UMass falls to Northeastern in Hockey East opener 3-1

The Minutemen went 0-5 on the power play

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UMass falls to Northeastern in Hockey East opener 3-1

(Will Katcher/Daily Collegian)

(Will Katcher/Daily Collegian)

(Will Katcher/Daily Collegian)

(Will Katcher/Daily Collegian)

By Noah Bortle, Assistant Sports Editor

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BOSTON — In a matchup of ranked Hockey East opponents on Tuesday night at Matthews Arena, No. 15 Northeastern got the better of No. 4 Massachusetts, winning 3-1 on home ice.

With 3:03 remaining, the Huskies (3-0, 1-0 Hockey East) gifted UMass (1-1, 0-1 HEA) a major penalty for a spear by Brendan Van Riemsdyk. Down 2-1, the Minutemen failed to capitalize on the man advantage, giving up an empty-net dagger with 12 seconds left, solidifying the 3-1 score.

The penalty was emblematic of the third period as a whole for the Minutemen. With pressure proving to be too little too late, UMass got 17 shots on net in comparison to Northeastern’s six. The third period helped them outshoot the Huskies 35-23 for the night.

“When we play in this building, it’s usually 5-on-5 and it becomes a pretty grinding game,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “Felt like the first period neither team had a scoring chance. There wasn’t much flow in the game, just because both teams were having a hard time generating anything”

Neither team garnered much in the way of scoring chances in the opening 20 minutes. UMass won the shot battle in the first, 9-4. The period was rather highlighted by neither team completing passes to break out of their defensive zones or carry the puck into the attacking zone, often times turning the puck over in the tight Matthews Arena neutral zone.

The scoreless first period gave way to a two-goal second period for Northeastern.

Matt Demelis opened the scoring for the Huskies. With 10:23 remaining, Matt Murray stopped two Northeastern shots, leaving the rebound in front of the net. Demelis cleaned up the rebound and converted the third attempt to score his first collegiate goal and put Northeastern up 1-0.

The first Huskie goal came on the heels of UMass successfully killing a 5-on-3 penalty, highlighted by a glove save at point blank by Murray.

“[Murray] made some huge saves on that 5-on-3 and they were athletic saves,” Carvel said. “I thought Matt played really well.”

A slashing call on Philip Lagunov with 5:30 left in the second gave Jordan Harris an opportunity for a penalty shot. The defenseman brought the puck up along the left boards, drifting across the crease and patiently waiting for Murray to open his five hole. When the UMass goaltender gave him what he was looking for, Harris slid home the puck to stretch Northeastern’s lead to 2-0.

“We were definitely on our heels,” Carvel said. “We didn’t manage the puck very well and it led to them getting some really extended offensive zone time. We shot ourselves in the foot on both of those goals.”

Penalties played a key role in the flow of the game, with 12 power plays between the two sides. Neither team found a breakthrough on the man advantage, however. UMass especially struggled to find a breakthrough goal on the power play despite tallying 17 shots on their five chances.

“I like the two [power play] units,” Carvel said. “I thought they moved the puck around pretty well, had a lot of chances tonight, but just didn’t get rewarded.”

The Minutemen cut into the Huskies’ lead with 13:12 remaining in the contest. After a battle along the wall, freshman Jeremy Davidson sent a pass to fellow freshman Matthew Kessel at the right point. Kessel unleashed a slapshot low along the ice, beating Northeastern goaltender Craig Pantano’s right pad.

The goal was the first of Kessel’s career. In the defenseman’s second game, he impressed amongst UMass’ three freshmen d-men.

“I thought Kessel was outstanding tonight,” Carvel said. “Not just the goal. He’s a big horse of a kid. Plays hard, plays right, moves the puck.”

After a scrum in front of the Huskie net with 12 minutes remaining, the game entered a lengthy delay. Northeastern first challenged for contact to the head, hoping to receive a five-minute major penalty. After the officials upheld the ruling on the ice, Carvel challenged the play himself, which also resulted in no penalty.

The delay came in the middle of a UMass penalty that saw the Minutemen come close to tying the game on multiple occasions but couldn’t beat Pantano to tie the game.

The Minutemen were without both of the Del Gaizo brothers. Marc missed the opener against RPI and sat out again Tuesday, while Anthony missed it with an injury sustained against RPI.

UMass will head back home this weekend with two non-conference matchups against Union.

Friday’s contest is set to start at 7 p.m.

Noah Bortle can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @noah_bortle.