Story by Rae Deer & Mike Puzzanghera
WORCESTER – A great performance by Devon Levi and a set of freshman firsts propelled the Northeastern Huskies above the Holy Cross Crusaders in a 3-0 victory on Friday night.
After a shutout victory over Bentley last Saturday, goaltender Levi already had the chance to cement himself in Howlin’ Husky history and did so with ease on Friday night, breaking Cayden Primeau’s record for most shutout minutes since debut after posting two collegiate shutouts in his first two games as a Husky.
The stellar introduction of freshman forward Justin Hryckowian and strong presences from his classmates Jack Hughes and Matt Choupani were also key factors in the victory, with the latter two emerging from the win with some firsts of their own.
As the game kicked off in the DCU Center, the theme for the night was set: physicality. A couple of penalties, some shoving, and quite a bit of hits took place across the three periods. Yet even with the blatant displays of strength, neither team could get on the board, leaving the game scoreless until nearly the end of the second period.
Finally, just over 34 minutes into the contest, the Huskies broke the deadlock. A poor turnover by the Crusaders in their own defensive zone set the puck up nicely for Ty Jackson. He played a neat no-look backwards pass to a waiting Aidan McDonough in the slot, who loaded up a wrister and buried it over the right shoulder of Holy Cross netminder, Matt Radomsky, who was finally beaten.
The goal marked McDonough’s 50th collegiate point. A star for the Huskies since his first day in the uniform, McDonough consistently makes his impact felt each shift, and provides some much-needed size to the Huskies forward group. It also marked his third goal in two games of this young season.
Before the second period was over, the Huskies doubled the lead. Choupani, the freshman winger whose impact was felt all over the DCU Center ice Friday night, got a goal to his name for the first time with a husky on his chest. He danced through traffic in the Holy Cross zone after picking up a pass that came from Levi to Tommy Miller before landing on Choupani’s stick, and eventually, after losing the puck for a second, got a shot away. He slotted it five-hole past Radomsky, giving him his first career goal and point, giving Miller his first NU assist and point, and giving Levi his first assist and a point.
Head coach Jerry Keefe mentioned postgame how impressed he was with Choupani, even switching up looks on multiple occasions to try and get him some more ice time. Choupani, along with Hryckowian and Ryan St. Louis, started on the all-freshman fourth line, but saw some time with a few other forward duos as the game wore on. Choupani ended the night +1 with five shots on goal.
Choupani wasn’t the only Husky to get his paws on his first goal, as the younger Hughes got his at the beginning of the third. Gunnarwolfe Fontaine played a nice backhand pass through the slot and it popped in front to Jack Hughes, who charged at the post and tipped in the pass, giving Radomsky no chance or time to get into the correct positioning. While some might’ve argued Hughes kicked the puck in, it still went down as a goal, and marked his first in a Northeastern jersey, and gave Fontaine his second assist of the year.
As the game wore into its final minutes, tired legs prevailed — the Huskies and Crusaders both looked slow, and chances were few and far between. Even when the Crusaders got a power play after a Jack Hughes crosscheck, they never really looked like they would get one back. And they never even pulled Radomsky for an extra skater to give them a chance. Both teams were content to let it finish 3-0, and that’s how it ended.
The Huskies, after opening the Ice Breaker with a win, have a chance to make it three to start the year when they take on #9 Quinnipiac tomorrow at 4:30. Mike Puzzanghera and Rae Deer will have the call for WRBB.