Men’s Hockey Sweeps UMass Lowell

By Matt Neiser

BOSTON — Hockey East is the closest it’s ever been this late in the season. Coming into Saturday night, three points separated second and ninth place. Northeastern sat at the low end of that range, in a three-way tie for seventh with 19 points. UMass Lowell, with 22, was atop the scrum — tied with Boston College for second place. With the top eight teams making the playoffs in Hockey East, every point is essential for making the playoffs and earning a higher seed.

“My tenure with this league goes back to the first year,” said Husky head coach Jim Madigan. “I was a senior in that first year of Hockey East in 84–85. I’ve got a lot of history with this league and I’ve never seen it this bunched up . . . It’s going to be a dogfight all the way to the end.”

Northeastern clearly understood the importance of this series. Despite missing key players, the Huskies scrapped their way to a 2–1 win over Lowell on Saturday night at Matthews Arena, completing the season sweep of the Riverhawks after defeating them in Lowell the night before.

Northeastern (17–8–3, 10–7–1 HEA) was missing a few major pieces. Jayden Struble is out for the season after sustaining a lower-body injury against Maine on February 7. Matt Filipe missed his third-straight game and is currently day-to-day. Tyler Madden, the Huskies’ star forward and Hobey Baker hopeful, picked up an injury late in Friday’s game. 

Madigan said after tonight’s game that Madden would be evaluated on Monday and the team would have a return timeline after that. However, Jeff Cox of New England Hockey Journal reported that Madden could miss 4–6 weeks with a fractured finger. That’s just a rumor, of course, but it’s worth noting until the team gives more info.

The game itself was much less intriguing than its circumstances. Full of sloppy passes and neutral zone battles, it seemed like neither team wanted to snag the points up for grabs. The Huskies came out of the gates looking disheveled, misplacing passes and struggling to clear their zone.

The River Hawks’ (15–9–5, 9–6–4 HEA) opening goal was borne out of a defensive miscommunication as the Huskies scrambled to find their footing. Carl Berglund made his way into the Husky zone, dropping it off for the trailing Reid Stefanson. Having just lost his stick in a collision at center ice, Jordan Harris was out of his normal defensive position. Stefanson took advantage, finding acres of space on the left side of the zone to step in close and beat Husky goaltender Craig Pantano. 

Much like in their Beanpot victory against Boston University on Monday, the Huskies changed their tune in a big way in the second frame. Whatever was said in the locker room during the break worked, as Northeastern played with more energy, finishing checks and moving the puck around much more cleanly.

That clean, beautiful puck movement paved the way for the Huskies’ second-period equalizer. Starting with Matt Thomson, the puck touched all five skaters’ tapes on its trip around the Lowell zone. The fifth skater was freshman Mike Kesselring, who blasted a one-timer at the opposing net off a feed from Jordan Harris to beat a screened Tyler Wall.

The two sides battled into the third period; neither team found paydirt for the first half of the frame. Finally, with 10:34 remaining, Northeastern broke the deadlock. Remember how their first goal involved crisp passing and a clear shot? Their second was about as far in the other direction as you can go. Instead of trying to describe what happened, we’ll just let you watch the replay:

Not nearly as pretty as the first, but they all count for one point in the end.

As the clock ticked down, the game became more and more frenetic. At one point, a loose puck in front of the Husky net squirted out to an open Lowell skater on the left side of the crease. Pantano, out of position on the right side, flung his leg out at the last second to make an incredible kick save and keep the Huskies on top.

Pantano, when asked about his great play as of late (40 saves in the Beanpot and a shutout win the night before), said, “I think it has to do with the play in front of me right now. They’ve been letting me see shots, and they’ve been giving me the easy plays. I think we’ve been dialing in our defensive game, and that’s helped me too.”

“Other than adjusting our lines, we didn’t change our game plan,” Madigan said of the injured players. “We didn’t really talk much about Tyler [Madden] not being in the lineup tonight . . . Guys stepped up, which is what you need and expect.

“The lines are going to be shuffled. We might as [well] not even put out a lineup chart,” he said to laughter from himself and the gathered media. “The lines are going to be shuffled for the rest of the year. I think you guys got a lineup chart; there’s 11 forwards and 11 doesn’t go equally, at least in my math. It’s going to be that way for the rest of the year.”

