Story by Matty Wasserman
BOSTON – Saturday’s matchup between the 14th ranked Minutemen and 12th ranked Huskies was billed as a clash of Hockey East heavyweights. After a tightly contested 3-2 UMass victory in Amherst Friday night, Saturday promised to deliver another exciting battle at Matthews Arena.
But in the blink of an eye, the Huskies were bombarded.
Northeastern had difficulty containing a high-powered UMass offensive attack right from the start of Saturday’s contest, allowing five shots and two goals in the first 2:13 of play. The Minutemen came out guns blazing, dominating puck possession early with an ultra aggressive and physical play style.
“It obviously wasn’t our night tonight,” Northeastern Head Coach Jerry Keefe said after the defeat.
UMass got the scoring spree started with grad transfer Cam Donaldson’s first goal of the season just 1:22 into action. Then, the Minutemen’s top goal scorer and 2020-21 All-American Bobby Trivigno netted two consecutive goals, the first of which was an impressive physical effort to pry the puck from Jeremie Bucheler and beat Devon Levi gloveside.
“They won a couple one-on-one battles early in the game, and I thought that really set the stage for the [rest of the] game,” Keefe said.
After the Huskies went down 3-0 on the strength of Trivigno’s back-to-back scores, they battled back and put some shots to the net midway through the first period. But UMass put the nail in the coffin with a snipe over Levi’s left shoulder from fourth line winger Ryan Lautenbach to put the Minutemen up 4-0. It was then, just 13:22 into the game, Keefe decided to pull Levi in place of Evan Fear, a junior transfer from Quinnipiac.
While the final outcome was in little doubt, Jerry Keefe was provided a valuable opportunity to see both of his backup goalies play live minutes against a high-caliber opponent. With Levi departing for the Olympics to play for Team Canada likely next week, one or both of Evan Fear and TJ Semptimphelter will need to step up into the starting goaltender role for the Huskies in Levi’s absence. Saturday served as a mini-audition and a good way for both inexperienced goaltenders to get acclimated to the speed of the college level.
Fear went on to play the remainder of the first period and entire second period, yielding two goals and making nine saves. It was Fear’s seventh career collegiate appearance and first for Northeastern, though he never has started a game at the NCAA level.
In the third period, with UMass ahead 6-0 and firmly in the driver’s seat, Keefe went to Semptimphelter. The freshman impressed in his collegiate debut, stopping all 10 shots he saw, including a nice sliding save to rob Matthew Kessel and navigating traffic during a penalty kill.
“The silver lining in this game is that we got the opportunity to see our other two goaltenders. I thought they both went in and did a good job,” Keefe said. “Obviously TJ not giving up a goal was good, I thought he played really well in this game.”
While it was a disappointing loss for the Huskies, Keefe was pleased with how the team fought until the final whistle and maintained energy on the bench.
“The biggest thing for me as a coach is I want to see our guys stick together, and we did. And I give them a lot of credit. That’s something you learn from,” Keefe said after the loss.
While it’s undoubtedly a disappointing result for Northeastern, the Huskies now have the opportunity to learn from it and respond next week against UMass-Lowell. The next week of practice and preparation is crucial for Keefe’s squad.
WRBB will be back on the air on Sunday at 12:00 p.m. as Northeastern’s women’s basketball takes on William & Mary. Mike Puzzanghera and Catherine Morrison will have the call.