BOSTON – Fans at Matthews arena may have left disappointed after a shootout loss on Alumni Night, but this matchup will go down as a tie in the record books — and a well-earned one at that for Northeastern.
“There’s good ties and bad ties. I thought tonight was a good tie,” said Northeastern head coach Jerry Keefe. “That’s a good team [in Quinnipiac], I thought it was a good college hockey game.”
The game was Northeastern’s first of 2024, as the team returned from the Kwik Trip Holiday Face-Off in which they defeated Minnesota Duluth in overtime before getting shut out by No. 6 Wisconsin. Saturday’s matchup with the third-ranked Quinnipiac Bobcats posed a tough matchup, as Quinnipiac ranked second in the nation in goals scored per game (4.4), along with the second fewest goals allowed per game (1.9).
Northeastern made a significant lineup change on offense; Matt Choupani joined the first line, while Gunnarwolfe Fontaine dropped back to the third line. Choupani’s presence was felt early and often for Northeastern — He recorded four of the Huskies’ nine shots on goal in the first period, and finished the night with nine shots on goal to lead the team.
“It’s been a tough first half for him with the injury, and it’s been kind of slow getting going for him,” said Keefe of Choupani. “But I thought tonight he really responded.”
Brett Edwards was also inserted into the lineup to play on the third line alongside Liam Walsh and Fontaine, after spending most of the season on the fourth line or as the extra skater.
“He’s hungry,” Keefe said of Edwards. “He shot the puck. He was responsible. He had a couple really good hits. He played a heavy, hard game, and that’s what we were looking for tonight.”
At 8:54 of the first period, defenseman Cooper Moore broke the deadlock for Quinnipiac, scoring his first goal of the season on a gorgeous shot following a rush from the speedy Colin Graf.
With 10 minutes remaining in the first period, Quinnipiac’s Iivari Rasanen took a high sticking penalty, and 67 seconds later Zach Tupker took a hooking penalty, giving Northeastern a 5-on-3 powerplay. Vinny Borgesi tied things up on the two man advantage on a pin point wrist shot after some great passing work from Dylan Hryckowian and Gunnarwolfe Fontaine.
The game went to the second period locked up at one, but at 2:51 of the second frame, Qunnipiac’s Victor Czerneckianair found a loose puck sitting behind a sprawled out Cameron Whitehead and jammed it home. The goal was reviewed for goaltender interference, but ultimately stood as called on the ice.
Midway through the second period, Dylan Hryckowian broke through the neutral zone guarding the puck with his body before dropping it for his center, Jack Williams. Williams’ wrist shot snuck under the arm of Vinny Duplessis, tying the game once again for Northeastern, and keeping Williams on his torrid scoring streak, as he now has nine goals in his last eight games.
Roughly six minutes later, following a tremendous pad save from Whitehead, Bobcats defenseman Charles Alexis Legault found the back of the net on a point shot that the Northeastern netminder never saw, giving Quinnipiac their third lead of the night. The Huskies would enter the third period down a goal, but leading in the shot department 25 to 21.
The game remained very evenly played through the first half of the third period. Quinnipiac showed their speed and dangerous ability on the rush, while Northeastern’s top three lines all were able to generate quality zone time.
With Northeastern on the penalty kill midway through the third period, it was the younger of the Hryckowian brothers, Dylan, who buried a breakaway shot past Duplessis following a phenomenal stretch pass from his elder brother, Justin. The short handed goal was just Dylan’s second score of the season, despite his nine assists. He also picked up two assists in Saturday’s contest.
“He’s been a little bit snake bit scoring goals,” said Keefe. “[But], he’s been around it a lot. He gets to the inside of the rink for a smaller guy and he’s dynamic. It was great to see him have a huge game.”
Minutes later, Quinnipiac appeared to regain the lead off of a Cooper Moore shot. For the second time of the night, the play was reviewed for goaltender interference, but this time it was called back. Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold would challenge the call after the review, sending the referees back to the monitor, but they would stick with their decision.
“I didn’t think the first [Quinnipiac score in the first period] that we challenged was a goal,” said Keefe. Of the second review of the night, Keefe said, “I thought he was clearly in the crease and that’s going to affect your goaltender trying to make a save.
The tie game would last through to the end of regulation. In overtime, both teams traded chances, with the closest call coming off the stick of Justin Hryckowian. Hryckowian stripped Davis Pennington of the puck, dangled around Colin Graf, and then slid the puck through the five hole of Vinny Duplessis, before Graf managed to knock the puck off the goal line. It was one of a number of quality chances for the Huskies to win it in overtime.
Overtime would end scoreless, sending the game to a shootout, which had zero real implications on Pairwise or either team’s record. After three shots apiece, Quinnipiac’s Travis Treloar and Northeastern’s Justin Hryckowian had the only goals. Sam Lipkin would score in the following round, and Duplessis’ save on Cam Lund gave the Bobcats the superficial victory.
“It’s still not coming easy for us. But it’s not supposed to,” said Keefe.”I know our guys are disappointed because of the shootout, but when they wake up tomorrow [they’ll] realize we played a good team. We played a good game. We had a lot of chances in that game and you want to take that into Tuesday night.”
They will have that opportunity in a crucial matchup against number two ranked Boston University as they head to Commonwealth Avenue. Against Quinnipiac, they once again proved that they have what it takes to compete with the very best in the country.
“We’re right there,” said Keefe. “I think we could use a little more swagger. But you’ve got to earn that swagger.”