Men’s Hockey Swept by Vermont

By Jack Sinclair

BURLINGTON, VT — Every season, every team, no matter the sport, goes through ups and downs. The 2007 Patriots rode high for 18 games, then fell in the Super Bowl. The 73–9 Golden State Warriors’ high lasted until the last three games of the NBA finals.

The 2019–20 Northeastern men’s hockey team is no different. They began the season with five straight wins, then laid some eggs, like the 6–3 loss on home ice to UMass where the Huskies allowed six unanswered goals. The team went on to experience one of the highest highs possible in college hockey, with an epic comeback win in the Beanpot Final.

The Huskies entered tonight’s match in Burlington, Vermont riding the lowest of lows. A tough loss at home to Boston College, followed by the Huskies’ worst loss since 1992 — a 10-1 thrashing at the hands of BC — was the prelude for what would happen Friday in Burlington. A 4–2 loss to Vermont, the Catamounts’ first conference win this season, may be the most embarrassing loss of this unholy trinity. 

Despite this, the Huskies had an opportunity on Saturday. The mark of a truly great team is not how high their highest point is, but how well they bounce back from their lowest of lows.

The Huskies wasted no time in rebounding from their previous efforts, coming right out of the gates with an energy that had been missing as of late. With Grant Jozefek and Tyler Madden sitting out, forwards Neil Shea, John Picking, and Brendan Van Riemsdyk performed admirably, flying to every loose puck and putting loads of pressure on the forward and back check. Northeastern dominated the first 20 minutes, outshooting Vermont 12–7. Vermont netminder Stefano Lekkas was more than up to the task, as he stopped all 12 of the Huskies’ efforts.

The Huskies carried their first-period momentum into the second. Just under two minutes into the frame, a Riley Hughes pass down the boards found a surging Matt Filipe who, as he has several times, took his space behind Vermont goal and tucked away a lovely wraparound shot, giving the Huskies a much-needed lead.

Had the Huskies exorcised their second-period demons? Could we finally look away from the barn fire of the past three games to the greener pastures of victories to come?

No, they had not. And no, we couldn’t.

Less than a minute later, Vermont forgot they were a one-conference-win team playing the reigning Hockey East champions, and fought through the neutral zone into the Huskies’ end. The Catamounts forced Craig Pantano out of his crease to make a tough save and, in the defensive disarray, poked the puck into the empty net. Whether the failed puck clearance was due to poor sticks on Northeastern’s part or excellent ones by Vermont is almost beside the point. Gutterson Fieldhouse erupted, and Junior Bryce Misley skated away to celebrate. 

The goal took all the wind out of the Huskies’ sail, and Vermont took advantage by pressing up the ice. The Catamounts had a couple of dangerously close chances, but Pantano held fast, undeterred by the change of momentum. The Northeastern defense is known for extremely disciplined and steady sticks when defending five-on-five situations, but this time they were wild, allowing the Catamounts to carry the puck through the Northeastern defensive zone with little-to-no resistance.

As the second period continued, the Huskies struggled to pass the puck tape to tape, with overpassing and underpassing resulting in several neutral zone turnovers. A costly turnover only a few minutes after the first Vermont goal resulted in a loose puck in the slot. Once again, the Huskies couldn’t clear the puck away from danger, and Vermont snuck a point-blank shot between the legs of Pantano to take a 2–1 lead.

The Huskies’ play did not improve from there. The Huskies saw barely any offensive zone time, and when they did, they were quick to turn the puck over and give Vermont loads of space to skate. The period couldn’t have ended soon enough, and it ended with the opposite result that the end of the first period would have indicated. Northeastern was outshot 11–4. 

The final 20 minutes of the game were a complete shot in the dark. Which Huskies team would we see? The aggressive, fast-paced team that executed with precision in the first period, or the sluggish, uninspiring team from the second?

Northeastern captain Ryan Shea came out of the locker room and tried desperately to get something started. He skated around the Vermont goal three times, looking for any sort of opening. However, his teammates were not on the same page as him. The Huskies that weren’t handling the puck looked look statues. No one moved to create a shooting lane for Shea, or to get open and cycle the puck around. Shea eventually found someone to pass it to — no doubt he was dizzy from circling the net so much — and there were a few opportunities, but Lekkas stood on his head between the pipes and made several ridiculous saves.

When Vermont regained the puck, the most glaring flaw in the Huskies game became apparent: neutral zone defense. To call the it swiss cheese is an insult to the dairy product. Whether it was a single Catamount carrying the puck towards the Husky zone or an even-man rush after a lengthy buildup on the Vermont end, the Huskies couldn’t challenge.

