Story by Khalin Kapoor
The Northeastern Huskies (15-6-1) fell to the Arizona State Sun Devils (13-12-0) 6-2 on Tuesday night in Matthews Arena, breaking a six game winning streak. This was the Huskies’ first loss since an OT thriller against UMass Lowell on Nov. 12 when they lost 2-1. Goaltender Devon Levi started in net once again for Northeastern, coming off back-to-back shutouts against LIU, but was under siege from the opening buzzer.
ASU has profiled as a legitimate offensive threat this season. Entering this game, the Sun Devils had scored the fifth most goals in the NCAA but had allowed the second most. Northeastern’s game plan had to be focused on taking advantage of chances given to them by a porous ASU defense while fighting to contain their top ranked offense. In this one, Northeastern just couldn’t control the Sun Devils. They surrendered a staggering 46 total shots, with 25 of those coming in the first period.
The Huskies opened the scoring early in the first period with a strike by Sam Colangelo on the power play. Colangelo has been hurt for an extended period of time this season, but returned with a vengeance, totaling five points in his last two games played.
The Huskies’ lead was short lived, however, as consecutive Northeastern hooking calls set up a 5-on-3 for ASU. The Sun Devils quickly responded, with forward and Arizona Coyotes draft pick Josh Doan firing a shot over Levi’s shoulder to tie the game at one. Later in the first, ASU captain Colin Theisen executed a wicked toe drag move and rifled over Levi’s shoulder to break the tie and give his team the 2-1 lead. Levi was under siege the entire period yet kept the Huskies in the game with some sensational stops.
“We got our butts kicked in the first period,” Northeastern head coach Jerry Keefe said after the game.
Northeastern adjusted to ASU’s quick offense well in the second period. They controlled the puck much better than they did in the first, which led to more quality scoring chances. Fourth liners Michael Outzen and Ryan St. Louis both had terrific scoring opportunities but were thwarted by ASU netminder Ben Kraws.
Gunnarwolfe Fontaine provided the equalizer for Northeastern, scoring on the power play off of a beautiful feed from Aidan McDonough. It was quick precision passing through traffic that led to both of Northeastern’s power play goals, which bodes well for their lowly .175 conversion percentage to begin to tick up.
With the momentum tilted in their favor in the second, the Huskies just had to keep playing clean hockey. Devon Levi provided more highlight reel saves to keep them in the game, first saving a screened shot then spinning around to locate the rebound and diving to save it. However, things went downhill from there. With two and a half minutes left in the second period, ASU forward Christopher Grando located the puck in front of the crease and put it in to give the Sun Devils the 3-2 lead. This goal occurred with a delayed penalty call against Northeastern. ASU promptly scored on the ensuing power play, with Theisen potting his second of the game to make it 4-2. In a second period where Northeastern outplayed ASU for almost 18 minutes, they ended up down 4-2 going into the third.
“We fought back into the game to get it to 2-2 but lost all the momentum on that one-minute play,” Keefe remarked. “On that penalty they scored basically two goals… from there it was an uphill battle.”
The back breaker came four and half minutes into the third period. In transition on the rush, ASU forward Matthew Kopperud drew two defensemen and dropped a pass back to the trailing skater Jack Jensen, who deposited it into the net. The Huskies just had no answer to the offensive aggression that ASU possessed in this one. They were clearly playing on their heels the entire game. Some of that could be attributed to this game being a late addition to their schedule.
Northeastern just looked off in this one. Their top-ranked penalty kill unit had immense difficulty controlling ASU’s movement and passing on the power play. The quickness that the Sun Devils utilized worked Northeastern defenders out of position, created exploitable matchups, and gave their best shooters opportunities in space.
“We have to play with a lot more pace to our game,” said Keefe. “We’re not where we need to be right now.”
With this loss, Northeastern falls to 16th in the pairwise rankings. With a win, they would have moved up to 10th. They have a lot to improve on based on their performance against the Sun Devils. The Huskies have a week until their next game, which is Jan. 18 at UVM.