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.

Men’s Hockey Prevails, Pushing Past Providence

By Jack Sinclair

BOSTON — An extra week off of the ice usually results in one of two things. Either the team returns rested and with fewer injuries, or they look sluggish and uneasy.

Northeastern came off their 12-day break with nothing but benefits. They were rested, and the return of Julian Kislin after a four-week absence gave the Husky defense added depth.

Friday’s contest against Providence was critical in determining Northeastern’s destiny in Hockey East and NCAA as a whole. The Friars are always a fierce opponent, and they entered Matthews Arena with only one road loss. That the loss came by four goals against Northeastern guaranteed nothing for Friday night’s game.

Providence sat tied for second in the Hockey East; the Huskies, while only three points behind, sat tied for sixth. If the last few weeks of Hockey East action have taught us anything, it’s that nothing, nothing, is certain. With bottom feeders like UConn and UNH surging, and previous leaders like Northeastern and BU faltering against easier opponents, Hockey East is as wide open as ever.

The game started off slowly for both teams, with no fantastic chances for either side. After about 10 minutes, the Huskies found their footing in the dynamic of the game, and their forward check came into full swing. Northeastern, with the help of Matt Filipe and Zach Solow, put considerable pressure on Providence and its goaltender Mike Lackey. The puck rarely made its way to Northeastern’s side of the ice, and Providence began to tire. That fatigue became most apparent when Tyler Madden forced a turnover in the neutral zone and carried the puck all the way to the goal, putting the Huskies up 1–0. 

The Huskies continued to dominate the physical and mental tempo of the game. Only four minutes after Madden’s breakaway goal, Matt Filipe and Matt DeMelis found themselves in a two-on-one rush, and netted another goal for the Huskies.

The period ended with both teams receiving penalties, resulting in a four-on-four that only saw more Northeastern dominance over the puck. The period ended with the Huskies holding onto their 2–0 lead.

As tame as the start of the first period was, the second period was insane. Providence came out with some good looks on net, but Craig Pantano had absolutely none of it, making some difficult saves look trivial.

When two quick Northeastern penalties gave Providence a five-on-three, Mike Kesselring displayed his spectacular stick skills on the penalty kill and willingly put his body on the line. He took a scorching shot high off the arm and was clearly in considerable pain, but fought through until the best opportunity for him to make a change.

Kesselring did not return to the ice for the duration of the kill, and that is perhaps what led to Providence breaking through and putting themselves on the score sheet. Tensions ran high between the two teams, with forwards Greg Printz and Zach Solow exchanging pushes and what could only have been the most pleasant of compliments.

The physicality of the game skyrocketed, with both teams exchanging savage stick slaps and brutal body blows. This culminated with Biagio Lerario’s massive check against Printz right in front of the Providence bench, which drew a five-minute major penalty against and Lerario’s ejection.

The Northeastern penalty kill took the ice and took no prisoners. It didn’t even feel like a penalty kill, as they held Providence to a grand total of zero shots for the first 4:40. The whole PK unit skated their butts off, beating every Friar they could to the puck and making Pantano’s job between the pipes easier. This momentum carried into five-on-five play after the penalty, as Aidan McDonough netted his ninth goal of the season less than a minute later. 

McDonough’s goal only made the Friars upset, as they played most of the rest of the period on Northeastern’s side of the ice. Patrick Moynihan forced a turnover right in front of the goal on the forward check, spun, and slipped the puck past Pantano. The tumultuous second period concluded with the Huskies leading 3–2. 

Providence dominated the beginning of the third period. The only thing keeping the Friars from tying the game was an admirable performance by Pantano, who went so far as to lay across the ice to keep the puck out of the net. But Jack Dugan made the most of a Providence faceoff win on their offensive side, pounding the puck past Pantano to tie the game. 

Northeastern soon went to the power play, but unlike those earlier in the game, the top line of McDonough, Madden, and Jozefek was unable to get things done, and almost allowed a shorthanded goal. The unceremonious power play resulted in the return of Providence dominance, and more amazing saves from Pantano.

With only a quarter of the period remaining, Providence’s Parker Ford was sent to the penalty box for hooking. This Northeastern power play began much like their last, but about halfway through it, they worked the puck into the offensive zone. This kicked off a beautiful sequence of about 20 passes where the power play unit methodically broke down the Friars’ defense, slowly applying pressure and working the puck closer and closer to the net.

Finally, the breakthrough came. Zach Solow found himself, and more importantly, the puck, right in front of the net, after a precise pass by McDonough right to his stick. Solow’s job was made easy and he executed perfectly, placing the puck into the bottom left of the cage, giving the Huskies the lead with only five minutes remaining. 

After the game, Providence head coach Nate Leaman expressed his displeasure with his team’s physicality, saying that it “hardly felt like [they] checked anybody all night.” On the flip side of the hockey coin, Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan expressed his pleasure with his team’s approach to the game.

“You can’t sit back and wait for goals to happen,” he said. “You have to go out and earn them against a team like this.”

The Huskies head to TD Garden this Monday to face Harvard in the first game of the Beanpot. Christian Skroce, Matt Neiser, and Dale Desantis will call that one, with coverage beginning at 4:45 PM EST.

