Northeastern sweeps Merrimack, securing the Hockey East regular season title for first time in program history


Taina Lorenzana

The Northeastern University Huskies secured the Hockey East regular season title for the first time in program history.

Eli Curwin, news staff

In the final matchup of the regular season, the Northeastern men’s hockey team eked out a win in a 1-0 nailbiter against Merrimack March 5. With the win, the Huskies secured the Hockey East regular season title for the first time in program history.

Saturday’s scrappy game remained scoreless for 59 minutes, but with 10 seconds left junior forward Aidan McDonough scored the game-winning goal with an assist from freshman forward Jack Hughes.

Following their 6-1 win against the Merrimack Warriors the previous day, the Huskies traveled to North Andover in search of another easy win. Instead, they were met with packed stands and a team eager for revenge. 

Saturday’s game was chippy from the start. With fights on the boards and a rapid pace, neither team was going to score easily. Both sides spent time in the opposing zone, but both goalies, Husky sophomore goalie Devon Levi and Merrimack’s freshman reserve goalie Hugo Ollas, stopped all goals from scoring. 

The Huskies outshot Merrimack 12-10 in the first, but the period ended with a scoreless tie. The second period was more of the same as both teams continued to move the puck well around the zone, but not into the net. Levi kept the Huskies in it all game, making big save after big save. 

Senior defenseman and captain Jordan Harris also kept Northeastern afloat, blocking several shots and poking the puck free for multiple steals.

Midway through the second period, Northeastern and Merrimack were called for penalties; NU for holding and Merrimack for holding the stick. Looking to add the first goal to the scoresheet, both teams skated with four players for two minutes. The Warriors and the Huskies played disciplined defense during the four-on-four, with neither team getting any real opportunity to score. 

Northeastern ended the second period with a strong offensive showing, taking five shots in the final two minutes, but solid play from Ollas and the Warrior defense prevented the Huskies from scoring. The Warriors overtook the Huskies in shot attempts, with total shots on goal sitting at 18-21 for Merrimack.

Heading into the third period scoreless, it was clear that no goals were going to come easy for either team. Merrimack started the period spending plenty of time in the zone, but were unable to come away with a score. 

Halfway through the final period, a Merrimack tripping penalty gave the Huskies a chance at the powerplay. Intense and strong play from the Warriors nearly resulted in a shorthanded goal, but a block at the last second by junior defenseman Jayden Struble kept the game scoreless. The Warriors killed the penalty, and the score remained 0-0 with seven minutes left in the game. 

These final minutes felt much longer, with several stoppages of play and faceoffs. Neither team could nor would gain momentum. With 14.7 seconds left in the game, a Merrimack icing penalty brought the faceoff to Merrimack’s zone. Merrimack won the faceoff, but Jack Hughes won a fight for the puck on the boards and made a perfect pass to McDonough. McDonough zipped a one-timer straight into the goal for the 1-0 game-winning goal.

For the first time in program history, after 38 years since the Hockey East conference was formed, the Northeastern Huskies won the Hockey East regular season title. 

McDonough’s goal was his 23rd of the season, bringing him to have scored the third most goals in the NCAA. With one goal and three assists, Jack Hughes’ incredible four-point weekend won him Hockey East’s Rookie of the Week. And rounding out the Huskies’ accomplishments, Levi notched his 10th shutout of the season, second in the NCAA and fourth of all time for Northeastern.

As this all played out in North Andover, fans at Matthews Arena watched the women’s hockey team clinch the Hockey East Championship in a 3-1 victory over UConn. As fans at the women’s game learned of the close score at Merrimack, several pulled out their phones to view the final minutes of men’s play. During the women’s trophy ceremony, McDonough’s shot sent ripples through the DogHouse, with fans jumping out of their seats, seemingly at random, to celebrate the second Husky victory of the night.

Looking ahead, the NU Huskies have their sights on the Hockey East postseason, and then the National Championship. Northeastern will play Boston College Saturday in the quarterfinals of the tournament at Matthews Arena. This season, the Huskies are 2-2 against BC, winning the most recent matchup against them 4-1. In the opening round of the Hockey East Tournament, Boston College defeated University New Hampshire 4-3 in overtime. 

After this, the winning teams will play in the semifinals and then the finals for the Hockey East conference. The winner of the Hockey East postseason title will automatically make it into the National Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament. This will occur for each of the six conferences in the NCAA, including Hockey East. While these six teams automatically make it in, there are 16 total spots. 

The other 10 spots are decided by a selection committee, which will have its annual selection show March 20. After this, the 16 team National Championship bracket will be set. 

For the Huskies, though, it is probably best to take it just one game at a time. And while the team’s sights may be set on bigger things than the Hockey East regular season title, for now, they are champions.