The Huskies will look to build off these wins heading into a huge matchup next weekend against Boston College. The home-and-home will kick off on Thursday at Matthews Arena, with Christian Skroce and Matt Neiser on the call for WRBB. Pregame coverage will commence at 6:45 PM EST.

Third-Period Comeback Falls Short as UNH Tops Men’s Hockey in OT

By Matt Neiser

DURHAM, New Hampshire — “That effort tonight was unacceptable.”

A clearly irritated Jim Madigan was none too happy with his team postgame, and for good reason. His Northeastern men’s hockey squad had just finished a Hockey East duel with New Hampshire in Durham, and suffice to say it certainly wasn’t their best performance of the season. Despite rallying to tie the game twice in the third period, the Huskies could not cap off the comeback as the Wildcats scored in overtime to claim a 5–4 victory.

Right from the start, Northeastern (13–6–2, 7–5–1 HEA) looked off their game. New Hampshire (11–8–1, 5–5–0 HEA) outplayed the away squad throughout the first period, outshooting them 11–6. The Huskies almost escaped the period unscathed, but a Wildcats goal with less than three minutes to go ensured that the better team went into the intermission with the lead. A flubbed power play one-timer from a teammate fell right to the feet of Eric MacAdams, who slotted home the puck to open the scoring.

If the energy in the first period was a little weird, the energy in the second was downright strange. The middle frame included eight penalties, four for each side, keeping either team from getting into any real rhythm. One of those eight penalties allowed Northeastern to tie the game a little under halfway through the period, as Grant Jozefek tucked home a rebound in front of the net on the man advantage.

The deadlock was short-lived, however, as a Patrick Grasso goal 54 seconds later put New Hampshire back in front.

Madigan said after the game that the officials apologized to him for missing a hitting to the head penalty against Northeastern in the play leading up to the goal. The officials went to video review to check the goal, which allowed them to see the missed call after the fact. “It resulted in a goal then penalty on us . . . so a two-goal swing against us,” Madigan said, putting extra emphasis on the last two words.

The second goal Madigan referred to happened after a wild flurry two minutes later, allowing the Wildcats to extend their lead. With the Huskies already on the penalty kill, freshman Jeremie Bucheler committed a tripping violation, allowing New Hampshire to clear out their goalie and create a six-on-four advantage on the delayed penalty. After moving the puck around for a solid 20–30 seconds, Angus Crookshank found an opening and scored his team-leading 10th goal of the season.

With 40 minutes gone, the Huskies looked dead in the water. They were thoroughly outskated in the first two periods, and a third-period comeback seemed unlikely. Defying expectations, Northeastern emerged with a renewed energy. Tyler Madden scored his 16th goal of the season less than two minutes in, and freshman Jayden Struble followed it up with a goal of his own a few minutes later to even the score.

New Hampshire quieted the run with a Kohei Sato goal at the 7:14 mark, but Matt Filipe answered just 37 seconds later to pull the Huskies back again. Neither team gained ground in the ensuing tug-of-war, sending the game to overtime.

When asked if it was a matter of effort that allowed his team to get back into the game in the third period, Madigan agreed and added that his players stuck to the game plan. “We had a lot of offensive zone possession time in there.”

The Wildcats came into the game with a nation-leading four overtime wins, and they showed why in the extra frame. Dominating much of the possession in the first half of overtime, New Hampshire eventually generated a clean chance as Liam Blackburn found Will MacKinnon streaking into the Northeastern zone down the slot. MacKinnon wasted no time, firing a one-timer past Husky goaltender Craig Pantano to win the game.

“We went into the game with a game plan and we didn’t stick to it,” Madigan lamented, adding that they didn’t play 60 minutes tonight and UNH took advantage. “If we want to get to where we need to get to as a team, we can’t be exchanging goals and giving up five goals in a game.”

Northeastern has a week off between games, with their next contest coming January 18 against UConn at Matthews Arena. Christian Skroce and Matt Cunha will call the game, with coverage beginning at 3:45 PM EST.

Men’s Hockey Succumbs to BU after Frantic Second Period

By Matt Neiser

Photo by Sarah Olender

BOSTON — Fresh off a victory in the Belfast-based Friendship Four and riding a five-game winning streak, the No. 8/12 Northeastern men’s ice hockey team headed across town to rival Boston University for the teams’ first meeting this season.

Despite entering Saturday’s game with a losing record, the Terriers are chock full of talent. They showed that in this game, scoring four goals in the second period and six overall as they took down the Huskies, 6–3.