Men’s Hockey Falls to UConn in OT

By Matt Cunha

BOSTON — Benjamin Freeman’s power-play rebound goal three minutes into overtime gave UConn (9–10–4, 6–7–2) a 3–2 win over Northeastern (13–7–2, 7–6–1 HEA) Saturday night at Matthews Arena. The outcome was a crucial one, coming amid a tight Hockey East playoff race in which the top seven teams — including Northeastern and UConn — are separated by just five points.

It was Northeastern’s second straight overtime loss. They will wait a few weeks for a chance to bounce back, with their next game coming January 31 at home against Providence. Christian Skroce and Matt Neiser will call that one, with coverage beginning at 6:45 PM EST.

Freeman’s goal came as a result of a Jeremie Bucheler holding penalty with 2:22 to go in OT. UConn’s Vladislav Firstov, who had already scored twice, broke in on net after a Ryan Shea turnover in the neutral zone. Bucheler attempted to halt a Firstov breakaway before being whistled for the penalty.

Shortly afterward, the officials ruled that the puck flew into the Northeastern bench, giving UConn an attacking-zone face-off. UConn won it, then Freeman tallied the game-winner after Northeastern goalie Craig Pantano came up big on a Jake Flynn shot.

“They went on the power play and, to be frank with you, I thought Jeremie Bucheler did a great job defending their forward going to the net,” said head coach Jim Madigan. “That is how we teach it. He went to the box and they scored on the powerplay. We cleared the puck and the referee thought it went in our bench which never hit our bench. In-zone faceoff and they scored. We didn’t get the breaks.”

To start the game, it took UConn all of 89 seconds to get on the board after a Firstov breakaway split the NU defense. It worsened after a Jayden Struble penalty gave UConn a power play, which Northeastern killed off. Shortly after, Northeastern’s own penalty generated a flurry of chances that failed to get past UConn goalie Tomas Vomacka, who saved 35 shots on the evening. The first period ended with a 1–0 UConn lead.

At the end of the first period, five-minute major and 10-minute game misconduct penalties were assessed to Northeastern’s Riley Hughes (grasping the facemask) and UConn’s Jáchym Kondelík (boarding).

In the second period, Northeastern killed off a penalty before crawling back into the game. Grant Jozefek was hit hard around 5:30 into the period and stayed on the ice for a few seconds. A few minutes later, Aidan McDonough found Jozefek for a game-tying one-timer. Around seven minutes after that, Jozefek drove home a feed from Mike Kesselring for his sixth goal of the season and a 2–1 Northeastern lead.

UConn answered with just over three minutes left in the second period as Firstov, on a pass from Wyatt Newhouse, ripped his second of the night in front of Pantano with little NU defensive pressure.

In third period, both Pantano (41 saves) and Vomacka stood on their heads with plenty of chances both ways.

Early in overtime, the team went back and forth until Bucheler’s holding penalty.

“I feel bad for Jeremie Bucheler because he defended the play the right way and he got called for a penalty,” said Madigan. “We will have to re-group. We have two weeks off now to get ready for Providence and this is a tough loss, but we will re-group. This is a resilient group in there and we just keep battling and move forward.”

Men’s Hockey Triumphs in Battle of the Huskies

By Sarah Olender

In a battle between Hockey East’s two Husky teams at the Hartford XL Center on Friday night, Northeastern’s early-game dominance on both sides of the puck carried them to a 5–2 victory over UConn.

Within the team’s first 30 seconds of play in 2020, Northeastern’s Matt Filipe fired a shot into the back of the net on an assist from Ryan Shea.

After Filipe’s goal, play swung back and forth until 10:40 into the period, when Zach Solow’s unassisted goal gave Northeastern a 2–0 lead. Minutes later, Tyler Madden scored another goal, assisted by Aidan McDonough and Grant Jozefek.

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Photos by Sarah Olender

UConn struggled through the entire first period and most of the second, turning over the puck frequently and giving Northeastern many scoring opportunities.

Nearly twelve minutes into the second period, Solow put in another goal, assisted by McDonough and Madden. Northeastern’s score streak continued minutes later, their fifth goal courtesy of freshman Matt DeMelis, who put home a rebound from teammate Neil Shea. 

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UConn finally got on the board with a minute left in the second period, when Vladislav Firstov put home a rebound. Firstov’s goal trimmed the Northeastern lead to 5–1 entering the third period.

Though the final period featured UConn’s second goal (by Jonny Evans seven minutes in), it also brought increased aggression. With just under five minutes to play, McDonough was called for goalie interference. Simultaneously, freshman defender Mike Kesselring was hit with a five-minute major penalty (and a ten-minute game misconduct) for a violent cross-check, putting Northeastern at a disadvantage for the remainder of the game. 

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With nearly three minutes to go in the game, UConn pulled goalie Tomas Vomacka, leaving Northeastern in a three-on-five situation. Once McDonough’s penalty was over, Northeastern defended the more manageable four-on-five penalty kill. 

“We didn’t play as cleanly as I would have liked in the third period,” Madigan said, though he remarked that the “PK did a great job all night long.”

Northeastern netminder Craig Pantano also played a solid game, making 24 saves for a .923 save percentage. 

Northeastern will take on Bentley this Monday in Matthews Arena. Christian Skroce and Dale Desantis will call the game for WRBB, with coverage beginning at 6:45.

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.