A remarkable return: Devon Levi ties school save record in first game back after Winter Olympics


Taina Lorenzana

The Northeastern men’s hockey team defeated the University of Connecticut Huskies 3-1.

Eli Curwin , news staff

The No. 13 Northeastern men’s hockey team defeated the University of Connecticut Huskies 3-1 Feb. 25. Excellent play from sophomore Husky goalie Devon Levi and an outstanding three-point night from junior forward Aidan McDonough led Northeastern to a crucial victory.

Northeastern has struggled lately, winning only five of the last 10 matchups. Following a devastating loss in the final minutes of the Beanpot tournament against Boston University, and a split home and home series against Boston College, a potential strong end to the season for the Huskies was in jeopardy. 

Some of the Huskies’ struggles could be explained by the absences of key players. Freshman forward Justin Hryckowian and sophomore forward Dylan Jackson both missed several games, and were sidelined for the matchup against UConn. Senior defenseman Julian Kislin was also missing from the lineup against UConn.

Prior to the matchup against UConn, Levi missed seven games, as he represented Team Canada in the 2022 Winter Olympics. Despite being named a semi-finalist for the Mike Richter Goaltender of the Year award in collegiate hockey, Levi saw no ice time in Beijing. Team Canada lost in the quarter finals to Sweden 2-0. 

In his place, the Huskies turned to freshman goalie TJ Semptimphelter. With big shoes to fill, Sepmtimphelter shined, playing well for Northeastern in both wins and losses. Even under the brightest lights during the Beanpot Tournament, Semptimphelter stood out, winning the Eberly Award for the best goalie in the tournament.

In their meeting earlier this season, Northeastern lost to the UConn Huskies 3-5.

With Levi back between the pipes and three vital Hockey East standing points on the line, the stage was set for an intense match of Husky vs. Husky hockey.

The first period began at a rapid pace, with both teams trying to score quickly on fast breaks and breakaways. UConn maintained control of the puck early, attempting four shots in the first two minutes.

While both teams had opportunities, Northeastern scored first halfway through the period. Following a spot-on behind the net pass from McDonough, sophomore forward Gunnarwolfe Fontaine’s initial shot was blocked by the pad of UConn graduate student goalie Darion Hanson. Fontaine corralled the rebound, and lit the lamp for Northeastern’s first goal of the night.

Now, down one, the UConn Huskies’ play intensified. With seven shots in three minutes following the goal, heated fights for the puck on the boards, and some extracurricular pushing after stoppages of play, UConn was doing everything in its power to tie the game.

However, the team was unable to find the equalizer because of Levi’s magic back-to-back-to-back saves in front of the goal. Swarming defense from senior defenseman captain Jordan Harris and sophomore forward Michael Outzen also prevented UConn from tying the game. 

Northeastern’s offense improved towards the end of the period, with lengthy possessions in UConn’s zone. Despite better puck movement, the Northeastern Huskies were unable to score in the final minutes of the first period. 

The second period started with a Uconn tripping penalty after only 25 seconds of play. Soon after gaining the extra skater, NU nearly gave up a shorthanded goal to the opposing Huskies. As the power play continued, Northeastern couldn’t quite find the back of the net, attempting several shots including one clanging off of UConn’s post. By the end of the power play, Northeastern was unable to add to their lead.

Throughout the period, UConn’s defense continued to bend without breaking. Northeastern had several opportunities to score, but quick rotations and strong play in goal for Hanson stopped Northeastern from scoring. 

With four minutes left in the period, a high sticking penalty on Northeastern junior forward Riley Hughes gave UConn an extra skater. However, UConn would not score during the power play. Levi was a wall in front of the goal, using his glove, pads and stick to save every UConn shot.The second period concluded as it had started, with the Northeastern Huskies up one. However, UConn outshot NU, 22-34 heading into the third.

The third period started with good UConn offense, but better Northeastern defense. Levi continued to play well, and fantastic defensive play from every skater on the ice for the home Huskies prevented a UConn goal. 

Three minutes into the period, Northeastern would add to its lead. Sophomore forward Ty Jackson, junior defenseman Jayden Struble, and McDonough rushed up the ice. Struble passed the puck early to McDonough, and McDonough sent an impeccable cross ice pass to Jackson for the easy goal. 

As UConn turned up the pressure on offense, Northeastern’s defense was put to the test. A Northeastern holding penalty worsened the situation for the NU Husky defense, putting them down one skater. Northeastern killed the advantage, and hope for UConn was fleeting. Levi was impenetrable in goal and the Husky defense would not back down. The Northeastern pressure resulted in ample time on offense, making matters more desperate for UConn.

UConn pulled Hanson with four minutes left in the period. Thirty seconds later, Northeastern would score their third goal of the night with an empty net shot from McDonough, assisted by Levi.

At the time of the goal, Levi had 55 saves. However, as UConn continued to play with an extra skater, their 57th shot of the game snuck past him, ending Levi’s chance at a perfect shut-out with two minutes left to play. 

Levi went on to save four more shots, a total of 60, tying the school save record set in 1962 by Gus Capizzo. The Northeastern Huskies won 3-1, despite being outshot 32-61. 

The next day, Feb. 26, the Huskies played UConn in an away afternoon matchup. Northeastern won 5-2, with three goals and an assist from McDonough in an excellent overall team victory. Levi had 40 saves, capping off his return with a 100 save weekend. McDonough and Levi won Hockey East player of the week and goalkeeper of the week respectively. 

Following a fantastic weekend of hockey against a tough UConn team, Northeastern fell to the University of Vermont 0-1 on March 1. The loss came against one of the worst teams in the country at a time where the Huskies needed the win to help the team’s Hockey East standings. Only attempting 22 shots against the Catamounts, Northeastern’s lackluster offensive outing was not enough to win in Burlington.

After the loss, Northeastern played another home and home series against Merrimack. Winning both games, the Huskies secured the Hockey East regular season title for the first time in program history. The Huskies will play Saturday, March 12, at Matthews Arena against the lowest ranked opening round winner.