Northeastern (10–5–2, 6–4–1 HEA) got off to an encouraging start, generating 17 first-period shots on net to BU’s seven. But the Terriers (6–6–5, 4–3–4 HEA) emerged with the advantage after senior Patrick Harper capitalized on a defensive lapse by the Huskies to score the lone goal of the first 20 minutes.

Photo by Sarah Olender

After a relatively tame opening frame, all hell broke loose in the second. Goals from junior Zach Solow and senior John Picking — 12 seconds apart and both within the first minute of play — put the Huskies on top, but BU sophomore Jack DeBoer fired right back 40 seconds later, evening the game at two goals apiece.

Northeastern retook the lead on an Aidan McDonough goal 90 seconds after that, but the Terriers rattled off three unanswered goals from Harper, Robert Mastrosimone, and Domenick Fensore to take control heading into the final frame.

Photo by Sarah Olender

Despite holding possession for much of the third period and benefitting from four power plays, the Huskies couldn’t match the ridiculous production of the previous period. The Terriers held them scoreless and tacked on a shorthanded empty-net insurance goal to extend their lead to 6–3, securing victory over their Hockey East rivals.

Solow added an assist to his goal and finished as Northeastern’s only multi-point scorer. Jayden Struble, T.J. Walsh, Ryan Shea, and Matt Filipe all added assists. Goaltender Craig Pantano made 21 saves but allowed five goals.

Terrier goaltender Sam Tucker was fantastic in net, totaling 37 saves, including many tough stops, in the victory.

Photo by Sarah Olender

Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan didn’t mince words after the game, stating, “I don’t know how much there is to say. We played shitty hockey, and really bad defensively, and they took advantage of opportunities.” He repeated that choice two-word phrase multiple times throughout the post-game press conference.

“We were just turning pucks over. We knew what we needed to do, it wasn’t like they were hemming us in their own zone, we were just really sloppy with the puck,” Madigan added. The Husky head coach was spot-on with his analysis, as always. This was not a good game for the Northeastern skaters, whose sloppy play led to many of the Terriers’ opportunities and goals.

Photo by Sarah Olender

The loss halts the Huskies’ win streak at five, their longest of the season. They are tied with Massachusetts and UMass Lowell for second place in Hockey East; BU sits in fifth place, though they are just one point behind the Huskies.

The Huskies have a week to recoup, with their final matchup of 2019 coming on Saturday against Dartmouth College. Milton Posner and Alex Bensley will be on the call, with coverage starting at 3:45 PM EST.

Men’s Hockey Finishes Sweep Over Maine

By Matthew Cunha

Photo by Sarah Olender

Northeastern needed a comeback after entering the third period down 2–1, but goals from Neil Shea and Zach Solow allowed them to fend off Maine Saturday night at Matthews Arena. The 3–2 win gave the Huskies a weekend sweep over Maine; the women’s team beat Maine earlier in the day and will face them again tomorrow.

“It wasn’t our greatest game, and I didn’t think our execution was great,” said Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan. “But going into the third we knew we could play one good third period and win the game and that speaks to character.”

For a while, Northeastern seemed to be in full control. For more than half the game, Jayden Struble’s first collegiate goal kept them in front.

With 3:33 to go in the second period, that all changed. Mitch Fossier, who led Maine in scoring last year and captains this year’s squad, wheeled around the offensive zone and fired a last-ditch shot at Huskies goalie Craig Pantano. With players obscuring Pantano’s view, the shot slide through to tie the game at one.

About 70 seconds later, an Aidan McDonough hooking penalty gave the Black Bears a power play. Just 14 seconds after that, Pantano couldn’t corral the rebound off a Fossier shot, and Maine’s Adam Dawe capitalized to give the Black Bears a 2–1 lead. What had seemed like a sure Northeastern victory was slipping away.

But Northeastern responded. Four minutes into the third period, Neil Shea controlled the puck behind the Maine net and, despite the horrendous angle, threw the puck off the back of Maine goalie Jeremy Swayman and into the net, becoming the second Husky to score his first career goal.

“Freshman are finding their way through the season,” said Madigan. “All our freshmen are getting better. It’s nice for all our freshman just to get that first one. You remember that first goal; it’s part of your memory bank for the rest of your life.”