As a result, Pantano would decide the game. Vermont had free passage into his zone, and shots resulting from the biblical parting of the Northeastern back check would need to be covered up to prevent an unlucky rebound from winding up in the back of the net. Pantano finished with 24 saves, and for most of the night he covered the puck or deflected it away.

But his luck ran out when a shot bounced off his pad and stayed in the crease. Vermont pounced on the gift like an excited kid on Christmas morning and potted their third goal of the game. From then on, Vermont stopped trying to score, opting to pin the puck on the boards and let the clock wind down. This strategy change gave Northeastern a few glimpses at Lekkas, but Hockey East’s all-time saves leader flashed his glove and prevented all of Northeastern’s efforts. 

As the clock neared triple zeroes and the reality of defeat set into the heavy Husky hearts, the extracurriculars began. Soon after Pantano gave way to an extra skater, Zach Solow got into a shoving match with a few Vermont defensemen. A gnarly cross check by Solow well after the whistle earned him a 10-minute game misconduct, and Alex Mella wound up in the box. This was an ugly end to an ugly 40 minutes of hockey, and in a way it felt fitting. The clock struck zero, and the Huskies had been swept. 

After the game, Jim Madigan praised the Huskies’ increased effort in comparison to their previous games. He chalked up the lack of execution to fatigue, saying that “running 10 forwards and going back to back caught up to us.” The fatigue was clear, as the offensive shifts were definitely shorter than usual without forwards Tyler Madden and Grant Jozefek in the lineup.

“We didn’t have quite enough in the tank, to be frank” said Madigan, adding that returning to Boston would provide an ample opportunity to “settle in, get a good week of practice in, and get ready for BU on Friday.”

When asked how the Huskies could return to their winning ways, Madigan expressed his confidence in his players’ ability to bounce back from the low point of their season, “knowing next weekend is the last weekend of the season if we don’t play well.”

“We have got enough guys who have played meaningful games and don’t want [the season] to end,” he continued, indicating that he expects the older players to step up and lead. The Huskies have a lot of experience on their roster, but they also have a lot of fresh faces. The guidance of veterans like Solow, Shea, Filipe, and Van Riemsdyk, many of whom have been on this Northeastern team for several years, will be essential in salvaging the season.

This loss, and a win by Providence over Maine, dropped the Huskies to eighth in Hockey East, the lowest playoff seed. New Hampshire is just one point behind Northeastern, so the Huskies need to hope for a BC sweep of the Wildcats or sweep Boston University themselves if they want to keep their tournament hopes alive. In the national pairwise rankings, the Huskies fell even further. They took the ice at 14th in the national polls, and left in 17th

The Huskies make a much-needed return to Matthews Arena this Friday for the first game of the season’s final home-and-home series. It is also the final regular-season game at Matthews Arena, and will include senior night celebrations honoring the team’s graduating seniors. Matt Neiser and Adam Doucette will call the game, with coverage beginning at 6:45 PM EST.

Men’s Hockey Tops Harvard to Open Beanpot

By Matt Neiser

BOSTON — Finally, the day college hockey fans in Massachusetts have waited for since the season started in October. The Beanpot is back for its 68th iteration, and the two-time defending champion Northeastern men’s hockey team kicked the festivities off on Monday against the Harvard Crimson in the early game.

Harvard came into the game with the third-best offense in the nation at 3.9 goals per game, and fresh off an eight-goal performance in a win against Union Friday. Unperturbed, the Northeastern defense held strong, allowing just one goal on the night. Adding three of their own on offense, the Huskies skated away with a 3–1 victory to advance to next week’s championship game for the third year in a row.

On Monday, the Huskies will face the Boston University Terriers, who outlasted Boston College in a double-overtime thriller. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 PM EST but may start later if the consolation game goes long. Follow @wrbbsports on Twitter to stay up to date on any delays. Once again, Christian Skroce, Matt Neiser, and Dale Desantis will be on the call.

Special teams were bound to be a factor in this one, with the Crimson boasting the best power play in the nation (.307) and the Huskies countering with the fourth-best penalty kill (.892). That showed early when Harvard drew a tripping call on Northeastern defenseman Jordan Harris. Jack Drury converted on the ensuing man advantage, taking a feed from Nick Abruzzese and flipping it past Husky netminder Craig Pantano just five minutes into the game.

Northeastern fought back on a power play of their own later in the period, needing just 22 seconds from the time of the whistle to put the puck into the Crimson net. Senior captain Ryan Shea blasted a one-timer at the goal off a feed from Tyler Madden, and Zach Solow positioned himself in the perfect spot to redirect the drive past Mitchell Gibson.

Both teams struggled to find their footing out of the gate in the second period, trading possessions without many shots. After a failed power play earlier in the frame, the Huskies once again found themselves on the five-on-four after Harvard’s Austin Wong was called for an elbowing minor. The PP technically yielded no goal, but the situation it created allowed Northeastern to jump out in front.

