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.”

Huskies Fall to Friars in Critical Matchup

Story by Khalin Kapoor

Photos by Sadie Parker

BOSTON — The Northeastern Huskies (9–7–2) fell to the Providence Friars (10–7–4) in the first half of a home-and-home series on Saturday evening at Matthews Arena.

Providence was reeling after a tough 8–1 loss the week before, but outclassed the Huskies throughout. It was a disappointing game for the Huskies, who were looking to build momentum after their shutout win last week against UMass Lowell. They were also looking to distance themselves from Providence, who started the day 0.02 points behind Northeastern in the Hockey East Power Index but ended it 1.79 points ahead.

“It wasn’t good enough,” Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan said. “We let them dictate the pace . . . and played their type of game.”

The first period was incredibly fast and physical right out of the gate, with both teams getting some quality offensive zone time and scoring chances. The back-and-forth continued until the 13-minute mark, when Providence winger Tyce Thompson took the puck off a deflection off of the side of the goal and whipped it into the net. It was an unfortunate sequence for Husky netminder Connor Murphy, who lost track of the puck after the deflection.

“You can’t give good teams like Providence goals like that and expect to win,” Madigan said.

Providence flexed their strength throughout the opening period, consistently winning key puck battles at the boards and laying some solid hits. They forced Northeastern to play their style of hockey, which denied the Huskies sustained offensive zone time.

Coming into this game, Northeastern’s power play conversion rate was ranked first in Hockey East and second in the country at 28 percent. Halfway through the first, Northeastern defenseman Jordan Harris sniped the puck right over Providence goalie Jaxson Stauber’s shoulder to tie the game at one.

Northeastern captain Zach Solow was credited for the assist, making him the 53rd Northeastern player to notch 100 points.

“I’m very happy for him,” Madigan said. “He’s going to go down as one of our better players in the history of this program.”

But the Friars struck back with a power play goal of their own when Jason O’Neill deflected a clearing attempt and chipped the puck over Murphy’s glove. 

In the second period, the Friars looked better than the Huskies and spent most of their time controlling the puck in the neutral zone. Murphy made some incredible saves, even doing a full split to keep the score at 2–1.

The third period began a little better for the Huskies, who seemed better adjusted to the Friars’ style of play. But a bad turnover led to a two-on-two chance, and Jamie Engelbert beat Murphy five-hole to increase the Providence lead to 3–1.

“It was a bad turnover,” Madigan remarked. “They work hard . . . but we contributed to their three goals.”

With just over a minute left in the game, Northeastern forward Gunnarwolfe Fontaine cut the deficit with a screamer from the point, giving the Huskies a chance to tie the game before time expired.

Northeastern pulled Murphy to get an extra attacker, but a key turnover led to an easy open-net goal for Providence’s Matt Koopman to ice the game. The Friars killed off Northeastern’s top-ranked power play three times in the final period to secure the series opener. Northeastern will attempt to salvage a series split on Sunday.

“We need to respond better,” Madigan said. “We have to want it more than them.”

Huskies’ Scoring Spree Comes to an End as Friars Blank Northeastern

By Christian Skroce

The Northeastern men’s hockey team’s undefeated run to begin the season came to an end Sunday afternoon as they fell to the Providence Friars, 5–0, in Rhode Island.

After an impressive shootout win over the Friars at Matthews Arena on Saturday, Northeastern came out flat in the second game of the weekend. Jason O’Neill got the scoring going for Providence with just three minutes left in the first period. The Friars’ first goal was a tough one for the Huskies, as a scrum in front of the Northeastern net led to a deflection off the skate of Northeastern defensemen Jayden Struble.

Providence doubled their lead just minutes later, as prolific scorer Tyce Thompson coolly fired a shot into the top shelf off a feed from Davis Bunz. The goal, which game with two seconds left in the first period, was a back-breaking blow for Northeastern, as Providence went into the first intermission with all of the momentum.

The Friars did not look back, and expanded their advantage just 40 seconds into the second period. A nice finish from Parker Ford gave the Friars their second power-play goal and third overall.