Northeastern got some chances on a Dawe penalty seven minutes into the period, but didn’t convert its doorstep chances.

With around six minutes remaining, Maine’s potent offensive duo of Fossier and Eduards Tralmaks had a chance to steal the game for Maine. Tralmaks led Fosser for a give and go; Fosser gave it back to Tralmaks who broke in alone as Struble was down on the ice. Tralmaks tried to deke it over to his backhand, but Pantano robbed Maine’s leading scorer.

“He’s been great all year,” said Madigan of Pantano. “He gives us a chance to win every single night. We expect it out of him. Craig bailed us out when we needed it and played really well.


With 4:13 remaining, a strong Northeastern attack bore fruit when senior defender Ryan Shea deked his way around several Maine players. Shea found fellow senior Zach Solow in front of the net, and Solow one-timed the shot past Swayman for his fourth goal of the season.

“We had a good offensive zone shift there,” said Solow. “It was a great individual effort by Shea. He beat his guy, I got lost and he put it right on my tape.”

Despite a Northeastern penalty for too many men on the ice, the Black Bears couldn’t answer. The game ended 3–2.

Northeastern outshot Maine 41–28, including 14–8 advantages in both the first and third periods. Pantano had 26 saves for Northeastern and Swayman had 38 for Maine.

Northeastern (8–4–2, 5–3–1 HEA)  has won their last three contests; Maine (7–5–2, 4–4–2 HEA) has lost their last two. The Huskies will head to Belfast, Northern Ireland for the Friendship Four. They’ll face New Hampshire on Friday and either Colgate or Princeton on Saturday.

Men’s Hockey Buries Providence with Offensive Onslaught

Image Credit: nuhuskies.com

By Christian Skroce

BOSTON —Providence coach Nate Leaman summed up tonight’s game the only way he could: “We got our butts kicked. That’s my opening statement.”

It had been three years since the Huskies had last beaten Providence, and it looked like that streak would continue tonight. After falling to the Friars in Providence last night, 3–2, Northeastern knew it had to pull off a win at Matthews Arena, especially given the muddled landscape of Hockey East early this season.

“Last night I thought that we weren’t physical; we let Providence dictate the game and their space, and we didn’t respond,” Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan said after the game. “One of the things we said here tonight, ‘let’s punch them in the mouth before they punch us in the mouth,’ because they are a heavy, hard team to play against, and I thought we were a little too passive last night.”

Jason O’Neill got the scoring going for the Friars 17 minutes into the first period with a weak attempt that slid underneath Northeastern netminder Craig Pantano. The Providence lead did not last long, as just 38 seconds later, freshman defenseman Mike Kesselring netted his first collegiate goal to level the score at one. After a nice juke from the blue line, Kesselring slid a shot through the legs of Providence goalie Michael Lackey. Madigan praised the goal after the game, saying “I liked how we responded immediately after that first goal. It was important to make sure they didn’t get too comfortable.”

After the first-period stalemate, the Huskies came alive in the second frame, putting together their best period of the season. Grant Jozefek began the period by finishing off an excellent feed from sophomore defenseman Jordan Harris.

Harris was not done yet, as a minute later he fired a power-play shot from the blue line past Lackey to give the Huskies a two-goal lead.

Senior forward Matt Filipe extended the Husky lead to 4–1 soon after with an impressive breakaway finish off a neutral-zone feed from freshman defenseman Jayden Struble. The goal forced Lackey out of the game, as Leaman let junior goalie Gabe Mollot-Hill finish the game for Providence.

Providence got one back toward the end of the second frame with a Patrick Moynihan goal, but the Huskies didn’t panic. With two minutes remaining in the period, freshman defender Jeremie Bucheler put away his own blue-line shot for his first goal of the season, giving the Huskies a 5–2 lead. Northeastern scored four second-period goals, more than they’ve scored in all but one of their 11 games this year.

Providence rebounded nicely to begin the final period, pulling within two goals after a nice finish from forward Vimal Sukumaran. The Friars pushed forward during the first ten minutes of the frame and got two power play chances to bring the game within one goal. Despite numerous close calls, Northeastern killed off both power play chances. The second penalty kill of the final period turned out to be the difference, as the Providence players were visibly deflated after failing to cut the lead to one.

Northeastern continued its physical play for the final ten minutes, eventually earning a 7–3 win after empty-net goals from Tyler Madden (his eighth of the year) and Filipe (his second of the game and third point on the night).

