By Mark Fraenkel
Hockey East play is now officially in full swing –– here are the recent major storylines.
Lowell Bests Northeastern at Matthews
UMass Lowell (4-2-0, 1-0-0 HE) came south to Boston and beat the No. 12/14 Northeastern Huskies ((3-2-1, 2-2-0 HE) 3-2 Saturday night at Matthews Arena.
“Anytime you win in this building… there are valuable points [that] come at the end of the year,” Lowell head coach Norm Bazin said postgame. “You score shorty, you end up 100% on the PK, a couple of guys scored their first goals of the year but there’s a lot, a lot to be worked on. We’re working in progress right now.”
After losing to Providence College last weekend and tying Boston College in a midweek non-conference game, Northeastern returned to Matthews Arena on Saturday night without star goaltender Devon Levi.
Northeastern head coach Jerry Keefe called on freshman Grant Riley to defend the net. Less than six minutes into the contest, junior defenseman Ben Meehan would slap one past Riley to give the River Hawks a 1-0 lead.
“I know he was excited to play, [and] our guys were excited to play for him. Not an easy situation,” Keefe said postgame of his goaltender.
The Lowell penalty kill was fantastic in the first period, killing off two good Northeastern opportunities on sophomore Gabe Blanchard’s penalty midway through the first period.
With 7:35 to play in the first frame, Northeastern’s sophomore forward Justin Hryckowian would score in front of the goal.
With 15:44 to play in the second, Lowell’s sophomore forward Matt Crasa sat in the penalty box for tripping, and freshman Owen Fowler found the net to give the lead back to the River Hawks.
To start the third period, the Huskies were able to kill off a Hryckowian penalty that rolled over from the second period.
On a 4-on-4 opportunity with 15:02 to play in the third period, Zach Kaiser scored a goal to give the River Hawks a 3-1 lead.
However, the Huskies would respond quickly. Just 14 seconds later, still on a 4-on-4, Jayden Struble scored a goal to cut the Lowell lead in half.
In the offensive zone down one goal with 32.5 seconds to play and a pulled goalie, Keefe called a timeout. Northeastern would have a scoring opportunity, but Lowell’s Henry Welsh made an acrobatic save to seal the win for the River Hawks.
Welsh made 26 saves and picked up the win. Bazin was impressed with his goaltender’s performance.
“Goaltending was good also, no question,” he said.
The River Hawks have a home-and-home series next weekend with the Boston University Terriers.
“Every weekend in Hockey East there are good opponents, so I’m not too worried about who the opponent is,” the twelfth-year head coach said. “There are tough opponents every single weekend, and that’s what’s great about our league.”
Northeastern will travel to Orono, Maine for two games with the University of Maine Black Bears next weekend and look to put some points back in the win column.
“Yeah, I think getting on the road will be good for us,” Keefe said. “I think we’re all a little bit disappointed right now with some of the results leaving, but at the end of the day, we gotta get back to work on Monday.”
Providence College Takes A Step Back In Denver
The Providence College Friars headed west following a huge win at Matthews Arena over the Northeastern Huskies last weekend. The Denver Pioneers, swept one weekend ago by the UMass Minutemen, handled Nate Leaman’s squad on Friday night, with Parker Ford scoring the lone Providence goal in a 4-1 loss.
On Saturday night, Jaroslav Chmelar scored in the first period. Then down 2-1, Taige Harding scored to force overtime in which the Friars would fall just short.
Next week, PC will return east for a home-and-home with the University of New Hampshire Wildcats.
Greg Brown Off To Good Start At BC
After falling to Quinnipiac in the first game of the season, Boston College beat the University of New Hampshire in Durham and then tied with Northeastern at Matthews.
On Sunday, new head coach Greg Brown’s team played UNH for the second time in just eight days to a shutout victory. Lukas Gustafsson, Nikita Nesterenko, Trevor Kuntar, Cutter Gauthier, and Mike Posma each scored in Eagles’ 5-0 rout of the Wildcats.
BC will next travel to Hartford to play UConn on Thursday. The Huskies come off of a weekend where they beat BU in overtime and then lost in regulation the next night.