Northeastern’s losing streak at the Mullins Center has been extended to six years, thanks to a 3-2 UMass victory Friday night.
To open the game it was all about whistles, as the two teams combined for six penalties in the first period, including three against the Minutemen in the first nine minutes alone.
It started early, after UMass senior forward Cal Kiefiuk took a kneeing penalty just 47 seconds into regulation. While it didn’t end up resulting in any offense for the Huskies originally, the Minutemen gave their opponents another chance two minutes after their first penalty kill ended, this time thanks to an interference call on Eric Faith with 14:23 on the clock. Once again Northeastern was kept off the board on the advantage, as UMass killed it off with little difficulty.
Coming off their second successful penalty kill, the Minutemen continued to give up puck possession to Northeastern. And then they gave up another power play, with 11:16 left to play in the first after an interference call on senior forward Josh Nodler.
All it took was a third chance on the man advantage for Northeastern to get on the board.
The first power-play unit was able to set up the cycle, drawing the UMass defenders slightly further out into the zone which allowed sophomore forward Justin Hryckowian to set up right at the doorstep.
Fellow sophomore Jack Hughes found Hryckowian from his spot at the left faceoff dot with a quick pass to the top of the blue paint. Hryckowian then neatly put the puck onto his backhand, and fed it between junior netminder Cole Brady’s pads for the 1-0 Huskies’ lead.
For a power play that has seemingly been waiting to start clicking again, it was a huge weight off the Northeastern shoulders. Coming into Friday’s game, they had scored just once over their last 25 attempts dating back to Jan. 20.
Chippiness continued on both sides after the goal, as freshman forward Cam Lund lost both of his gloves while deep in the UMass zone. While there was no penalty on the play, both teams maintained the physicality, leading to senior forward Matt DeMelis taking a holding penalty with 7:35 left in the period.
The Minutemen would have gone onto their first power play in the game off the call on DeMelis, however sophomore forward Ryan Lautenbach came flying in after the whistle and leveled freshman defender Hunter McDonald. That sent Lautenbach into the box and put the play to 4-on-4 for two minutes.
The open ice with two less players on the surface worked out perfectly in UMass’ favor, as they were able to break out and start a rush toward junior Devon Levi’s net.
A perfect 2-on-1 play allowed Kiefiuk to wrap the backhanded pass around Northeastern freshman defender Vinny Borgesi. The puck found its way to the stick of junior defender Elliott McDermott, who roofed it top shelf over a sprawling Levi to tie the game at one with 6:08 left in the period.
A late slashing call against McDonald carried over from one period to the next, and once again the special teams went to work as play returned for the second.
All it took was 41 seconds before UMass took the lead, as the cycle on the advantage allowed senior forward Reed Lebster to set up shop between the two faceoff circles. Kiefiuk added his second assist of the night, after centering the puck for Lebster who rifled it into the goal for his eighth of the season.
After giving up the goal, it took a few minutes for the Huskies to get their skates back underneath them, as they allowed UMass to dominate puck possession. Luckily for them they had the red-hot Levi in the net behind them, who made some beautiful and crucial saves halfway through the period.
Off one of those such saves, the Huskies regained control of the puck and carried it down the ice thanks to a breakout pass from Borgesi. The receiver, sophomore forward Matt Choupani, drove to the net and fed it in front for linemate Liam Walsh. The graduate student stuffed it home to tie the game with 11:03 remaining.
Soon after, once again,McDonald took offense to some rough and tumble plays from the Minutemen after his defensive partner Jackson Dorrington was laid out in front of the UMass bench. With McDonald throwing his own hit along the boards, that allowed sophomore defender Scott Morrow to skate into the zone all alone and bury the breakaway shot for the lead.
The Huskies in the remainder of the period had some brief chances offensively on Brady, however they mainly were kept hemmed in the defensive end by the UMass offense. After falling behind in shots 112-6 in the first, the Minutemen put 12 of their own on Levi’s net in the second, leaving the two teams deadlocked at 18 apiece.
If whistles were the story in the first, they were surely swallowed in the second period. Either side could have gone off at multiple points during the 20 minutes of play — including the McDonald tackle at the blue line right before the Morrow goal and when McDonald was then held down in the corner by sophomore defender Taylor Makar late in the frame. Nothing came of either play however, and the breakaway goal from Morrow stood as the difference before the final period.
In the third, UMass did not allow the Huskies any space to get momentum going. They dictated play and kept Northeastern to the perimeter for the majority of the first eight minutes of play.
While juniors Sam Colangelo and Gunnarwolfe Fontaine had the best opportunities for the Huskies, key blocks in front by the Minutemen defense and a great save from Brady kept the equalizer off the board.
Overall it was a sloppy period, and while Northeastern drove to the net late and put three shots on goal in the dying 90 seconds, a timely clear to center ice by the Minutemen iced the game – securing them the win on senior night and their first victory in regulation since Feb. 3.
This isn’t one Northeastern will want to remember, with sloppy play and an inability to get their game moving at even strength. And with just three games remaining in the regular season, it is definitely not the time to be playing a game like the one they just did.
However they do still have those three games left in hand. If they are able to split with the Minutemen, that can help flip them up in the Pairwise ranking and just as important will help them nab three more points in conference play. It all comes down to the response.
The Huskies will try to snap their losing skid against UMass on Saturday, with the second half of the home-and-home set to be played at Matthews Arena. WRBB will have full coverage on-air from Khalin Kapoor and Jack Sinclair when the puck drops at 7:30 p.m.