Northeastern’s entire penalty kill unit was tonight’s MVP. The Huskies killed all four Providence power plays, including two in the third period.

“We’ve worked on that a lot in practice, and we’ve tried to build our identity on the penalty kill,” Filipe remarked. “We have a lot of guys who want to be out there on the kill, and it’s nice to be able to rotate guys throughout.” Filipe also complimented Pantano, who had two nice games this weekend.

It was a big night for Northeastern’s impressive freshman class, with two defensemen getting their first goals of the season and two more adding assists. Madigan noted that “[Struble, Bucheler, and Kesselring] have been incredible recently. [Providence] are a heavy team, and they’re a fast team, so we knew that some of our younger guys would have to step up.”

The Huskies also got important contributions from a significant second year player. In addition to his goal and assist, Jordan Harris made several key defensive plays, logging the best game of his career in arguably the Huskies’ most important early-season contest. Harris was key to stopping Providence’s Jack Dugan, the nation’s points leader. When asked about Dugan after the game, Madigan explained, “He’s such a good player, and they use him a lot. He’s coming over the boards, [it seems like] every shift there, and then with the TV timeouts you can really use that to your advantage. It’s kind of like how we used Gaudette and Sikura a couple years ago.”

The win boosted the Huskies to 6–4–2 (3–3–1 HEA) and sets the team up nicely for next weekend’s home series against Maine. WRBB will cover both contests, starting with Friday night’s game at Matthews Arena. Jonathan Golbert and Mack Krell will call the action, with coverage starting at 6:45 PM ET.

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 Suffers First Loss of Season

Image Credit: St. Cloud State Athletics

By Matt Neiser

ST. CLOUD, MN — In game two of a weekend set in St. Cloud, Minnesota, the No. 11 Northeastern men’s ice hockey team looked to sweep the No. 14 St. Cloud State Huskies after a 4–1 victory the night before. After jumping out to a 1–0 lead, Northeastern allowed two second-period goals and dropped the contest, 2–1, to split the two-game battle of the Huskies.

The theme of the season for Northeastern (4–1–1) has been slow starts, and tonight saw another one. St. Cloud (1–1–2) dominated play for much of the first period, compiling 11 shots on net to Northeastern’s six. The shot differential mattered not though, as Northeastern scored the lone goal of the first 20 minutes. After collecting a pass from junior Zach Solow on the power play, sophomore Tyler Madden spun away from a defenseman and shot from the left circle. The puck leaked by goaltender David Hrenak to make it 1–0 in favor of the away team.

Northeastern was much better to start the second period, moving the puck well and beginning to even out the shot total. Just under five minutes into the frame, St. Cloud cleared the puck down the ice to relieve pressure. It appeared icing would be called, as no one touched the puck and freshman Jayden Struble won the race down the ice. Yet, the officials thought otherwise and didn’t blow the play dead. With Northeastern switching off in anticipation of a whistle, St. Cloud forward Sam Hentges grabbed the puck and played it to a streaking Jack Poehling, who slotted it home to tie the game.

After the game, Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan was none too pleased.

“They got their first goal on, basically, a bad call from the linesman,” he stated matter-of-factly. “We thought it was icing and it wasn’t. We didn’t get back fast enough, and they scored to make it 1–1 and gained some momentum from that.”

Later in the period, seconds after a potential Zach Solow goal was waved off by video review, St. Cloud raced down the ice and Hentges scored to give the home team a 2–1 lead. Northeastern pressed hard for an equalizer late in the game, but couldn’t find one.

Madden’s goal was his fifth in three games. After the Vancouver Canucks draftee went scoreless in the team’s first three games despite leading the team in shots, Madden broke the dry spell with two goals apiece against Holy Cross and St. Cloud before adding another tonight. With his assist on Madden’s goal, Solow (one goal, five assists) extended his point streak to six games.

Though he allowed two goals, Northeastern goaltender Craig Pantano was once again fantastic between the pipes. The Merrimack grad transfer saved 31 of 33 shots to keep his team within striking distance. Through six games, Pantano has anchored the defense with a 1.32 GAA and .947 save percentage.

It doesn’t get any easier for Northeastern, as they turn around and take on the No. 3/5 UMass Minutemen in a home-and-home next weekend. Game one is Friday, November 1 at Matthews Arena. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m., with Matt Neiser and Jonathan Golbert 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.