Skip to content
Northeastern team captain and top defenseman Jordan Harris attacks the net.

Huskies counting on their defense in NCAA tournament opener

Team captain and top defenseman Jordan Harris (No. 2) will be leading Northeastern from the back in its NCAA tournament opener against Western Michigan. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

The Huskies will be counting on their defense to lead them through the opening round of the NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Championship.

Northeastern takes on favored Western Michigan on Friday at noon ET (ESPNU) at the DCU Center in Worcester, Mass. The Broncos earned the No. 1 regional seed because of their offense, which ranks fourth nationally with 3.7 goals per game.

The fourth-seeded Huskies (25-12-1) are confident they can score an upset, based on the defensive leadership of sophomore Devon Levi, who ranks among the nation’s top goalies, and senior team captain Jordan Harris, who was named Hockey East’s best defensive defenseman and leads Northeastern with 68 blocks.

“I love going into this game as an underdog,” Levi says. “People are saying we aren’t supposed to win this game and I think we embrace that mentality. We have nothing to lose, so we’ll go out and have fun.” 

The winner will advance to the quarterfinal on Sunday in Worcester against Minnesota or defending national champion Massachusetts, who will be meeting in the other first-round game at the DCU Center.

The Huskies, ranked No. 12 nationally, are hoping to benefit from home-ice advantage just one hour west of their campus in Boston. Two wins in Worcester will advance them to the Frozen Four at TD Garden in Boston April 7-9.

“It makes playing so much more fun when you have people in the crowd cheering for you,” Levi says. “We appreciate the fans that are going to come out here and watch the game.” 

The “visiting” Broncos say they’re prepared for a hostile environment.

“We’ve had a lot of success on the road,” says Pat Ferschweiler, who played at Western Michigan and is finishing his first year as head coach. “Nothing really affects this team. We just come out and play.” 

This is Northeastern’s first NCAA tournament game since 2019, and its eighth appearance overall. The Huskies have moved beyond the first round once—in 1982, when they reached the Frozen Four with a team that included freshman Jim Madigan, who went on to become the team’s head coach before moving up to athletic director at Northeastern last year. 

Western Michigan (25-11-1), ranked No. 4 nationally, is seeking to advance for the first time.

Age will be a factor. The Huskies arrive as the nation’s third-youngest team, while the Broncos are bigger and more experienced with a half-dozen players who are 24 or older—including four of their top five scorers. Their system is nothing fancy, they insist with pride.

“It’s hard-nosed hockey, getting pucks deep and making their team come 200 feet to play in our zone,” says Ethen Frank, the 24-year-old forward who leads the nation with 26 goals. “It’s real simple and hard-nosed.” 

The Huskies, who won the Hockey East regular-season title for the first time, are led offensively by junior forward Aidan McDonough, who ranks second in the NCAA with 24 goals, including five game-winners.

Keeping the game tight is a winning strategy for the Huskies, who are experienced at the defensive end. They’re 13-6 in one-goal games over the past two seasons.

“We’ve seen a lot of resilience for a young group over the course of the year,” Harris says. “Our third periods specifically have been outstanding. We’ve won a lot of big games, and there have been a couple games where we’ve left our best effort on the table. The message has been to leave it all out there. We came here to win.”

Levi, who is among a trio of finalists for the Mike Richter Award that goes to the nation’s top goalie, ranks among the top three at his position nationally with a .952 save percentage (first), a 1.52 goals-against average (third), and a school-record 10 shutouts (second). He’s allowed two goals or fewer in 24 of his 31 games this season.

Since returning from the Beijing Olympics as a representative of Canada, Levi has led the Huskies to a 5-2 record while allowing 10 goals to secure their NCAA at-large bid. In his first games back from China, Levi made 100 saves in a home-and-away sweep of Connecticut that included 60 stops in the opener to tie a six-decade Northeastern record. At the same time, the Huskies are wary of asking too much of Levi, which is why they ran repeated defensive drills this week minus their goalie.

“There is definitely a comfort level with Devon,” says Jerry Keefe, the first-year Northeastern coach who was voted by rivals as Hockey East Coach of the Year. “Sometimes when it’s not a dangerous shot, maybe we’re not getting a stick on the puck because we feel like Devon is there. That is something we have addressed recently, and we want to make sure we’re contesting and getting in front of every shot. If we can limit those shots and Devon is seeing the puck and facing 27-28 shots, we like our chances with him in net.” 

For media inquiries, please contact media@northeastern.edu

Cookies on Northeastern sites

This website uses cookies and similar technologies to understand your use of our website and give you a better experience. By continuing to use the site or closing this banner without changing your cookie settings, you agree to our use of cookies and other technologies. To find out more about our use of cookies and how to change your settings, please go to our Privacy Statement.