Story by Emma Sullivan
Photos by Sarah Olender
BOSTON — It had been 33 days since Devon Levi was between the pipes for the Northeastern Huskies; 38 days since he’d gotten a win in the Husky uniform. His last start ended after just 13 minutes where he gave up four goals on eight shots before being pulled from the game. No one would know any of that after watching his dominant performance over the UConn Huskies on Friday where he turned away all but one of the 61 shots he faced.
Coming off a 4-1 win over Boston College last Saturday, the Northeastern offense looked sharp for much of the game. The Huskies’ defense, however, did little to help Levi or the rest of the team for that matter throughout Friday’s contest. Within the first two minutes of game play, Levi had to make four saves including on a hard shot from UConn forward Marc Gatcomb from the top of the faceoff circles. That was only one of the 15 saves Levi would have to make in the first twenty minutes, while his team generated only 10 shots on the other net.
The story offensively for Northeastern was mainly dictated by forward Aidan McDonough. Coming into Friday’s game McDonough led the team in goals scored (18) and points (26). He added three points tonight, creating the scoring opportunities for the Huskies or putting the puck in the back of the net himself for all three Northeastern scores.
On the first Northeastern score McDonough forced a turnover in the corner after a brief battle along the boards to the right of UConn goaltender Darion Hanson. McDonough then found a wide open forward Gunnarwolfe Fontaine who was stationed in front of the net. Fontaine took a hard shot trying to beat Hanson, but the netminder originally blocked it with his pads. Hanson couldn’t control the rebound however and Fontaine immediately took advantage of that, guiding the puck around Hanson’s pads and sliding it into the wide open cage to give Northeastern the 1-0 lead with 9:13 remaining.
The rest of the period would be quiet offensively, even while both teams had a few more chances before time expired.
Both teams ran into some penalty trouble during the second period. UConn started it off after a tripping penalty on forward Carter Turnbull just 25 seconds into the frame. The visiting Huskies were able to kill off the power play without too much trouble from the home team. The same could be said of their second penalty, this time for too many men, with 13:36 remaining.
In fact, the UConn penalty kill had more high danger opportunities than Northeastern’s power play did in the ensuing two minutes, forcing Levi to make some highlight reel saves to keep the score 1-0. But that’s nothing new for the sophomore.
The Northeastern penalty kill went to work with 3:17 remaining in the second after forward Riley Hughes received a high sticking penalty. The Huskies have been dominant when down a man this season, allowing for a penalty kill rate that sits at a success rate around 90% over the games they’ve played. The story was no different here as Northeastern killed it off with few issues.
The home Huskies came into the third period with a bucket of momentum. Once again it was McDonough creating the offensive opportunity for Northeastern, this time on a rush into the offensive zone. McDonough carried the puck all the way to the faceoff dot before dishing it across ice to linemate Ty Jackson who was able to put the puck in the net easily with 17:13 remaining in regulation. Defender Jayden Struble had an assist alongside McDonough on the goal.
A bizarre play involving Northeastern’s Tyler Spott again put the Huskies down a player with 16:43 remaining in the period. The defender got tangled up in front of Levi’s net, falling to the ice while his stick got caught up underneath the opposing player. Spott headed off for holding and the Northeastern penalty kill, while they had some shaky moments, stayed strong and killed off the UConn power play.
In return, UConn defender Harrison Rees took his own holding penalty with 14:03 left to play. Northeastern had a few looks on the ensuing power play, but nothing came of it and the score remained at 2-0 heading into the final ten minutes of play.
UConn attempted to gain some momentum back by pulling Henson from the net with 3:42 remaining in the third. Levi, after blocking a shot in the crease, passed the puck up to McDonough who put a weak shot on the puck from the neutral zone sending it into the back of the empty net. Levi picked up his second assist of the season on the goal which was McDonough 19th of the season.
UConn head coach Mike Cavanaugh opted to again pull Henson after the empty net goal in favor of the extra attacker even though his team was now down by three. It ended up working in his favor however after a mad scramble in front of Levi’s net turned into a bouncing puck that ended up on the stick of UConn forward Hudson Schandor. He put the puck up and over the pads of Levi, spoiling the shutout and bringing the score to 3-1 with 1:52 remaining. Forward Jachym Kondelik scored his 30th point of the year on the play with an assist. Defender Jake Flynn had his eighth assist on the goal as well.
The puck would remain in the Northeastern defensive zone as time wound down, forcing Levi to stop even more shots before the buzzer sounded. By the game’s end, UConn had 27 shots in the third period alone, adding to their total game tally of 61 shots on goal.
With those 60 saves Levi put himself in the record books once more for the Northeastern hockey program. His effort tied the record for saves by a Northeastern goaltender in a single game. According to Northeastern’s game notes, the record was previously held by Gus Capizzo, who had a 60 save performance against Middlebury College on Dec. 8 1962 — just over 59 years ago. Now that statistic will forever be shared with a goaltender who keeps finding ways to get his name in the Northeastern history books, in only 25 games played no less.
Watching Levi play this season has been magic, there is no other word for it. It’s easy to see why he’s a semifinalist for the Mike Richter Award for best goaltender in the NCAA. And while Northeastern does have the outstanding play of freshman goaltender TJ Semptimphleter to fallback on, having a goalie like Levi to carry this team into the final four games of the regular season, and eventually a very difficult Hockey East Tournament, gives the Huskies the potential to steal more than a few games. It’s what they’ve been doing for the majority of the season so far, and it’s given them the most wins in a season for the program since 2018-19.
After the game, Northeastern head coach Jerry Keefe acknowledged that while his top line of McDonough, Jackson, and Fontaine has been scoring, that his entire forward group played well even if they didn’t show up on the score sheet.
“We have confidence in all our lines right now,” he said. “I liked how a lot of guys played tonight. We need to be balanced, we need to go out there and make sure that we’re creating energy for the next line up. I was glad we found a way to three on the board tonight.”
The conversation quickly turned toward the performance between the pipes and how much of a boost it was to get Levi back in the lineup for the entire locker room. Keefe stated that it was difficult to talk about how much of a lift Levi was after seeing the play from Semptimphelter over the last month. He called it the right thing to do to put Levi back in the net, however, especially after all the outstanding work he’s done throughout the course of the season for Northeastern.
“I think our guys were excited that Devon was back with us,” Keefe said. “He’s excited to play. It’s a huge honor obviously making the Olympic team, but we wanted to stick him right back in there, make him feel like he was part of it again right from the day he came back.”
“He played excellently for us tonight,” he added.
The two Huskies teams will finish the season series with a game tomorrow at the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut. WRBB will have coverage of the matchup with Matty Wasserman, Khalin Kapoor, and Daisy Roberts on the call. Puck drop is scheduled for 3:05 p.m.