Greg Printz and Craig Needham would add two more goals for Providence in the closing moments of the game. Printz’s goal came with an empty net, while Needham scored with 18 seconds remaining in the game, catching the Husky defenders off guard as they poured into the offensive zone.

It was a difficult game all around for Northeastern, as the forward group could not get anything going. The Huskies produced 28 shots on goal, but few were genuine opportunities in front of the Providence net. At times it felt like there was a Providence defender in front of every Northeastern shot. Northeastern will have many questions to ask of themselves.

While the smaller rink in Providence might have contributed to some of Northeastern’s offensive woes on Sunday, Northeastern Head Coach Jim Madigan made it clear that the team wasn’t looking for excuses.

“At the end of the day you have to go out and play hockey,” he said. “Our guys didn’t make enough plays chasing pucks and finding pockets of space in the offensive zone. It’s as simple as that.”

Northeastern’s biggest concern was their mistakes in even play and poor special teams. The Huskies committed five penalties, and Providence made good on two of the ensuing power plays. The special teams woes also affected NU on the offensive end, as the team failed to convert on all four power-play chances.

“Very seldom do we lose a special teams game,” Madigan said bluntly, “but we did so today.”

The one shining piece for the Huskies was goaltender Connor Murphy, who has made several important plays over the team’s first four games. Murphy’s best play of the day came in the first period, as the netminder pulled off an impressive post-to-post shift, preventing an easy backdoor opportunity for the Friars.

“I thought he played well tonight,” Madigan said of his veteran goaltender. “Little bit of bad luck with the first goal and he faced tough chances with them [Providence] on the power play throughout the game, but he’s be playing very well for us.”

Murphy has been key to Northeastern’s strong start to the season as a replacement for touted freshmen goalie Devon Levi, who is currently with Canada’s world juniors team.

Northeastern is scheduled to take on the Vermont in two games in Burlington next weekend. WRBB will have updates on the Huskies’ games against the Catamounts as the week progresses.

2020–21 Men’s Hockey East Preview: Providence Friars

Last season: 16–12–6 (10–11–3, t-seventh in Hockey East)

Head coach: Nate Leaman (11th season)

Preseason poll projected finish: Third

Departures: F Jerry Harding, F Jack Dugan, F Shane Kavanaugh, D Spenser Young, F Vimal Sukumaran, F Caleb Rule, G Jake Kucharski, G Michael Lackey

Additions: F Nick Poisson, F Chase Yoder, F Brett Berard, D Uula Ruikka, F Matt Tugnutt, G Jaxson Stauber, G Anton Martinsson

By Dale Desantis

The Friars are looking to rebound after a rollercoaster season in which they barely edged out New Hampshire to claim the last seed in the Hockey East playoffs. CCM All-American Jack Dugan, who signed a two-year entry-level deal with the Las Vegas Golden Knights, carried the Friars with a team-high 52 points, 42 of which were assists. Fellow sophomore Tyce Thompson also had a productive year, leading the team with 19 goals and earning a second team all-conference nod.

Outside of the conference, Providence was very strong, going 6–1–3 with a big-time tie against No. 2 Cornell and a win over No. 14 Clarkson. But the Friars failed to make an impression on an extremely competitive division. Teams like Maine, UMass Lowell, and Merrimack — usually deemed “easy outs” for a team of Providence’s caliber — all took games against the Friars.

In the all-Hockey-East 2020–21 season, the Friars look to fare better than they did last year. Last season the only statistic that the Friars led in was power-play goals (34). After losing firepower with Jack Dugan’s jump to the NHL, they are looking to replace a points machine on the power play.

The Friars will look to capitalize on a strong freshman class that includes two draft picks: Brett Berard (134th to the New York Rangers) and Chase Yoder (170th to the Pittsburgh Penguins). Tyce Thompson will also look to have an even bigger 2021 as one of Hockey East’s premier scoring threats.

Bottom Line: With about two dozen returning players and a couple of NHL draft picks joining the squad, the Friars have a chance to jump a couple of spots over their 2019–20 finish. But they’ll need to tighten up their play against Hockey East middlers and significantly develop multiple forwards to make that jump.

