By Zachary Lyons

The Northeastern Huskies clinched a must-win game on the road over the UMass Lowell River Hawks  4-2, improving the Huskies to 19-8-1 overall and 10-6-1 within Hockey East. 

Goals came from capitalizing on defensive mistakes by both teams. The low shot count early on is to be expected from a River Hawk team that is ranked fifth best in goals allowed and a Northeastern team that is ranked third best in goals allowed in college hockey. Everyone knew coming into this game that this would be a hard-fought, scrappy game. 

The beginning of the game saw  few shots on goal registered in the first period by both sides. The game flowed from end to end in the start with neither team maintaining offensive zone time for long. However, Northeastern started an aggressive forecheck early on to try to gain possession of the puck and put the River Hawks on their heels. Soon after the decision, the Huskies’ forward Jakov Novak would take a hooking call putting the Huskies on the penalty kill 6:55 into the first period of play. The River Hawks would get their best chance when their goalie Owen Savory sent the puck from deep in the defensive zone up ice while the Huskies were changing their penalty killers, but the shot produced from the pass was wide.

The River Hawks would only register two shots on net during the power play that were easily put aside by TJ Semptimphelter in net for the Huskies. After the penalty kill, the game was back and forth until 12:05 into the period when a defensive breakdown by the River Hawks led to Julian Kislin receiving a pass in the outer lower left faceoff circle from Riley Hughes at the point. Kislin would be able to walk in with the puck to wrist a rocket of a shot between the legs of Savory with little challenge from the defense. This was Kislin’s first ever collegiate goal scored, and his production would continue to be noticed throughout the hockey game. Novak was also  credited with an assist on the play.

The game would continue on with neither side giving up any real chances until 17:23 into the first when the River Hawks tried clearing their defensive zone off the boards, but Kislin was able to get the puck before it crossed out of the offensive zone of the Huskies. Kislin was then able to skate into the top of the right faceoff circle and fire a quick pass over to the wide open stick of Sam Colangelo on the back side of the crease for the one timer goal into a wide open net. Northeastern, although only producing five shots on goal in the first period, capitalized on the mistakes of the River Hawks and went into the second period up 2-0. 

The second period consisted mostly of penalties committed by both teams. In the beginning, the Huskies continued their aggressive forecheck strategy, which led to a Northeastern power play just 2:21 into the second. Lowell forward Blake Wells was called for a hooking penalty close to his defensive blue line trying to get the puck back after an aggressive forecheck by the Huskies caused a turnover in the neutral zone. The power play would register little opportunity for the Huskies and would be killed off easily by the River Hawks who did not allow the Huskies to truly get set up in the offensive zone. The next major play of the game was another penalty, however this time it would go against the Huskies 9:25 into the second by Tommy Miller for slashing. This would not be a very productive power play for the River Hawks as they also struggled to get set in the offensive zone on the power play against the No. 3 ranked Huskies penalty kill.

Another penalty would go against the Huskies by Jack Hughes in retaliation to a big hit by Isac Jonsson on Colangelo. Hughes would be charged with boarding 12:31 into the second period which would lead to a crucial power play for the River Hawks. 1:06 into the power play, Andre Lee passed the puck down to the goal line to Lucas Condotta who spun inside and sent the puck to the slot for a driving Jon McDonald. McDonald put the puck into the top of the net bringing the River Hawks within one on the power play. This was McDonald’s first goal of the season and came at a crucial time. 

On the back end of the second period, the Huskies would go on the power play once again at 15:18 from a cross checking penalty by Nick Austin. The Huskies would generate many quality looks, with their best being a shot that came from Aidan McDonough, but the shot hit off the outside of the net. The Huskies ended the period up 2-1 against the River Hawks. 

Going into the third period, the Huskies had only registered 14 shots on goal and the River Hawks registered 10. The River Hawks started the period off hot, having multiple quality shots on net pushing back the aggressive Huskies defensive core and forecheck. Just 3:50 into the third, Ryan Brushett would wrist a shot from the upper left faceoff circle on net creating a rebound out front. The rebound caused a mad scramble on the back side as the puck bounced around and eventually onto the stick of Owen Cole, who fired the puck back towards the net on a low angle where it deflected off a Husky in for the goal. The goal tied the game up for the River Hawks 2-2 with the Huskies. 

The third period continued for a while without either team registering many shots on goal. 

But, in the third things started to get chippy as McDonough was charged with high sticking, and Ben Meehan of the River Hawks was charged with roughing after retaliating from being hit by McDonough. The matching penalties created a 4-on-4. 

The River Hawks built on the momentum from their tying goal and got a two-on-one breakaway, created by a beautiful cross ice breakout pass by Jonsson to Cole after he forced a turnover on Jordan Harris. Cole came in on the breakaway, and registered a clean wrist shot on net that was saved by Semptimphelter. 

The chance would be one of the best for the River Hawks in the third. 

Shortly after the breakaway, the Huskies went up 3-2 to the River Hawks in 4-on-4 play. The River Hawks whiffed on a pass in the middle of the neutral zone resulting in a turnover that was picked up by Colangelo, who broke the puck into the offensive zone and took it to the far side of the right faceoff circle. Colangelo sent a pass right on to the tape of a breaking Tommy Miller who one timed the puck into the back of the net from the left edge of the right faceoff circle putting the Huskies up a crucial goal 10:28 into the third period. The goal was deflating for the River Hawks who had all of the momentum and chances up until that point in the period.

The period continued with the River Hawks quickly regaining the momentum they had lost by going on the offensive. Being down by a goal 17:52 into the third period, the River Hawks pulled Savory to get an extra attacker onto the ice to try and tie the game back up late in the third. Immediately after the River Hawks pulled the goalie, Huskies defender Jayden Struble gained possession of the puck and shot it off the boards to clear the zone. The puck was gathered up by a breaking Ty Jackson who backhanded the puck into the empty net shortly after entering the offensive zone. The Huskies’ fourth goal came 18:03 into the third period and would seal the game for them. The Huskies had an opportunity to add to their lead on an empty net shot from McDonough a minute later that would ring off the post.
The hard fought victory by the Huskies was one that they needed after losing their last two matchups this season against the  River Hawks. The game was won by an aggressive Huskies forecheck that forced key turnovers throughout the game and defense that got heavily involved in the offensive zone. One concern coming out of this game is that the Huskies were out performed in the faceoff circle 21 to 28 without key faceoff center Justin Hryckowian who is out with assumed injury. Looking forward, faceoff wins will be crucial when the Huskies play Boston University Monday in the Beanpot finals. Emma Sullivan, Khalin Kapoor, and Mike Puzzanghera will be on the call for WRBB with coverage starting at 7:30 p.m. for the 8 p.m. game.