Just as the minor expired, freshman Riley Hughes helped the puck along to Grant Jozefek in the right corner of the Crimson zone. Seeing this develop, grad transfer Brendan van Riemsdyk drifted his way in front of the opposing net. Jozefek rewarded him for the move, feeding a perfect pass to his teammate who gladly redirected into the net for his second goal of the season.

The Huskies were forced to defend that lead under dire circumstances to start the third period, as a cross-checking penalty 15 seconds in — following a tripping call as time expired in the previous frame — put Harvard on a five-on-three power play for nearly two minutes. The stellar Northeastern PK unit weathered the storm with aplomb, combining a series of blocked passes with three essential saves from Pantano to ward off the top-ranked Crimson power play squad.

“I think killing penalties gives us more motivation than scoring a power play goal,” Shea said. “Our compete level just went up five notches once that happened.”

Husky head coach Jim Madigan emphasized the importance of that kill after the game: “It really gave us momentum. If there’s a turning point in the game, it’s that point obviously.”

Pantano was immense throughout the final 20 minutes, saving all 14 shots he faced to hold the Huskies in front. The Merrimack graduate transfer tallied 27 saves on the night, allowing just one goal against a team that averaged almost four scored per game coming in.

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“I thought [Pantano] was the difference in the game. He made a lot of key stops for us . . . in this tournament you need great goaltending, and we got that here tonight,” said Madigan.

In desperate search of a late equalizer, Harvard pulled Mitchell with just over two minutes to play. Matt DeMelis almost notched an empty netter soon after, but his backhand attempt went wide. The Crimson pressed back into the Husky zone, but Shea wrestled the puck away and cleared it the length of the ice, slotting it perfectly into the vacant goal to seal the Husky victory.

“This is a big, emotional game for all our guys; any time you can get a win in this tournament, in this venue, it’s special . . . that was a real good hockey club we just played,” explained Madigan. “We had a bend, don’t break mentality and it served us well.”

Men’s Hockey Falls to UMass, Extends Skid to Three Games

Photo by Sarah Olender

By Matt Cunha

AMHERST, MA — Though Northeastern fought its way out of a 2–0 hole, they ultimately succumbed to the UMass Minutemen 4–2 Saturday night at Matthews Arena.

The Minutemen (6–1–0, 2–1–0 HEA) dominated the first period with a 13–4 shot advantage. It appeared as though Northeastern would emerge unscathed.

“We wanted to play a smart, close-checking road game,” said Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan. “We did that in the first period.”

That was until a bad turnover led to a breakaway for UMass’ John Leonard. With just under 10 seconds left in the period, his goal gave the Minutemen the momentum. 

The momentum stuck around in the second period. Eight minutes in, UMass freshman Jeremy Davidson notched his first collegiate goal on a rebound as he beat a Northeastern defender to the puck.

Photo by Sarah Olender

Things looked bleak until Tyler Madden drew a penalty. On the ensuing power play, he assisted freshman Aidan McDonough’s first collegiate goal.

Before the goal, Northeastern’s Zach Solow took an elbow to the head from Matthew Kessel. Kessel’s ejection gave Northeastern five minutes of power-play time after the goal, but the Huskies couldn’t convert their chances. The power play was cut short when Brendan Van Riemsdyk took a slashing penalty.

But the second period ended on a high note. With just seven seconds remaining, Husky forward John Picking came away with a pass from Matt Filipe and notched a shorthanded goal. The game was tied 2–2 entering the third.

Photo by Sarah Olender

The Minutemen reasserted themselves just two minutes into the final period. Leonard zig-zagged through the defense and netted his second goal of the game to give UMass a lead it wouldn’t relinquish. Northeastern spent much of the period defending in their zone. They shot just four times while the Minutemen racked up 20 shots on Northeastern goalie Craig Pantano.

“At the end of the day, we just have to be heavier over pucks,” said Madigan.  “We lost too many puck battles to them, and when you lose battles along the walls and in front of the net you usually lose the game, and that’s what happened.”

With under a minute remaining, after Northeastern pulled Pantano in a last-ditch effort to tie the game, UMass’ Mitchell Chaffe grabbed a rebound and cleared it across the full length of the ice into the empty net.

“We knew they were gonna push hard in the third,” Madigan. “We didn’t create enough offense for ourselves in the third to give ourselves a chance to win.”

Photo by Sarah Olender

Madigan confirmed after the game that forward Grant Jozefek missed tonight’s game due to a concussion sustained during yesterday’s game. Madigan also said a defenseman was injured early in the second period, and while he didn’t confirm who, Jayden Struble was the only blueliner who didn’t play in the third period.

