Jackson Goodman/WRBB Sports

BOSTON — After getting away from its game Friday, dropping 4-2 to last-place UMass Lowell on the road, Northeastern responded with a dominant victory Saturday in Matthews Arena.

As the first game after the Huskies secured its historic 71st Beanpot title, it’s reasonable to take Friday’s loss with a grain of salt. Post-game, head coach Jerry Keefe had expressed that the team wasn’t ready to play and it was difficult to climb out of a two-goal deficit when trailing early on.

However, Northeastern bounced back Saturday to send the River Hawks home with nothing to show for it, splitting the home-and-home series with four goals behind freshman goaltender Cameron Whitehead’s stellar second career shutout.

Although the Huskies came out with better jump in the first period compared to Friday, it was a standstill through the first twenty minutes. While the offense was lacking with only five SOG, Northeastern’s D-core stepped up and prevented UML from capitalizing on any of its 16 SOG.

The first special teams action of the contest came fourteen minutes in when freshman winger Dylan Hryckowian was called for interference. Yet UMass Lowell’s mere 14.3% power play was no match for Northeastern’s 80.3% penalty kill, and only netted two shots on goal on the man-advantage.

The teams headed into first intermission with a bare scoreboard, but this was already an improvement for Northeastern — playing neck-and-neck with a team that won the majority of neutral zone battles and forced NU to the outside with physicality and speed. Whitehead was the clear difference maker in keeping the Huskies alive and even-keeled to have another shot at taking the lead in period two.

“I actually liked the fact that in the first period we were getting outshot, but we weren’t giving up a lot either,” said Keefe. “We knew it was going to be a grind …We had to be okay with a low scoring game.”

The Huskies stepped out for the middle frame with a new sense of urgency and eagerness to get the go-ahead goal. Northeastern’s 200-foot game was noticeably improved as they got an additional nine pucks on net by mid-game and possession across all three zones leaned more in their corner.

Although the Huskies failed to score on their first 5-on-4 opportunity, it provided a much needed momentum shift that they immediately took advantage of.

Five seconds after UML Jake Stella was ejected from the penalty box for a high sticking call, “Mr. Beanpot” came knocking on the doorstep. 

For his eighth goal of the season, senior forward Gunnarwolfe Fontaine ripped the puck just under the crossbar and put the Huskies on the scoresheet with three minutes remaining in the frame.

“He had a couple of good chances tonight that didn’t go in for him, but he’s feeling it right now,” said Keefe of the Nashville Predators 2020 draft pick. “It was good for him to respond, and come out and get a huge goal for us.”

Another interference minor on Northeastern handed UML a late opportunity to tie up before second intermission, but the Huskies didn’t waiver and held onto the one-goal lead.

Flipping the script back in its favor, NU settled into its game in period two: leading SOG 15-14 and tallying first on the scoreboard with a bullet by Fontaine. By this point, the Huskies just needed a strong third frame to solidify the series split — a manageable task for a dubbed “third period team,” even with a one-goal deficit.

“For us, it’s just sticking to a game plan — not straying away from how we play the game,” said sophomore forward Jack Williams. “Given a chance to win games going into the third period is huge for us because we know that, with our plan, we can win going down the stretch.”

Jackson Goodman/WRBB Sports

Expecting UMass Lowell to come out hot for the equalizer in the final frame, Northeastern doubled its lead only two minutes in.

Generated from a wraparound attempt by Dylan Hryckowian, the goal presented itself in an unfortunate bounce for UML off a skate and into the crease where graduate forward Alex Campbell was waiting for the tip-in. Campbell’s 16th goal of the season gave the Huskies an early 2-0 lead and boosted confidence to ride out.

Midway through the period, UML led shots 34-23 and continued to test Whitehead for that first goal. Matching minors at 11:24 opened the door for 4-on-4 play, and Northeastern came out on top yet again with a third unanswered goal.

For his second assist of the night, sophomore forward Cam Lund fed the puck for linemate Williams to snap top-shelf at 12:28 for a 3-0 game and his team-high tie 16th goal of the year.

“Just a great play by [Lund] there,” said Williams. “Using his speed to work back to a puck and [he] makes a great play with his stick on it. The skill takes over from there, but it starts with [Lund] hunting back. Great play by him.”

Nearing the closing minutes of regulation, Northeastern found itself in a sticky 6-on-4 disadvantage when sophomore defender Vinny Borgesi was in the box for slashing and UML pulled senior goaltender Henry Welsch for the extra attacker.

Yet within seven seconds, the puck found the back of UML’s empty net — officially securing the Huskies’ 4-0 victory. For his first goal since Nov. 25th against RPI, graduate defenseman Pito Walton notched the empty netter and it was game over.

Chiara Jurczak/WRBB Sports

With a career-high 42 saves on the night, Whitehead adds a second collegiate shutout to his recent accolades of Hockey East Goaltender of the Week and Eberly Award honor at the Beanpot.

“It feels really good,” said Whitehead. “I’m 2-for-2 with my parents in the building, so I think they might have to start coming to more games.”

The Huskies will take on No. 7 Maine in an away series next weekend, just having topped them 6-3 three weeks prior at home. It will take equal efforts from the top-six through the bottom-four to overcome both battles, while sticking to the game plan through and through.

Looking ahead to the conference tournament, the matches are viable opportunities for Northeastern to grab as many as six points to boost its rankings and make a spot in the NCAAs all the more possible.

The Huskies will face off against the Maine Black Bears Friday in Alfond Arena. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m.