Men’s Hockey Falls to No. 10 Providence

Photo by Sarah Olender

By Matt Neiser

After a blazing 4–1–0 start to the season, the No. 14 Northeastern men’s hockey team has been reeling a bit lately. Their next four games saw them go 0–3–1, including a 1–1 tie against Merrimack — the team Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan picked to finish last in Hockey East in the preseason coaches poll — that culminated in a heart-to-heart team meeting, per Mike McMahon of College Hockey News.

With the No. 10 Providence Friars waiting Friday in the first game of a home-and-home set, the Huskies looked to build on a dominating win over Merrimack the day of the meeting. But they faltered again, falling 3–2 to the Friars at Schneider Arena Friday night.

The Friars controlled the first period, especially early on. Providence recorded eight of the first nine shots on net, including the first six. Thankfully for Northeastern, goaltender Craig Pantano stood tall in net, racking up 17 saves and keeping the home team off the board. The Merrimack grad transfer has singlehandedly kept the Huskies in multiple games this season.

Though Providence provided much of the offense, Northeastern wasn’t without chances in the first frame. Freshman Aidan McDonough, fresh off his first career two-goal game against Merrimack, had a pair of early shots saved by Providence’s Michael Lackey. Matt DeMelis threaded a pass through to Zach Solow later in the period, but the junior couldn’t put the puck home. The Huskies had a few other half-chances — mostly off of Friar turnovers — but the 17–7 Providence shot advantage tells the tale of first-period domination.

At the end of a penalty kill early in the second period, Northeastern had their best chance of the evening on a Matt Filipe breakaway. The senior broke ahead of the pack with the puck, but was denied by Lackey as he tried to slip the shot between the netminder’s legs.

Providence broke the deadlock with about four minutes to go in the second frame. Albin Nilsson found his way behind the Husky defense before playing a pass out in front from behind the net. The pass found Jamie Engelbert waiting in the crease, and the freshman wasted no time slotting a shot past Pantano to give the Friars a 1–0 lead.

Six minutes into the third period, Tyler Madden evened things up with his team-leading seventh goal of the season. Though Madden scored the goal, it was Filipe who made the play happen. Skating into the Friar zone on the left side, the senior assistant captain shook off two separate hits along the boards as he got the puck to McDonough behind the net. McDonough backhanded it out in front of the net, hitting a streaking Madden for the one-time finish.

The game stayed deadlocked until Providence retook the lead with six and a half minutes to play. Northeastern had a chance on the other end but couldn’t put it away, leading to a Providence rush and a Spenser Young shot from the point. The shot was redirected by Tyce Thompson in the slot, causing the puck to take flight and arc perfectly over Pantano’s head into the net.

Between the officials’ initial review and Madigan’s offsides zone entry challenge, the goal was questioned for five minutes. It stood.

The Friars struck again less than two minutes later with what would prove the decider, though it was less a Providence goal than a Husky own goal. Providence junior Jason O’Neill skated in close to Pantano, who attempted to swat the puck away with his stick. He succeeded in swatting it . . . straight into O’Neill’s body, which caused it to ricochet past Pantano into the net.

A slashing penalty on Providence with 90 seconds to go in regulation gave the Huskies some hope, and defenseman Jordan Harris capitalized with a shot from the point that deflected off a skate and past Lackey to make it a one-goal game with 42 seconds remaining. Northeastern didn’t generate another chance. The Friars won, 3–2.

Northeastern played well at times, but Providence boasts one of the best offenses in college hockey. Coming into the night, the Friars led the nation in goals and assists.

The Huskies forced turnovers and generated chances off of them. They flexed their penalty kill muscles with a three-for-three night on the man disadvantage. But the red and black lacked Providence’s offensive polish and it showed in the time of possession and quality of chances generated.

These teams rematch on Saturday at Matthews Arena. Christian Skroce and Matt Neiser will be on the call, with puck drop scheduled for 8 PM.

These teams rematch on Saturday at Matthews Arena. Christian Skroce and Matt Neiser will be on the call, with puck drop scheduled for 8 PM.