The weekend sweep dropped Northeastern to 4–3–1 (1–2–0 HEA) and extended the team’s skid to three games. They will try to bounce back with a home-and-home against the Merrimack Warriors (1–6–0, 0–2–0 HEA) next weekend. The first game is at Merrimack Friday at 7 PM.

Men’s Hockey Falls to UMass

Photo by Sarah Olender

By Matt Neiser

BOSTON — Returning from Minnesota after a two-game set against St. Cloud State last weekend, the No. 10 Northeastern men’s hockey team hosted the No. 3 UMass Minutemen at Matthews Arena for the second time this season. The Huskies jumped out to an early lead with a pair of first-period goals, but five unanswered goals from the Minutemen propelled UMass to a 6–3 win.

Northeastern opened the game on the front foot, taking it to the Minutemen and controlling the play offensively. Before long, their efforts paid off, as grad transfer Brendan van Riemsdyk deflected a pass from Jordan Harris into the back of the net just three minutes into the game. Senior Grant Jozefek doubled Northeastern’s lead a few minutes later, taking the puck into the zone himself on a two-on-one break and sniping a shot past UMass’ Filip Lindberg.

Photo by Sarah Olender

The Minutemen snagged one back with less than three minutes to go in the first period. Bobby Trivigno collected an errant pass from a Husky defenseman and slid a shot by Craig Pantano, halving the Northeastern lead.

A penalty by freshman Julian Kislin with five seconds left in the first period gave UMass a power play to start the second. A cross-check from Jeremie Bucheler 15 seconds into the frame turned it into a five-on-three, and the Minutemen wasted no time evening the game at 2–2. The visiting team scored three more goals in the period, making it five unanswered goals since the Huskies’ pair early in the first frame.

Photo by Sarah Olender

A slick goal from reigning Pro Ambitions Rookie of the Week T.J. Walsh early in the final frame gave Northeastern a brief spark, but their momentum went no further. A late empty-netter from the Minutemen extended their lead to 6–3 and put the game out of reach.

Photo by Sarah Olender

Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan pulled Pantano from the game after two periods, handing freshman Connor Murphy the reigns for the final 20 minutes. Of the change, Madigan said, “I didn’t think Craig had a lot of help back there. You try and create a little spurt, see if you can get a little momentum.” Murphy saved both of the shots he faced while between the pipes.

Photo by Sarah Olender

After the game, Madigan implored the team to be more consistent. “Every night you gotta come to play, and every shift, every puck is important. As a group we’re still trying to understand that . . . You gotta play with urgency all the time, and we didn’t play with enough urgency.”

The Huskies will seek revenge tomorrow when the two teams will face off again on Saturday in Amherst, Massachusetts. Puck drop is scheduled for 8 PM, with Matt Neiser and Matt Cunha on the call.

Men’s Hockey Upsets No. 4 UMass

Photo by Sarah Olender

By Dale Desantis

BOSTON — Tuesday night’s showdown between the Northeastern Huskies and the UMass Minutemen was a chippy, defensive affair. The teams combined for 15 penalties, then failed to score on every one of the resulting power plays.

The Huskies triumphed in their home opener, topping the fourth-ranked Minutemen 3–1 behind the efforts of their freshmen and their grad transfer goalie. The Huskies have won their first three games and limited their opponents to a single goal in each one.

The game was scoreless well into the second period before the Huskies struck. With 9:23 remaining, freshman forward Matt DeMelis converted a wrister over the head of UMass goalie Matt Murray. The decisive goal opened play for both teams in what had been a stagnant offensive game.

Photo by Sarah Olender

The Huskies added to their lead later in the period after UMass defender Philip Lagunov was whistled for slashing Northeastern’s Jordan Harris on a two-on-one breakaway. The freshman defender took advantage of the penalty shot, confidently bearing down on Murray and flicking the puck over his right shoulder. It was Harris’ second goal of the young season.

Photo by Sarah Olender

The third period was electric. Just as the Northeastern defense looked unassailable, UMass freshman Matt Kessel drove a dagger from the blue line past Northeastern goalie Craig Pantano to make the score 2–1. A dogfight ensued, culminating in a five-minute spearing penalty against Northeastern’s Brendan Van Reimsdyk with three minutes to play. The Husky defense held fast, and Zach Solow notched an empty-net insurance goal with 12 seconds to play.

Pantano shone brightest, steering 34 shots away from the net and reassuring those who doubted the Huskies’ depth in goal before the season. He looked comfortable anchoring a team that heavily featured two freshman defenders in Mike Kesselring and Jeremie Bucheler.

“He gives you calmness, poise, and leadership,” Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan said of Pantano. “He’s been in every building and has won.”

Photo by Sarah Olender

Tune in Sunday at 3 PM when the Huskies take on Holy Cross at Matthews Arena. Matt Cuhna and Adam Doucette will be on the call.