name for himself there, logging 46 goals and 54 assists in 105 career games, earning him recognition from several NHL scouts, including scouts from the Stanley Cup champions.

“I talked to Toronto and Tampa Bay the most,” said Fontaine, “and I talked to the Preds for the first time a week before the draft.” Despite the lack of an established relationship with the team, he still felt that getting drafted was “one of the best moments of my whole life,” the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.

Fontaine is not the first person from his family to play Division I college hockey, nor is he even the only one playing for Northeastern right now. His sister, Skylar, is a senior star on the women’s team and the reigning Hockey East Defenseman of the Year.

“She said it would be really cool if we could go to college together, but also respected that it was entirely my choice,” he said.

Aside from Northeastern, Fontaine also considered playing at Michigan State University, Providence, and UMass Amherst, but chose Northeastern because of its strong hockey program and academics. “It certainly makes my mom’s life a lot easier,” he noted. “She can come up for one day and see both of us.”

COVID-19 has drastically changed the way athletes and teams can train, and Fontaine’s experience has changed a lot too.

“I can’t really get out on the ice a lot,” he said. In Chicago, players had an entire rink at their disposal. They could go out onto the ice whenever they wanted, as long as the doors were unlocked. Now COVID safety regulations have significantly limited ice times. The only time he can actually practice at Matthews Arena is during the full team practices, which has forced Fontaine to adopt new workout methods.

“Sometimes I’ll just rollerblade to get my food with my roommate,” he said. The players’ workout routines have changed too. In the past, the whole team would work out together, but new guidelines limit groups to five.

Despite the lack of ice time and the splintered workout sessions, Fontaine said that he was feeling really good about the chemistry on the team.

“We have a lot of young guys playing important roles, and the great leadership core we have of Solow, Jozefek, and Harris makes us feel like we can be really competitive,” he said.

Sam Colangelo, second-round pick of the Anaheim Ducks and Fontaine’s high school and USHL teammate, is also a freshman forward for the Huskies. While the two won’t begin the season on the same line — as they did in Chicago — when they take the ice together, they make a dangerous duo. “We have that bond out on the ice, where we just know where the other one is going to be,” Fontaine said. 

Fontaine compared his style of play to the Boston Bruins’ Brad Marchand and the Vegas Golden Knights’ Jonathan Marchessault. “I am a bit small, in terms of hockey players, but I like to play hard and not let that stop me.” 

That style has clearly netted him success, as he and Colangelo were selected to the USA Hockey’s Under-20 World Junior A team at the end of last season.

“It was probably my favorite hockey memory,” he said of putting on the Team USA jersey. “The competition was really strong, and definitely helped me raise my stock among NHL teams.” Team USA wound up with the bronze medal after losing to his fellow freshman Husky, Team Canada goalie Devon Levi, in a shootout. “I wish I could go back to that game, because I am pretty sure I know how to score on Levi now,” Fontaine said.

As far as his non-hockey life, Fontaine said he lives just like any other college student. “I like to watch movies and play video games with my roommate,” he said. “It took me a while to get used to the course load . . . I have a lot of group projects, so I will sometimes just be up late on a Zoom call.”

The college experience and the experience of athletes has massively changed because of the coronavirus pandemic, but Gunnarwolfe Fontaine is certainly making the most of it.

2020–21 Men’s Hockey East Preview: Northeastern University Huskies

Last Season: 18–13–3 (11–12–1, t-seventh in Hockey East)

Head Coach: Jim Madigan (tenth season)

Preseason poll projected finish: Fifth

Departures: F Tyler Madden, F Matt Filipe, F John Picking, F Brendan van Riemsdyk, F Biagio Lerrario, D Ryan Shea, G Craig Pantano

Additions: F Sam Colangelo, F Gunnarwolfe Fontaine, F Dylan Jackson, F Ty Jackson, F Marco Bozzo, D James Davenport, G Devon Levi

By Christian Skroce

Northeastern’s 2019–20 season began about as well as anyone could have hoped. The Huskies started with a convincing sweep of Union and two signature wins against UMass Amherst and St. Cloud State. However, the Huskies’ fortunes would take a turn for the worse, as heartbreaking losses to teams like Vermont, UNH, and BC placed NU as the seventh seed in the Hockey East playoffs, setting them up to face the Minutemen once again in the quarterfinals.

