Top of Hockey East standings could shift as UMass hockey faces Northestern 

  • Anthony Del Gaizo and the UMass hockey team are in for a tough battle against Northeastern this weekend. The Huskies travel to the Mullins Center at 7 p.m. Friday, and the teams will do it again at Matthews Arena on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • Lucas Mercuri and the UMass hockey team are in for a tough battle against Northeastern this weekend. The Huskies travel to the Mullins Center at 7 p.m. Friday, and the teams will do it again at Matthews Arena on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

Staff Writer
Published: 1/20/2022 5:02:25 PM
Modified: 1/20/2022 5:01:21 PM

The top of Hockey East’s standings could be in for a shakeup after this weekend’s series between Northeastern and UMass.

The Huskies (16-5-1, 8-3-1 HE) are second in the league standings with 26 points, while the Minutemen (10-6-2, 7-2-2) trail closely behind with 24. UMass Lowell tops the conference with 31.

Northeastern, ranked 12th by USCHO and 14th by USA Today, visit the Mullins Center at 7 p.m. Friday. The Huskies bring the league’s top defense and have allowed just 31 goals in 22 games. Sophomore goalie Devon Levi has a lot to do with it.

He leads the nation with a .955 save percentage and allows just 1.31 goals per game, third in the country. Both top Hockey East, as well. Levi has nine shutouts and kept the opposition off the board in three of Northeastern’s past four games. The Buffalo Sabres prospect was named to the Mike Richter Award (college hockey goalie of the year) watch list among seven total Hockey East net minders, including UMass’ Matt Murray. He’s a two-time Hockey East goalie of the week and has been named the conference’s rookie of the week four times (Levi missed last season with an injury).

“That means he’s a good goalie but it also means they’re playing good defense in front of him,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “My assistants feel they have maybe the most talented forward group in the league.”

The Huskies rank sixth in the league offensively with 59 goals. Junior forward Aidan McDonough is fourth in Hockey East with 23 points. His 16 goals are second behind Boston College’s Marc McLaughlin’s 17. Seven Huskies have cracked double-digit points.

Northeastern also possesses Hockey East’s best penalty kill, thwarting 91.2 percent of its opponents’ man advantage opportunities.

“That’s a good combination: good forwards, good defense. They’re at the top of the league right now with us. We’re looking at this as a play0ff-type of game for position in the league,” Carvel said.

UMass, No. 14 in the USCHO poll and No. 12 in USA Today, hasn’t lost a conference game in regulation yet. The Minutemen went 0-2 in their last series against Michigan two weeks ago and now face five games in 10 days against ranked conference opponents.

“We’ve just got to play games. We’ve been back three weeks and we’ve played three games,” Carvel said. “The practices get old. There’s no students here, it gets stale.”

The teams will play the second half of the home-and-home at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at an empty Matthews Arena. Northeastern barred fans from its games “until further notice” Dec. 17 amidst the surge of COVID-19 cases fueled by the Omicron variant.

“Half of them are UMass fans, if not more,” Carvel said of typical crowds at Matthews. “So yeah, I’m kind of bummed about it.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.

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