Men’s hockey falls to UMass, ends season with Hockey East tournament loss

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Photo courtesy Jim Pierce, Northeastern Athletics

The Huskies’ season ended in Amherst Sunday evening after falling to the Minutemen 4-1.

Eamonn Ryan, deputy sports editor

Coming into their Sunday evening Hockey East quarterfinal matchup with No. 3 seed University of Massachusetts Amherst, the No. 6 seed Northeastern men’s hockey team needed a statement win in order to continue their season and progress in postseason play.

Instead of making a statement, however, the Huskies went down quietly at the Mullins Center, losing to the No. 7-ranked Minutemen 4-1.

“The bottom line is we were just chasing the game,” said NU head coach Jim Madigan. “It wasn’t good enough … We weren’t good enough. 9-9-3, .500 isn’t what this program is about.”

The statistics told a much different story than the live action, as both teams had similar numbers of shots on goal, faceoff wins and penalty minutes, but the energy that UMass Amherst (14-5-4, 13-5-4 HEA) played with was not nearly matched by NU (9-9-3, 9-8-3 HEA).

“In the second period, we played well and we got it to 2-1. We had some good looks and some chances and a little mojo,” Madigan said. “[In the] third period we didn’t have any mojo at all — we didn’t have any confidence we could come back which was disappointing.”

NU was sitting on the edge of NCAA tournament contention, and, while Madigan said qualifying was not their main focus, the loss to UMass Amherst most likely ends the Huskies’ season and hopes for more postseason play.

The Minutemen got off to a hot start, scoring just under three minutes into the game. Not much was happening in the early minutes as dump-ins and icing calls dominated the start, but a centering pass from UMass Amherst junior forward Bobby Trivigno set up an easy opportunity for junior forward Garrett Wait, who flipped a shot over NU sophomore goaltender Connor Murphy’s blocker to give the Minutemen an early lead.

UMass Amherst was just getting started. However, at 8:23, the Minutemen found themselves on a four-on-one break and moved the puck effortlessly as a centering pass found UMass Amherst sophomore defenseman Zac Jones, who stuffed it in the back of the net.

With 2:30 left in the first stanza, the Huskies got a chance to close the gap in the form of an interference penalty on UMass Amherst junior defenseman Ty Farmer. NU lacked a sense of urgency, however, and could not get shots on UMass Amherst junior netminder Filip Lindberg, so the Minutemen were able to kill it off rather easily, ending the period at even strength and with a 2-0 lead over NU.

In the second, it was more of the same for the Minutemen, keeping up the pressure on Murphy and the Husky defense with an aggressive forecheck and creating multiple chances during some extended zone time. NU was able to return the Minutemen’s punches with some of their own. 

None of their jabs managed to hit, however, until 10:40 into the period. A surprise snap shot from sophomore blueliner Jeremie Bucheler beat Lindberg to his right and gave the Huskies their first goal of the day, trimming the lead to just one. After Bucheler received the puck, he faked out a UMass Amherst defender and then fired the puck into the back of the net, giving him his first season goal.

“The second period was our best period. We got to 2-1 and we had a little momentum and we had a little mojo and [the Huskies were] getting some opportunities,” Madigan said. 

With the goal, NU kept UMass Amherst on their back foot and inserted some energy into the Husky attack, but a two-on-one breakaway for the Minutemen pushed the lead right back out to two. Trivigno raced up the right side of the slot and faked a pass to his streaking teammate before sending it through Murphy’s five-hole and giving his team a 3-1 lead with just under two minutes to play in the second period.

The lead would hold for the rest of the second frame as the Huskies failed to respond right away, and they went to the locker room to figure out how to make a third-period comeback.

Unfortunately, it seemed like the comeback would not happen for the Huskies. After making a couple of tough saves, Murphy was beat again, this time on a rebound attempt from senior forward Philip Lagunov, who had an easy shot on an open net 4:16 into the period. 

As the midway point of the final period approached, NU freshman forward Ty Jackson and UMass Amherst junior defenseman Colin Felix both went to the penalty box for slashing, just the second and third penalties of the day. Nothing untoward happened for either team during the two minutes of four-on-four play, but, as it ended, the game and the season started to slip away from the Huskies.

“In the third period, [UMass] just sat back, and we didn’t generate much offense, and we couldn’t get the pucks in deep,” Madigan said. 

There was nothing the Huskies could do to muster up a comeback, and the game ended 4-1. With this loss, the season is over, but so are the collegiate careers of seniors Collin Murphy, Billy Carrabino, Zach Solow, Grant Jozefek and Curtis Frye; players who contributed a great amount over their four or five years with the team.

“We didn’t even talk about the game [in the locker room]. We were thanking our five seniors that are there,” Madigan said. “They’ve done a lot of winning, and we appreciate everything they’ve done for our program.”

As the season wraps up for the Huskies, they finish with a record of 9-9-3 on the year and are currently ranked No. 20 in the USCHO.com coaches’ poll, by no means a disastrous season. Madigan and the remaining Huskies will surely be pushing for more than an appearance in the Hockey East quarterfinals next season.