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.

Hockey East Preview: Northeastern Huskies

Last Season: 27–11–1 (15–8–1 in HE, third place); Beanpot Champions; Hockey East Champions; lost to Cornell in NCAA Quarterfinals

Head Coach: Jim Madigan (ninth season)

Coaches’ Poll Projected Finish: Fourth

Losses

  • G Cayden Primeau
  • D Jeremy Davies
  • D Eric Williams
  • F Brandon Hawkins
  • F Lincoln Griffin
  • F Patrick Schule
  • F Liam Pecararo

Additions

  • G Connor Murphy
  • G Craig Pantano
  • D Jayden Struble
  • D Jeremie Bucheler
  • D Mike Kesselring
  • F Riley Hughes
  • F Aidan McDonough
  • F Brendan Van Riemsdyk

By Christian Skroce

“We’re the greatest team to wear the Husky logo, and that’s gonna be a feeling that’s going to last a lifetime.” Those were the final words junior forward Zach Solow spoke as he reflected on Northeastern’s 2018–19 season, and while they seemed bold at the time, it’s hard to argue them.

The Huskies finished the season with an overall record of 23–10–1, going 15–8–1 in Hockey East play to capture the third seed in the conference tournament. Along the way, Northeastern came up with massive wins, beating the number-one-ranked team in the country not once, but twice (St. Cloud State and UMass Amherst). The cherry atop the incredible regular season came during a little tournament in February, when the Huskies defeated Boston College 4–2 to capture their second consecutive Beanpot title, a feat the program hadn’t accomplished since 1985.

But the magic didn’t stop there for the Huskies. The team continued its momentum into the Hockey East tournament, rattling off three straight victories — including a 2–1 overtime win against Boston University — en route to another meeting with BC in the Hockey East Finals. Despite a strong showing from the Eagles, Northeastern came away with a 3–2 victory to win the program’s second conference title in four years. For the first time, Northeastern won the Beanpot and Hockey East Conference in the same season.

Coming off the high of winning their conference, the Huskies were awarded a second seed in the 2019 NCAA Hockey Tournament and a favorable matchup against third-seeded Cornell. Despite high hopes entering the matchup, the dream of reaching the program’s first Frozen Four came to a screeching halt as the Huskies suffered a 5–1 drubbing at the hands of Cornell’s massive skaters. Just like that, Northeastern’s historic season came to a depressing end, and while the success gave fans plenty to cheer for, the bad news continued into the offseason.

Shortly after the NCAA Tournament loss, sophomore netminder Cayden Primeau announced his intention to sign an entry-level contract with the Montreal Canadians, ending his career at Northeastern after just two seasons. Junior defenseman Jeremy Davies would follow his teammate to the NHL, signing an entry-level contract with the New Jersey Devils (Davies was traded to the Nashville Predators in a package for P.K. Subban). The Huskies also lost several key seniors to graduation: defensive captain Eric Williams and impressive forwards Lincoln Griffin, Patrick Schule, Liam Pecararo, and Brandon Hawkins.

While the losses were heavy, the Husky faithful should expect great things, especially on the defensive end. Despite losing Primeau and Davies, the Northeastern defense should improve upon last year’s impressive season. Newly appointed captain Ryan Shea leads a deep defensive unit filled with unrivaled intelligence and athleticism. Returning along with Shea are sophomores Jordan Harris and Julian Kislin, both of whom impressed during their freshman campaigns, often looking like seasoned veterans.

But the biggest storyline for this defense will be the incoming freshmen class, which adds much-needed size and skill to the team. Headlining the commits is Jayden Struble, a second-round pick from this year’s NHL Draft who finished first in almost every drill at the NHL Draft combine. Joining Struble on the blue line are freshmen Jeremie Bucheler and Mike Kesselring, two physical, 6’4” skaters.

The defensive unit’s depth should make the goalkeeper’s job much easier, which is good news for a team trying to replace Cayden Primeau. In the long term, Husky coaches are hoping incoming freshman Connor Murphy will be the answer between the pipes. To help Murphy’s transition, the Huskies also brought in fifth-year goalie Craig Pantano, whose 57 games of experience at Merrimack should prove valuable, especially early in the season.

Without question, the most volatile unit will be the offense. While the Huskies did not lose any elite talent up front, the team’s depth will come into question. Northeastern is returning several skaters hoping to take massive leaps this season, particularly junior forward Zach Solow and sophomore forward Tyler “Mr. Bright Lights” Madden, who impressed with 28 points last season.

To counteract the loss of depth, the Huskies are bringing in several freshmen skaters, most notably Riley Hughes and Aidan McDonough. As seventh- and sixth-round draft picks respectively, Hughes and McDonough will look to add skill and size to the second and third lines. In addition, Northeastern is bringing in graduate transfer Brendan Van Riemsdyk, a 6’3” forward from the University of New Hampshire, whose four years of Hockey East experience will be valuable for the young Husky forwards.

Bottom Line: While many might see this as a rebuilding year for the Huskies, revamping is the preferred word. With the team’s best recruiting class in years, Northeastern is continuing to build themselves into a contender. While the losses of Davies and Primeau will not be easy to overcome, they just mean that other players will have to step up, particularly guys like Matt Filipe and John Picking. If the senior forwards step up in a similar way to last year’s class, this team’s mix of young studs and veterans skaters should allow them to once again finish in the top three of Hockey East and make another run at the conference title.