But as we all know, Northeastern would not play in that series. As the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States with a boisterous fury, Northeastern quietly dissolved into the offseason with questions of what went wrong, instead of what could have been.

There was significant offseason turnover. The Huskies lost key pieces at all three positions, including captain defenseman Ryan Shea, Mr. Bright Lights himself Tyler Madden, and veteran net-minder Craig Pantano. Rounding out the losses are senior forwards Matt Filipe, John Picking, and Brendan van Riemsdyk.

Northeastern emphasized experience going into last season, as seen in their aggressive pursuit of graduate transfers. Pantano and van Riemsdyk, along with the other seniors, contributed to NU’s impressive start and will certainly be missed in the locker room. But despite losing the offensive prowess of Tyler Madden and the veteran leadership from other skaters, this is still a hopeful Huskies squad that will be helped by a second straight top-ten recruiting class in the nation.

This team’s strength is its defense, which is easily the most experienced unit on the roster. As we’ve seen in recent seasons, Northeastern has adopted an aggressive, grind-it-out style with its physically imposing defensemen at the forefront. NU employs multiple counterattacking defensemen who force the issue in the offensive zone. Their leader this year is junior Jordan Harris, who logged three goals and 18 assists last season, including the game-winning overtime goal in the 2020 Beanpot final against Boston University.

Joining Harris is fellow Canadiens’ draft pick Jayden Struble, who will look to rebound after an injury-riddled freshman campaign. Struble’s physical prowess is undeniable, as he finished in the top five of several NHL Combine categories heading in 2019, which helped him get drafted in the second round. Struble will be one of the best athletes on the ice this season, which should prove invaluable for the Huskies as they face draft-pick-filled teams like BC, UMass Amherst, and BU.

Filling out the defensive unit are juniors Julian Kislin and AJ Villella, as well as sophomores Mike Kesselring, Jeremie Bucheler, and Tyler Spott. Coming in at 6’4” and 190 pounds each, Kesselring and Bucheler will bring the physical defensive play they became known for during their freshman years. Freshman defenseman James Davenport will also look to contribute to a deep defensive unit.

The biggest question for the Huskies is consistent scoring from their forwards. Gone are the days of relying on Adam Gaudette and Dylan Sikura to make plays and find the back of the net. In recent years, Northeastern has focused on depth and scoring across all four lines, which has been especially apparent in the Huskies’ two most recent recruiting classes. Northeastern is filled with hardworking forwards who break down opposing defensemen as games go on, but talent will not be the issue with NU’s forwards this season. The real problem will be their lack of college experience.

Returning upperclassmen Grant Jozefek and Zach Solow will provide veteran leadership for NU’s forwards, with the latter unsurprisingly earning the honor to captain this year’s squad. Solow has been a mainstay in NU’s top two lines since he arrived on campus, and displayed invaluable leadership qualities even as a freshman and sophomore. He has a fire that is rare in young players and he can always be counted on to emotionally spark his team on and off the ice. Jozefek shares this passion with Solow, and the two have been a handful for opposing teams whenever they are on the ice together.

Also returning for the Huskies is an impressive group of sophomore forwards, all of whom were members of last year’s top-ten recruiting class. Leading this group is last year’s top freshman goal scorer: Aidan McDonough. McDonough’s offensive abilities were especially potent on the power play, as he logged six goals on the man advantage last season, good for third in the conference. McDonough would often work on the same lines as Solow or Jozefek, which will no doubt continue this season. His elite vision and knack for being in the right place at the right time should come in handy. Returning forwards Matt Demelis, Riley Hughes, TJ Walsh, and Neil Shea should all have larger roles this season.

But all eyes will be on the newcomers for the Huskies, led by USHL teammates Sam Colangelo and Gunnarwolfe Fontaine. Both were selected in the 2020 NHL Draft, with Colangelo going to the Anaheim Ducks in the second round and Fontaine heading to the Nashville Predators in the seventh round. The two connected often on goals for the Chicago Steel and will look to continue their record production.

