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.

2020–21 Men’s Hockey East Preview: UMass Lowell River Hawks

Last season: 18–10–6 (12–7–5, third in Hockey East)

Head coach: Norm Bazin (tenth season)

Preseason poll projected finish: Fourth

Departures: F Kenny Hausinger, F Colin O’Neill, G Tyler Wall

Additions: F Matthew Allen, F Andranik Armstrong-Kingcade, D Brehdan Ehgum, F Matthew Kinash, F Josh Latta, D Ben Meehan, F Jackson Sterrett, G Henry Welsch

By Mike Puzzanghera

Norm Bazin’s squad has a lot to build on from last year with very few departures, but one loss leaves a huge hole. Starting goaltender Tyler Wall leaves the program after posting a 2.10 GAA and .931 save percentage in his senior season and being named a finalist for the Mike Richter Award.

The big question is whether sophomore Logan Neaton can step up after subpar performances in his three appearances last season. The Jets prospect went 0–2–0 in two starts, allowing eight goals in just under 125 minutes between the pipes. At 6’4”, Neaton showed his ability during his time in the BCHL with Prince George. That has yet to translate to Tsongas Arena, but the River Hawks need him to improve.

They retain their top three scorers and seven of their top eight. Matt Brown is coming off a 24-point freshman year (tops on the team) and fellow sophomore Carl Berglund led the team with 12 goals (23 points). Their 6’4” sophomore forward Andre Lee notched 20 points of his own last season.

The defense is led by juniors Chase Blackmun and Seth Barton, who combined for 24 assists and eight goals in 2019–20. A third-round pick of the Detroit Red Wings, Barton is another player Lowell will hope to develop this season. 

Joining them on the blueline is freshman Ben Meehan. A local name from Dexter Southfield, Meehan was a fifth-round pick by the Los Angeles Kings this year. He’s played six times for Team USA in the World Junior A Challenge.

Other freshmen of note are forward Matt Allen (57 points in 54 games for Amarillo in the NAHL), forward Andranik Armstrong-Kincade (44 points in 50 games for Minot in the NAHL), and goaltender Tyler Welsch (1.99 GAA and .926 save % for Aberdeen in the NAHL).

Bottom Line: As a team, Lowell has improved offensively and defensively. As for individuals, the loss of Wall in net is huge. With the skill added in the forward group and on the blue line, Lowell’s floor is qualifying for the tournament — Neaton’s play in net will decide whether Lowell contends for a conference crown.