BOSTON — The last time Vermont faced Northeastern, the Huskies fell in a stunning 1-0 upset. This time around, the story started off the same, but the Huskies offense came alive, resulting in a 5-2 victory.
The Huskies’ sluggish start was reminiscent of their last meeting with Vermont. UVM struck first, scoring 1:14 into the first period off a shot from the left faceoff dot by sophomore forward Isak Walther, beating Northeastern goalie Devon Levi over the glove. The goal was generated by senior forward Jacques Bouquot and sophomore defender Luca Münzenberger, whose physical play along the boards resulted in the puck getting on Walther’s tape for the goal. Both players were credited with assists for their work.
Although the Huskies offense was able to maintain the puck in the offensive zone in the first period, they were not able to register many high quality opportunities. Northeastern also struggled to win battles along the boards and in the corners, and the physicality of Vermont was a recurring theme throughout the game. Though the Huskies trailed after the opening frame, Northeastern head coach Jerry Keefe was relatively upbeat.
“We liked our first period,” he said after the game. “They scored early, [but] I still liked how we played in the first.”
After a lackluster first period, Keefe’s mentality to the team going into the second period was simple.
“We talked about just sticking to it and being a little bit more [attacking] on pucks,” Keefe said. “I thought we did that more in the second period.”
Although the Huskies started the second period on the penalty kill after a too-many-men on the ice call, Keefe was right about the Huskies coming alive. Northeastern would score a flurry of goals in the frame.
After the kill was over, sophomore forward Matt Choupani scored a quick redirect goal 5:28 into the second. It started on a beautiful sequence of stretch passes beginning back in the Huskies defensive zone. Senior defender Jayden Struble quickly sent the puck up ice from back by the face off dot to freshman forward Jack Williams who was standing by the Vermont blue line. Williams skated it along the boards and then sent Choupani, who was flying down the middle of the ice, a quick lead pass that Choupani redirected past UVM junior goaltender Gabe Carriere.
The scoring didn’t stop there for the fourth line, as the Huskies took the lead on Williams’ first NCAA goal. Senior forward Matt DeMelis won a puck battle in the lower left corner and skated towards the back of the net. DeMelis hit a cutting Williams who shot and collected his own rebound for the goal. Freshman defender Hunter McDonald was also credited with his first assist of his NCAA career on the play.
Junior forward Sam Colangelo after the game noted how important the fourth line as a whole was to the Huskies performance.
“[The fourth line] has been probably our best line so far,” Colangelo said. “Maybe they don’t get the notoriety as some other guys, but every time they are on the ice they seem to make something happen.”
While the fourth line’s presence was felt throughout the game, it was the second line that got on the score sheet next thanks to Colangelo contributing the third goal for the Huskies 10:46 into the second. Colangelo would have an easy tap in goal off a pass from behind the net by sophomore forward Jack Hughes who received the puck from junior forward Gunnarwolfe Fontaine.
After a rough first game for Colangelo and an underperformance by his line in the first period,
Colangelo’s take on his first goal was that it “felt pretty good, I wasn’t really too happy with the way I played against LIU and it was a great play by Gunnar and Jack.”
To start the third the Huskies hit another cold streak on offense. There were a series of penalties that Keefe mentioned threw the team off their rhythm and helped UVM gain some momentum. In particular, Williams took a tripping penalty 10:32 into the third period putting Vermont on the power play.
Vermont capitalized on the opportunity with a missile from junior forward Will Zapernick. Vermont cycled the puck on the right side of the zone from Münzenberger to graduate student defender Robbie Stucker by the blue line. This opened a lane for Stucker to zip a pass down to Zapernick wide open by the opposite faceoff dot who one timed it past an outstretched Levi for the goal.
“I thought our penalty kill made a big step tonight,” Keefe said. “I know we gave up a goal but I thought our kill was much better tonight.”
The kill was spotlighted by Struble and senior defender Tyler Spott who forced a multitude of turnovers each time they were on the ice.
Soon after the goal, a scrum emerged by the Northeastern net, resulting in 4-on-4 play. Graduate student forward Finn Evans was charged with slashing and Struble was given a matching two minutes for roughing. On the 4-on-4, the Huskies quickly drew a hooking penalty against freshman defender Ralfs Bergmanis resulting in a 4-on-3 power play for Northeastern.
The Huskies wouldn’t let the opportunity go to waste as senior forward Aidan McDonough put one of his signature one timers from the right faceoff dot past Carriere off a feed from Fontaine. Colangelo was also credited with an assist on the play with 4:37 remaining in the third. The goal gave the Huskies a cushion to work with for the rest of the game.
Not long after the goal, Huskies freshman defender Jackson Dorrington committed a cross checking penalty to put Vermont back on the power play late in the game. Vermont pulled their goaltender to make it a 6-on-4 power play. Unfortunately for them, graduate student forward Jakov Novak scooped up the puck at the blueline before walking it to the empty net for a short handed goal with 1:37 left in regulation.
With the win, Northeastern has their first victory in Hockey East play for the 2022-23 season. Keefe was satisfied with the performance from his players, noting that they “made some strides tonight.” He also said that the Huskies will look to continue to improve “more of that 60 minute [play]” while continuing on the effort they put out tonight.
Some takeaways from the game are that the depth of the team showed tonight with the outstanding performance of the fourth line. The top line also created a variety of high quality chances, but came short on finishing them in 5-on-5 play. Another thing to continue to monitor for the team are the power play units. Both groups looked better tonight on 5-on-4 play than the previous game. The top unit still consists of five forwards, which seems like the new normal for the foreseeable future.
The Huskies and Catamounts are set to have a rematch tonight, again at Matthews Arena. WRBB will have coverage live with Emma Sullivan and Mike Puzzanghera on the call when the puck drops at 7 p.m.