Colangelo will look to be the primary cog in this year’s attack. The Stoneham native is a gravity well who attracts opposing defensemen no matter where he is on the ice. Colangelo’s stick skills and elite vision should allow him to set up his teammates and find the back of the net often. At 6’2”, his size will also allow him to compete in front of goal against some of the best defensemen in Hockey East.

Fontaine will prove to be a valuable two-way forward, as he excels at back-checking and covering his defenders during counterattacks. Brothers Dylan and Ty Jackson complete the tremendous freshman forward class and will look to contribute on the third and fourth lines.

Northeastern’s most important addition may be goaltender Devon Levi, who will look to fill the massive shoes left by Cayden Primeau and Craig Pantano. The French-Canadian netminder is a bit undersized at just under 6 feet tall, but his agility and puck tracking have allowed for his meteoric rise. Levi’s stock skyrocketed last year as he posted a 1.47 goals against average and 0.941 save percentage for Carleton Place Canadians in the CCHL, both of which were easily the best in the league. Levi’s impressive season undoubtedly put him on every NHL team’s radar and led to the Florida Panthers drafting him in the seventh round of the 2020 NHL Draft, despite the team drafting BC goalie Spencer Knight in the first round a year prior. Connor Murphy and Nick Scarpa complete the goalie room for NU.

The most important stretch for NU this season may be from January 22 to February 13. During that month, Northeastern will take on New Hampshire and Connecticut in home-and-home series, while also facing off against Maine twice at Matthews Arena. Those three teams have given the Huskies fits in recent years, and given how close the Hockey East standings will be, winning any less than four of those six games could spell disaster for Northeastern.

Bottom Line: The Huskies will go as far as their impressive freshmen can carry them. Transition to college will be difficult, especially given the abnormal season, but their overwhelming talent alone may be enough to win a decent number of games this season. If Northeastern can start strong, they will position themselves nicely to host a playoff series come March.

NU Women’s Hockey Tops Preseason Poll, Men Finish Fifth

By Jack Sinclair and Christian Skroce

For the second year running, the Northeastern women’s hockey team was unanimously selected to win Hockey East in a poll of conference head coaches.

The Huskies ended last season on a resounding high note, smashing UConn in the Hockey East Championship after running away with the regular-season title. The Huskies apparently decided that wasn’t good enough and brought back everyone but three graduating seniors. With former Providence forward and all-conference second teamer Maureen Murphy hopping on, the poll result was a foregone conclusion.

The Huskies are serious title contenders and are poised to become a dynasty. The only first-place vote the Huskies didn’t get was their own, since the poll rules forced head coach Dave Flint to vote for another team.

He chose Boston University, which finished a distant second and is shaping up to be Northeastern’s likeliest challenger this season. The squads will face off on January 15 and 16.

Providence, the only Hockey East team that beat the Huskies last season, placed fifth in the poll, while Chestnut Hill rival Boston College joined NU and BU in the top three. Coming in a resounding last place was Holy Cross, which seems unlikely to improve much from last year’s dismal season.

The men’s preseason poll showed a more muddled conference. Northeastern nabbed the fifth spot, joining Boston College, UMass Amherst, Providence, and UMass Lowell in a clear top five.

BC grabbed eight of 11 first-place votes, unsurprising given that they rank second in the nation. UMass Amherst received two first-place votes and look to be BC’s primary competitor. The final first-place vote went to No. 11 UMass Lowell, which has gotten national attention heading into the season.

Northeastern placed fifth, not far behind Lowell. The Huskies enter the season with several key losses, including captain defensemen Ryan Shea and electric scorer Tyler Madden. However, Northeastern boasts a top five recruiting class (top 10 for the second straight year) that includes NHL second-round pick Sam Colangelo and other lauded recruits.

