BOSTON — Riding a five-game winning streak, Northeastern looked to extend their 2023 momentum facing UConn at home Friday.
The season series had been a tightly contested one, with Northeastern barely squeaking out a comeback victory Jan. 14. But UConn came to Matthews Arena with a chip on their shoulder and handed the home team a 4-3 overtime loss, halting Northeastern’s second semester momentum.
Northeastern started off on the right foot, dominating possession and the shot tally right from the first faceoff. They broke the ice first, as a shot from sophomore forward Matt Choupani bounced off the pads of UConn sophomore netminder Logan Terness and right into the path of graduate student forward Liam Walsh. Walsh had a wide-open net in front of him and easily slotted the puck in to give Northeastern a 1-0 lead.
“[Walsh]’s been huge for us in the locker room,” said Northeastern head coach Jerry Keefe. “He’s been scoring big goals, and he’s got a scoring streak going. He scores gritty goals for us that we need. He’s been huge for this team.”
As the first period progressed, Northeastern showed no signs of slowing down. Their second forward line, juniors Gunnarwolfe Fontaine and Sam Colangelo and senior Matt DeMelis, looked particularly strong, displaying their evident chemistry on the ice.
Just under seven minutes into the period, DeMelis entered Northeastern’s offensive zone and dropped the puck back to Fontaine. Spotting Colangelo streaking down the opposite side of the ice, Fontaine drew Terness towards him before sending a pass cross-ice. Terness couldn’t cover the open side of his net in time, and Colangelo doubled the home team’s lead.
With Northeastern holding a secure lead as the first period wound down, the penalty kill began to shine on both sides. Both UConn and Northeastern killed off an opposing power play by the time the first frame came to a close. The home squad held the upper hand though, as a charging call on junior forward Nick Capone with under two minutes remaining in the period meant that Northeastern would begin the second on the man advantage.
UConn seemed to be determined to jumpstart their offense early in the second however, as senior defender Jake Flynn caught Northeastern goalie Devon Levi off guard. Two minutes into the frame, Flynn sent in a wrister from the blue line that Levi had zero vision of. Flynn sniped the puck perfectly into the upper right corner of the net, cutting UConn’s deficit in half.
It didn’t take long to see that after Flynn’s score, UConn had now settled into the game, as throughout the duration of the second period they became more and more dominant. Their penalty kill was the star of the show, shutting down Northeastern’s weaker-than-usual power play five consecutive times.
“Our penalty kill was really strong tonight,” said UConn head coach Mike Cavanaugh. “I think we won the special teams game, which was important. … I thought we were able to keep them to the outside and try to eliminate grade-A chances.”
Northeastern’s penalty kill was then tested, as back-to-back calls on sophomore forward Justin Hryckowian and graduate student forward Jakov Novak forced the home team to play down a man for nearly three straight minutes.
Ultimately, the home Huskies did as much as they could, but the building UConn pressure proved to be too great, as a ricochet off Levi’s goalpost from freshman forward Matthew Wood’s shot bounced just in front to junior forward Hudson Schandor. With Levi drawn to the opposite side of the net, Schandor had a clear look to tie the game up at two.
Northeastern had the wind swept under them, and couldn’t revert back to the level of play they had shown in the first period.
Less than one minute into the third frame, Wood attempted a shot from the center of the offensive zone, but it was deflected behind Levi’s net. Schandor picked up the rebound and sent in a centering feed to his linemate, graduate student Justin Pearson. Pearson’s shot bounced off Levi’s pads, but Wood was right there to poke the puck home, scoring UConn’s third unanswered goal and giving the visitors their first lead of the matchup.
As the clock ticked down in the final frame of regulation, Northeastern continued to find themselves on the back foot, unable to generate any offensive consistency. But late-game antics are what the home team is known for, and they did not disappoint Friday evening.
With just under four minutes remaining in regulation, Northeastern had a deja-vu moment from their earlier scores. A wrist shot from the blue line from senior defender Jeremie Bucheler bounced off of the stick of freshman forward Cam Lund. Terness could not track the puck quickly enough, as a waiting Hryckowian capitalized on the open net in front of him to tie the game at three.
Neither team managed to break through before the buzzer sounded, ending regulation play. The 3-on-3 overtime period started heavily in UConn’s favor. As the five minute frame of free hockey came closer and closer to its end, UConn kept building up the pressure on Levi, forcing the netminder to make some sprawling saves across his crease. The visitors in turn missed a few point-blank opportunities, but managed to keep Northeastern at bay for most of extra time.
As the UConn offense bubbled, it seemed like it would only be a matter of time before they broke through. And just as the clock wound down, with 8.6 seconds remaining, a centering feed from Flynn found the stick of Schandor. Schandor backhanded the puck into the far corner of the net, just past Levi’s outstretched pad, to win the game for UConn.
It was an unfortunate loss for the home Huskies, as they would have liked to ride a six-game win streak into the upcoming Beanpot. Instead, they face No. 3 Boston University – which is on a seven- game winning streak – Monday following a tough overtime loss.
“We’ve got to build on the things that we did well,” Keefe said. “We did a lot of good things in that game. We’ll watch the video to see what we can get better. We don’t want to dwell on this one. We want to move past it, learn from it, and get ready for Monday against BU.”
Northeastern’s next matchup is the 70th annual Beanpot, where they will take on BU in the first round at TD Garden Monday. Khalin Kapoor and Matty Wasserman will be on the call for puck drop at 8 p.m.