Story by Emma Sullivan
Photos by Kayla Shiao
BOSTON — For the first time since Jan. 18, the Northeastern University Huskies are back in the win column after eeking out a 5-4 victory over the University of Vermont Catamounts. Playing for the first time since their loss last weekend to the UMass Lowell River Hawks, the Huskies were able to put up a much better performance for the crowd at Matthews Arena than in their previous showing.
The game, however, was not going in favor of Northeastern. By the end of the first period, UVM was outshooting the Huskies 18-6, a surprising feat for a Catamounts team that has struggled to put pucks on net throughout the season leading them to an average of 26 shots per game coming into tonight’s matchup. UVM was able to stifle the Huskies offensively thanks to many turnovers that they were able to force in the neutral zone and an overall faster style of play than seen from Northeastern. It seemed as though anytime the Huskies had control of the puck, it was only for a few seconds at a time before UVM regained possession.
The bright spot in the first for Northeastern came with 1:19 remaining in the period. Forward Sam Colangelo forced a turnover directly to the right of Catamounts goaltender Gabe Carriere. Linemate Justin Hryckowian took the pass from Colangelo and got it along to forward Aidan McDonough who immediately got a shot off that went sailing up and over Carriere’s glove. The goal to put the Huskies up 1-0 was McDonough’s 17th of the year, adding to his lead on the team in goals.
The period wasn’t over yet however, as UVM proved soon after by scoring their own goal after a shot from the blueline by defenseman Robbie Stucker was tipped in front by forward Simon Jellus to tie the game 1-1. Also picking up an assist on the play was forward William Lemay. The score stood going into the first intermission.
“Coach just came in and told us to reset,” Colangelo said of the message between periods. “Obviously the period didn’t go the way we wanted.”
“We were kinda hoping to get out of that first period and reset,” said head coach Jerry Keefe. “I give our guys credit, we were mature about it. We knew we had to get better.”
As the teams retook the ice and play resumed for the second period, the Huskies really came alive compared to the previous 20 minutes of play. Northeastern was able to close the gap between the two teams when it came to shots, adding 14 shots to bring up their total to 20 while holding UVM to just four in the frame.
While there weren’t any goals scored during the second 20 minutes of play, both teams received penalty calls. Husky defenseman Jeremie Bucheler went off first with 15:53 left in the period after high sticking one of the opposing team’s players. Then, 40 seconds after the Huskies killed off their penalty, they went on the power play thanks to a hooking call against Catamount forward Porter Schachle with 13:22 left in the second. Neither team would convert on their power play opportunity even though both had a few strong chances during their respective advantages. The period would end the same way it started with both teams standing at a goal a piece.
Third period play started out on the side of Northeastern in the same way the second period had gone. Far more sustained pressure from all sides of the ice for the Huskies, yet the Catamounts were the first to strike. UVM’s leading scorer, forward Philip Lagunov, took advantage of a screen in front to score his seventh of the season after sniping the puck past goaltender TJ Semptimphelter. Forward Jacques Bouquot added an assist after he snagged the puck along the boards to pass it to Lagunov before the latter scored with 17:52 left to play.
UVM’s lead would not last long however as Northeastern would tie the game with 16:43 remaining in the period. The top line for the Huskies went to work again, applying pressure behind Carriere’s net before the puck found its way to defenseman Jordan Harris. Harris was able to take a shot from above the faceoff circles that found a way through traffic and into the back of the net thanks to a combination of Catamounts and Huskies screening Carriere. Colangelo and Hryckowian added their second assists of the night on the play.
Northeastern continued to battle as the period went on, and a few minutes later, with 14:23 remaining, they were able to take the lead for good. Forward Riley Hughes carried the puck all the way through the neutral and offensive zones before cutting to the net and putting the puck up and over backhanded past Carriere. It was Hughes’ first goal since coming back from injury and just his second goal of the season. Forward Jakov Novak and defenseman Julian Kislin picked up their fifth and second assists, respectively, on the season as well.
The Huskies added their third straight goal with 12:12 remaining. Novak, after helping with Hughes’ goal, scored his own goal on the night thanks to a beautiful pass in front from forward Ty Jackson. Hughes was credited with an assist along with Jackson on the goal to put Northeastern 4-2.
UVM refused to go down without a fight however. With 6:12 left to play, Catamounts defenseman Andrew Lucas passed the puck from the corner to a wide open forward Isak Walther who was standing in front of the net. Walther took a shot that was blocked by the pad of Semptimphelter, but rebounded directly onto the stick of Bouquot who was waiting at the top of the crease. Bouquot immediately corralled the puck and put it just around the skate of Semptimphelter and into the back of the net to bring the Catamounts within one.
Play would go back and forth for the next five minutes with both teams desperate to either extend the lead or tie the game. UVM headed back to the power play after a tripping call against Jackson with 4:11 remaining, but the Catamounts were unable to convert. Northeastern would then succeed in lengthening the divide between the two teams. Jackson tried to force a turnover right in front of the net before Colangelo wasted no time in taking advantage of the mayhem by stealing the puck and backhanding it past Carriere to bring the score to 5-3. Harris would add another point with an assist and forward Matt DeMelis added his seventh assist of the season as well.
In the last minute of play, Vermont would bring them again within one after pulling their goaltender. Semptimphelter was caught on the opposite side of the net, leaving it wide open for Stucker to snipe it home even after the goaltender attempted to make a diving save. Stucker and defenseman Cory Babichuk who originally took the shot that was deflected in front to Stucker, gave the Catamounts their best opportunity to tie the game with 24.6 seconds remaining.
The final horn signaled the end of the Huskies’ losing streak, but also Semptimphelter’s first NCAA career win. The freshman has seemingly taken over between the pipes for Northeastern after starting goaltender Devon Levi headed off to Beijing last week to play for Team Canada at the Olympics. Semptimphleter, to his credit, has come in and been extremely solid for Northeastern, and was very much the one who kept the team in this game after the struggles in the first period.
“He battled in there for sure. I know he made some really good saves for us tonight,” Keefe said of his netminder. “I was really happy for TJ. I know our guys are really happy for him.”
“That last game he kept us in it,” Colangelo added. “It’s awesome to see him get that first win.”
After tonight’s win, focus now turns to the Huskies’ next game — the first round of the Beanpot tournament set to commence Monday. Northeastern has won the last three titles, but for many players this will be their first opportunity to play at TD Garden in the Beanpot after the cancellation of last year’s tournament due to COVID-19.
“I know for me, I’m from Boston. I grew up going to it,” Colangelo said on playing in his first Beanpot next week. “So I’m just extremely excited to get out there.”
“You know the importance of the game. You’re playing in front of a huge crowd, it’s in the back of your mind no question,” Keefe said. “Our guys are excited. It’s an awesome time of year to be playing, to get to play at the Garden, to get to play for a huge trophy, so I think our whole group is looking forward to getting ready for Monday night.”
For the Beanpot, WRBB will have coverage of both games Northeastern plays including the semifinals this upcoming Monday. Mike Puzzanghera, Khalin Kapoor, and Emma Sullivan will be live from TD Garden as the Huskies take on the Boston College Eagles starting at 8 p.m.