Read: Goal-angelo: The Story of Northeastern’s Newest NHL Draft Pick

While the talent is there on paper, Northeastern’s overall inexperience likely kept it from the poll’s top four. The group is primarily freshmen and sophomores who may have a difficult time adapting and developing during a strange season

Despite this inexperience, the group’s potential cannot be understated, which is likely what put Northeastern slightly above their cross-town rivals in the poll. The final weekend of the year against Boston University (March 5 and 6) could be Northeastern’s most important, as it will assuredly have a large impact on playoff seeding.

Most coaches perceive a clear bottom three, as there was a significant gap between eighth-place New Hampshire and ninth-place Maine. Merrimack and Vermont come in at the final two spots of the poll, with the Catamounts receiving every last-place vote.

Both the men’s and women’s teams begin their season on Friday, November 27. The men’s team will head to Lowell for the first of two against the Riverhawks, while the women’s team will host Providence.

Goal-angelo: The Story of Northeastern’s Newest NHL Draft Pick

By Milton Posner and Christian Skroce

On Wednesday afternoon, the Anaheim Ducks nabbed Sam Colangelo with the 36th pick in the NHL Entry Draft, making him the highest Northeastern selection since Jamie Oleksiak in 2011. He was also the first Hockey East player selected this year and the first college player off the board in the second round.

It was, he says, the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. But Anaheim can wait for now. Colangelo, who grew up about 25 minutes from Matthews Arena, has some local hockey left to play first. 

***

Sam Colangelo’s ties to Northeastern don’t end with his nearby upbringing in Stoneham, MA. They don’t end with his reunion with high school teammate Neil Shea, or with high school and USHL teammate Gunnarwolfe Fontaine, or with summer skating partner Aidan McDonough. The roots run even deeper; he’s skated with Jayden Struble, Jordan Harris, and Riley Hughes since they were all five or six years old.

He had an actual relationship with Northeastern early on, too. It was the first college he visited, back at the age of 14.

“I was still in middle school and I didn’t even know where I was going to high school yet, so it was pretty crazy,” Colangelo told WRBB. “I love being in a city. Obviously Northeastern is a great school as well. So it was kind of a no-brainer for me. I kind of fell in love with the school right away.”

Northeastern Associate Head Coach Jerry Keefe, who spearheads the team’s recruiting, told us the feeling was mutual.

“I’ve known Sam since he was about 11 years old . . . and he was just a little guy back then,” Keefe recalls. “When he was a 14, 15-year-old he started to pop hard. He was always a good skater, but then all of a sudden, the pop in his legs came. He started to become a more powerful skater. He was always really smart, and then he started to play the game faster.”

“Coach Keefe was straightforward with me on what I needed to work on,” Colangelo remembers. “He believed in me from the start and I always trusted him from the start. He’s a great guy and a great offensive style coach, and that’s my game . . . I just thought [the coaches] knew my game better than anyone else.”

Colangelo was also attracted by the experiences of former Huskies — including Adam Gaudette and Dylan Sikura — who the Huskies developed into NHL-quality talents. But there was yet another draw for the local kid: a little hockey tournament in early February, one he attended every year growing up.

“When you’re a young kid and you commit to a Beanpot school, everyone talks about ‘Oh, you’re gonna play in the Beanpot!’” Colangelo says with a grin. “That was when I was 15; I’m almost 19 now, and realizing I’m going to be playing in TD Garden hopefully pretty soon is a cool thing to think about. Going to it every year growing up, I was always dreaming about playing in it.”

After sharing a line with Neil Shea at Lawrence Academy, Colangelo and Gunnarwolfe Fontaine hopped to the Chicago Steel of the USHL. Colangelo tied for third in the league in points and goals, and the team was on pace to break numerous league records en route to a championship. But COVID-19 didn’t care, and the season shut down in mid-March, leaving Colangelo to shift his focus to the NHL draft earlier than he’d anticipated.

“I was able to meet with some teams in person, but I was supposed to go to the NHL combine when you do all the interviews with the GMs and stuff like that, which would have been a cool experience,” he tells us. “I ended up having to do it basically the same way I’m doing this right now: sitting in front of my computer.”

But even if Zoom calls dulled the pre-draft experience, it couldn’t dull the emotion when the moment finally came.

“I’m an only child,” he says. “And [my parents] invested so much in me and I’m excited to see how happy they are. I definitely wouldn’t be here without them.”

