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For the third straight week, Northeastern lost its Friday night contest of a two-game weekend series — its last of the year. On Senior Night and its last home game of the regular season, the team dropped 4-3 to the UConn Huskies in a heartbreaking defeat.

The loss especially stings for the missed opportunity at six points to boost Northeastern’s place in the league standings, looking ahead to playoffs in the coming weeks. The respective Husky squads came into Friday’s game sitting three points apart in Hockey East, and are now in a three-way tie with Vermont for seventh place at 26 points.

The visitors came out with more jump to start the first period and claimed the lead early with a goal by UConn senior forward Nick Capone. Shot from the top of the left circle, the puck was screened from freshman goaltender Cameron Whitehead and found the back of the net at 1:20 for a 1-0 lead.

But Northeastern didn’t waver and stuck to its systems, shown by a shot count of 5-3 after the opening ten minutes. It saw the first special teams action of the match roughly nine minutes in and set up for some good looks, but the man-advantage worked better in UConn’s favor than that of NU’s.

After killing off the slashing minor, UConn was able to pick off a defensive turnover by NU and net a second goal at 15:07. Off a give-and-go by UConn Ryan Tattle, fellow sophomore forward and 15th overall 2023 NHL draft pick Matthew Wood netted his first since Jan. 27 for a 2-0 lead.

UConn’s scoring chances were of a higher caliber for period one, but Northeastern still went into first intermission tied at ten shots on goal. Although NU has proven itself to be a third period team, it’s worth noting that the team is 0-3 in its last three matchups — this game included — when trailing by two going into the second period.

“I thought we were playing really well, but it’s just chasing the game,” said NU head coach Jerry Keefe postgame. “It seemed like every time we made a mistake, [it] was in the back of their net — and we didn’t make a lot of them.”

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The UConn Huskies continued to take charge of the script when handed its first power play 0:10 in. Northeastern’s 83.1% PK got to work and allowed only two SOG, but minutes later, Wood scored Connecticut’s third unanswered goal at 4:40 — his second of the night — to make the game 3-0.

When asked about the issues defensively, Keefe attributed them to a couple of breakdowns.

“Second goal we got beat off the puck,” said Keefe. “And the third one, we looked a little confused on our back check … They come back from a 2-on-1 and cash in.”

Northeastern stayed even-keeled in the shot column despite the three-goal deficit. It wasn’t until its second man-advantage midway through regulation that the team broke through.

With divine patience, sophomore defender Vinny Borgesi waited for the passing lane to dish sophomore forward Jack Williams his classic one-timer, and he delivered. The PPG — William’s 17th goal of the season — put NU on the board at 10:41 for a score of 3-1.

The first notch propelled NU to evidently cleaner offensive rushes and more pucks on net. A third 5-on-4 opportunity put Northeastern ahead in shots at 22-17 with three minutes left of the middle frame, but came through nonetheless with a succeeding even-strength goal.

Sophomore defenseman Jackson Dorrington sent the initial centering feed and the Hryckowian brothers drove to the net, with junior forward Justin coming out with the tally at 19:07. The late goal was the captain’s 10th on the year, putting NU in a comfortable one-goal hole headed into period three at 3-2.

In its notorious third period grind, Northeastern came out eager — with a close chance by Williams robbed by UConn goaltender Arsenii Sergeev just 1:11 in.

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Continuing the pattern of momentum-building for the shorthanded team, NU killed two penalties before finding the equalizer at 10:32. Sophomore defender Hunter McDonald and freshman forward Dylan Hryckowian worked the puck back to the high slot for Borgesi to fire home with his 4th of the season.

In an unfortunate sequence of events succeeding for NU, multiple close calls for its first lead are met by UConn reclaiming its own. With his third goal on the night and 11th of the season, Wood slid the puck five-hole off a 2-on-1 to put UConn back on top with five minutes left in regulation.

Northeastern was given a fifth and final power play opportunity with 59 seconds remaining, but it wasn’t enough to push overtime. Led by Wood’s hat trick and Sergeev’s 35 saves, UConn skated away with the 4-3 road win.

“We’re going to see that we did a lot of good things — probably had the better game, the better chances,” said Keefe. “But still, it’s a really disappointing loss … Tomorrow’s a huge game and we [have] to build off the things that we did well.”

Looking at three losses of the last five games after a season-high six-game win streak — three of which being upsets of top-ten teams in the country — it’s unsettling to think that Northeastern could be getting back to its old ways of frequently giving up early leads and trying to beat the final buzzer to claw back at comeback victories.

However, the Huskies have two more chances in the regular season to finish 17-15-2 at most and will need to get back to the little things in order to do so. 

Northeastern will look to split the UConn series tonight at the Toscano Family Ice Forum in Storrs, CT. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m.