Northeastern falls to UMass Lowell in tight battle at home


Kayla Shiao

Junior forward Gunnarwolfe Fontaine battles for the puck against the River Hawks.

Ariana Ottrando, news staff

The Northeastern men’s hockey team (3-2-1, 2-2-0 HE) lost a close 3-2 conference game to the University of Massachusetts Lowell River Hawks (4-2-0, 1-0-0 HE) Saturday, Oct. 22. After tying with rivals Boston College on the 18th, the team bumped its winless streak to three games. 

With starting junior goaltender Devon Levi scratched for illness, the Huskies debuted true freshman goalie Grant Riley (BCHL, 25-10-2) for his first collegiate start in the crease. 

Five minutes into regulation, Riley was beat on UMass Lowell’s first shot on goal — putting Northeastern on the chase to tie up. The play was initiated by UML sophomore forward Owen Cole passing to sophomore defenseman Isac Jonsson in the high slot. Jonsson then set up junior defenseman Ben Meehan for the one-timer that he propelled past NU’s line of defense and into the gap behind Riley for the 1-0 advance.

Following a few scoring opportunities in the next quarter of the period, Northeastern responded with an even-strength goal at 12:25 to get on the board. 

After receiving the puck from freshman forward Cam Lund on entry into UML’s defensive zone, senior defenseman Jeremie Bucheler broke through three linesmen for the wrap-around. Sophomore forward Justin Hryckowian was waiting in the low slot for Bucheler’s feed, ripping it to the right pocket past UML junior goalie Henry Welsch to tie the game at one for his third goal of the season.

With momentum now on their side for the closing minutes of the first, the Huskies took more pucks to the net and displayed strong defense in front of Riley to finish the period with a 9-4 shot count. 

“I know [Riley] was excited to play, our guys were excited to play for [Riley],” said head coach Jerry Keefe. “Probably not an easy game to play in either because I didn’t think he got tested a lot early.”

Two minutes into the second period, UML sophomore forward Matt Crasa took a minor penalty for tripping freshman defenseman Hunter McDonald on an offensive zone entry. However, Northeastern’s power play didn’t go as planned.

With pressure building around him in the River Hawks’ defensive zone, junior forward Sam Colangelo sent the puck to an empty space where it was snatched up by Cole at Lowell’s blue line. Cole then found UML freshman forward Owen Fowler in the neutral zone for a partial breakaway, who stick-handled the puck through Riley for a five-hole shorthanded goal — his first in the NCAA — giving UMass Lowell a 2-1 lead.

“I was happy for [Fowler] tonight,” said UML head coach Norm Bazin. “For him to get a goal short-handed, that’s a great thing for him.”

Now trailing behind again, Northeastern amped up its offense in an effort to tie the game before second intermission. Junior forward Gunnarwolfe Fontaine nearly did so at 9:40, as did senior forward and captain Aidan McDonough at 17:40, but Welsch smothered both attempts to hold onto the one-goal advantage. 

The third period saw 4-on-4 play at 4:25 due to a hooking penalty called on senior forward and assistant captain Riley Hughes, along with unsportsmanlike conduct on UML senior defenseman Marek Korencik. Thirty seconds into the penalties, Bucheler caused a turnover in the neutral zone and UML senior forward and captain Carl Berglund gained possession to send Lowell on a 2-on-0 rush. UML senior forward and assistant captain Zach Kaiser sent the puck in the top left corner to give the River Hawks the two-goal lead.

Northeastern answered immediately. Fourteen seconds later, the Huskies cut UML’s lead to one. Fontaine won the puck on the wall and slid it to senior defenseman and assistant captain Jayden Struble in the left faceoff circle, where he finished bar-down, making it a 2-3 game. Struble’s first goal of the season was assisted by Fontaine and McDonough. 

The Huskies continued to test Welsch until the final buzzer, pulling Riley at 18:37 to give them the extra attacker. With 17 seconds left in regulation, Welsch robbed McDonough’s rebound attempt to send the game into overtime on a tumbling glove-side save. 

“Anytime you win in [Matthews Arena], they’re valuable points come the end of the year,” Bazin said regarding his team’s conference win. “You need goaltending, and [Welsch] was there for us.”

Although the shot count finished 28-17 Northeastern, Welsch outperformed Riley and the Huskies played inconsistently, leading to the 2-3 result.

“It’s a frustrating loss,” Keefe said. “It’s an important game for us tonight. [We] did some good things, but not enough good things, and we need to get back to the drawing board. We gotta be better. We gotta find a way to win those games.”

The Huskies will look to revamp their winning streak against the University of Maine in the team’s first away series of the year this weekend. Puck drop is set for 7:05 p.m. Friday Oct. 28. in the Harold Alfond Sports Arena in Orono, Maine.