***

Sam Colangelo is one of the most promising players Northeastern has seen in years. Though he’ll likely still be 18 years old when the season kicks off, the 6’2”, 208-pound forward will be one of the strongest players in Hockey East.

“He’s a big, powerful guy with skill,” Keefe observes. “So he’ll end up being a power forward with a great stick that has great vision.” Keefe also noted his goal scoring and all-around offensive game, saying “we’re expecting big things from him right away.”

Colangelo cited his hockey IQ and shot as strengths, and mentioned that he’s worked hard to boost his speed over the last few years. But his biggest strength might be his elite vision and playmaking; he excels at being in the right place at the right time, and consistently creates offensive opportunities for teammates. But he acknowledged that he’d like to improve his first three steps and, though he’s a stronger defender now, he wants to be the sort of player his coaches can trust in all three zones.

“I’m definitely a hockey junkie,” he says. “I love the game and I’ll do whatever it takes to get to the next level.”

Keefe cited Colangelo’s down-low game as a key area to improve, noting its importance for NHL-caliber forwards. But he’s already psyched about the offensive possibilities Colangelo can help the Huskies unlock.

“We want to work hard to get the puck back, but when we do get it back, we want to go to work offensively,” he explains. “Any time we can get someone with really good hockey sense and hockey IQ offensively, it really does fit into the style we want to play. And he skates really well for a big guy. We want to play fast in transition and he fits that mold.”

When asked about his favorite current NHL player comparisons, Colangelo mentioned several offensive power forwards, including Charlie Coyle, Kasperi Kapanen, and Mark Scheifele, but noted that the list doesn’t stop there: “I could probably sit here and name 10 to 15 guys that I’ve watched all their shifts from the season. In Chicago, we’ve watched film every single day. And there are a lot of guys I like to just take bits and pieces from their games and keep that in mind.” 

Colangelo sees himself as a true all-around player, which has often been echoed in profiles from NHL experts and draft analysts. One cited Colangelo’s “bulldozing strength and near pathological need to shoot the puck” with accurate, powerful snapshots and wristers. Another lauded his strength, which gives him not only scoring range and accuracy, but makes him powerful enough to hold off defenders, throw checks, snag loose pucks, and muscle into corners, the slot, and the crease. They acknowledged, as does he, that his speed and acceleration are improving but remain a work in progress, especially given his professional potential. He also excels at clogging passing lanes, creating zone exits, stifling opponents on the penalty kill, distributing to teammates, picking corners from distance and bad angles, and securing the puck while handling.

For a Huskies team that lost leading scorer Tyler Madden to the pros this offseason — plus two of their top point men to graduation — the offensive boost is a must-have.

***

For the next few days, Colangelo and teammate Jayden Struble will be in Michigan for the US National Junior Team Evaluation Camp, which is used to gauge players for next year’s National Junior Team. If Colangelo can make it, he’ll follow in the footsteps of his friend Jordan Harris, as well as former Huskies Tyler Madden and Cayden Primeau.

“My birthday is December 26, and that’s when the World Juniors start every year,” he says. “Since I was a little kid, I’d always wake up the day after Christmas, it would be my birthday, and I got to watch World Juniors. That was my favorite tournament to watch growing up.

“If I have a chance to make that team, I’m gonna go there and work my hardest and hopefully have a chance. To go with Jayden is awesome as well. I know we both worked hard for this. And we’re both super excited to get there.”

But for now, Colangelo is, in many respects, just like any other Northeastern freshman, taking classes online and limiting in-person socializing due to COVID-19 safety protocols. Though his first puck drop at Matthews Arena likely won’t arrive until late November, his eyes are trained on the prizes already.

“We have the same three goals every year,” he states bluntly. “Beanpot, Hockey East, national championship. If you don’t win all three of those there’s definitely some stuff left on the table.”

And as for moving from the USHL to Hockey East, where he’ll face players up to six years older than him?

“I’m a pretty confident kid and I think my game will adjust well,” he offers. “I’m not really the type of kid who gets nervous. I get excited and let the adrenaline take over.”