Huskies shut out UMass Minutemen in revenge match, securing series split


Izzy Harris

Senior forward Matt Demelis flies behind the net, puck in tow, below a packed Matthews Arena. Demelis has eight points (two goals, six assists) on the season.

Ariana Ottrando, news staff

After a tough 2-3 loss on the road Friday against the University of Massachusetts Amherst (11-16-5, 5-14-3 HE), the No. 15/14 Northeastern men’s hockey team (16-11-5, 13-6-3 HE) responded with a 4-0 shutout in its rematch Saturday on home ice.

The matchup started in Northeastern’s favor when UMass freshman forward Cole O’Hara took a penalty 1:33 into regulation for too many players on the ice. The Huskies tested the 81.4% Minutemen penalty kill, but struggled to maintain possession in UMass’ zone.

Following a second unsuccessful power play opportunity for Northeastern nine minutes into play, NU sophomore forward Matt Choupani went to the box for holding, giving UMass its first power play of the game. But the Huskies’ 87.2% penalty kill unit wasn’t discouraged.

Instead, the team remained in an offensive mindset. Freshman forward Jack Williams won the puck off the wall before breaking out with assistant captain and graduate student forward Jakov Novak in the right lane for a 2-on-1. Without hesitation, Williams saw his angle and buried the puck into the exposed right pocket past UMass junior goaltender Cole Brady for an unassisted shorthanded goal at 13:19, getting Northeastern on the board first with his sixth goal of the season.

“I saw a loose puck right outside the blue line. [Williams] came, he turned and then I just tried to drive net there, drive the [d]efenseman back and [Williams] gets a nice shot closing in,” Novak said. “We knew that [UMass’] power play is really good and we had to stop them from entering the zone, so that’s what we try to do there.”

The Huskies went into first intermission with a 1-0 lead, putting up 10 shots in the period to the Minutemen’s six. 

UMass head coach Greg Carvel said the Minutemen struggled to build momentum after a disappointing first period. 

“We took two penalties in the first ten minutes,” Carvel said. “It’s tough to build momentum and we give up a shorthanded goal, which really sucks a lot of momentum out of you.”

Fourteen seconds into the second period, sophomore forward Justin Hryckowian took a hooking penalty — handing UMass its second power play opportunity and an early chance to tie the game. Northeastern’s clean-up crew only allowed one shot on goal from UMass — who’s 27% on the power play this season — and Levi was there for the save.

Over halfway through regulation, the Minutemen were scoreless and eager to put up a goal. UMass’ best chance of the frame came at 11:50 when UMass senior forward Cal Kiefiuk kept the puck before the blue line — after a failed attempt to clear by Northeastern — and UMass senior forward Reed Lebster took a shot from the right circle. Levi stayed on his toes, anticipating Lebster’s effort, and made the save off his pads.

Grabbing the puck off the save and breaking out of the zone, assistant captain and senior forward Riley Hughes bounced the puck off the boards and up to Novak. With speed, Novak drove the puck up the wall to the right UMass dot and patiently waited for the passing lane. Sophomore forward Jack Hughes positioned himself by the crease for the tip-in from Novak, bumping the Huskies’ lead to two with his fifth goal of the season.

Facing a two-goal deficit, UMass’ play became more physical nearing the end of the period. But the Huskies pushed the Minutemen to the wall and away from center ice as often as possible, minimizing UMass’ chances to put any pucks on net.

With under two minutes left, UMass sophomore forward Lucas Mercuri was sent to the penalty box for interference, giving Northeastern a third one-man advantage to capitalize on. 

And that the Huskies did. Northeastern kept the puck in UMass’ zone and away from the four Minutemen, trying for the net at every opportunity. 

Jack Hughes passed the puck to the low slot where junior forward Sam Colangelo tried for the back door and a UMass defenseman denied him. On his own rebound attempt, Colangelo stuffed the puck in the left corner past an out-of-position Brady, putting Northeastern up 3-0. The power play goal was Colangelo’s ninth of the season and was assisted by Jack Hughes and Hryckowian. 

“Honestly I tried to pass it to [McDonough] on the backside. Got a lucky bounce there and it came back to me,” Colangelo said. “I think that when you take the puck to the net, good things happen. [It] felt pretty good.”

In a desperate attempt to score before second intermission, UMass amped up its offense with 13 shots to Northeastern’s 10. But the Huskies kept the Minutemen behind by matching UMass’ physicality and speed, and dominating on offense and defense — creating more quality scoring opportunities and limiting UMass’ chances.

Entering the final frame up by three goals, Northeastern continued to play its game and didn’t sit comfortably on the lead, knowing UMass would come out harder than before to try to get on the board. 

By the halfway mark of the period, UMass had put up nine shots — including some of its best quality chances of the matchup — but Levi and the Huskies held the Minutemen at bay.

“We talked about playing on our toes. I mean [UMass] pushed, they were aggressive. But at the same time, I didn’t think we gave much up inside the dots,” said head coach Jerry Keefe.

With under nine minutes left in regulation, Northeastern was still hungry to increase its lead. Captain and senior forward Aidan McDonough won a battle in neutral ice and sauced the puck up to junior forward Gunnarwolfe Fontaine. In another odd man rush, Fontaine flew over the blue line with Hryckowian hanging on his left wing and sniped the puck into the top shelf before Brady even had a chance to react. Fontaine’s score at 12:16 was his tenth of the season, and bumped Northeastern’s lead to four.

UMass’ last attempt at avoiding a shutout came with a minute and a half left in regulation when Northeastern freshman defenseman Jackson Dorrington took a holding penalty at 18:28, but the Huskies held down the fort on the penalty kill, playing keep away and even creating shorthanded opportunities until the final buzzer.

“We really liked our response tonight. I thought our guys were really committed — we knew this was a big game. I’m just really proud of those guys for the effort that they gave tonight,” Keefe said.

After 60 minutes of action, Levi secured his sixth shutout of the season with 32 saves. This is all the more impressive considering Levi was battling a physical illness and coming off a 2-3 loss the night prior.

“For [Levi] to go in and give us what he gave us these last two nights is incredible. He was playing on pure adrenaline, didn’t feel well. But it just shows the character. He knew the importance of the game and he was outstanding,” Keefe said.

In the last home-and-home series of the regulation season, the Huskies will face the University of Massachusetts Lowell River Hawks on the road Friday at 7:15 p.m. at the Tsongas Center, followed by senior night at Matthews Arena Saturday at 7:00 p.m.