Despite frustrating 4-1 Hockey East Semifinals loss to UConn, Northeastern advances to NCAA Championship

The Northeastern men’s ice hockey team (25-13-1, 15-8-1 HE) relegated to the University of Connecticut (20-16-0, 14-10-0 HE) in a disastrous semifinal match in Hockey East on March 18th.

The defeat came after the program first Hockey East victory of the regular season and a 3-2 quarterfinal knockout of the Boston College men’s ice hockey team (15-18-5, 9-12-3 HE).

Northeastern, a team that jumped around the Hockey East rankings all season, gained momentum toward the end. By March 18, the team had won six of its last seven matches. Their quarter-final victory on March 12 gave the team a chance to redeem themselves in TD Garden after their heartbreaking Beanpot Finals tab to Boston University (19-13-3, 13-8-3 HE), who ended their bid for a fourth straight victory in the tournament.

Prior to the semifinal match, Northeastern and UConn faced each other twice during a weekend series in late February, with the Northeastern Huskies dominating.

Northeast sophomore goalkeeper Devon Levi triumphantly returned from the 2022 Winter Olympics this weekend, making 100 saves on 103 shots on goal, while his teammates snuck eight goals past UConn student goalkeeper Darion Hanson.

The team’s energy was high into the championship weekend, but it disappeared when the players stepped on the ice.

Levi was uncharacteristically sloppy through the semifinal match. Eleven minutes into the first period, the UConn freshman brought the Chase Bradley puck up the right side of the Northeastern zone. Surrounded by Northeastern defenders, he sent the puck against UConn second striker Nick Capone, who was waiting at the corner of the net. Capone sent the puck across the net against junior forward Vladislav Firstov, and Levi failed to follow. Firstov knocked the puck into the open left corner of the net, giving UConn a 1-0 lead.

When the end of the first period closed in, Northeastern became hungry to equalize. Two minutes after UConn’s goal, Northeastern received a penalty kick for slashing, giving the team the advantage it needed. After grabbing the puck and skating against the net, second striker Gunnarwolfe Fontaine was caught in a mess by UConn defenders. He sent the puck behind him to captain’s senior defender Jordan Harris. Harris drove the puck against McDonough, who answered UConn’s goal with a backdoor snipe, Northeastern’s only goal that night.

UConn, determined to regain its lead, pushed several players towards the net and filled Levi with six minutes left of the second period. After UConn’s Bradley fired two back-to-back shots into Levi’s pads, UConn junior defender Roman Kinal flew up the ice and pushed the puck into the net before Levi could react.

UConn scored a third goal just five minutes inside the final period, strengthening its lead for the rest of the match. Sophomore striker Ryan Tverberg took the puck around in front of the net in an unassisted effort, scared Levi and pulled him out of the fold. Tverberg was left with a wide open slit for his shot.

In an attempt to equalize the score, Northeastern pulled Levi off the ice with three minutes left of the third period. Forty-six seconds later, UConn senior striker Marc Gatcomb scored an empty goal. Levi returned to the net for exactly one minute, then skated out of the game again for the rest of the match.

The final score was 4-1, which sent UConn into the championship game against the University of Massachusetts Amherst (22-12-2, 14-8-2 HE) on March 19th. UMass won the match 2-1 in OT.

At the post-match press conference, UConn head coach Mike Cavanaugh spoke about his team’s newfound ability to penetrate Levi’s defensive wall.

“We talked about having two guys online all the time,” Cavanaugh said. “Last time we played [Northeastern], we got a lot of shots, but we only had one guy on the net. Very rarely are you going to hit [Levi] with only one guy online. ”

Although the loss took Northeastern out of the Hockey East tournament, there was still hope for a promotion to the NCAA Championship. Northeastern finished the season in 12th place nationally, leaving its fate in the hands of each division championship round.

The Huskies advanced to the first round of the NCAA Championship Tournament, losing 2-1 in the OT to Western Michigan University (26-11-1, 14-9-1 NCHC) on March 25 at the DCU Arena in Worcester, a painful end to the a historic season.

Leave a Comment