Northeastern upsets UConn, 4-1, at Frozen Fenway on 29 saves by Devon Levi, ‘the best goaltender in the country’

Hockey players in red uniforms gather around their goalie.
Northeastern gathered around goalie Devon Levi to celebrate its win over No. 10 Connecticut at Fenway Park on Saturday. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

The Northeastern men’s hockey team discovered the cure to its recent problems just a half-mile from campus—and in the most unlikely setting for their sport. 

On a chilly, once-in-a-lifetime afternoon at Fenway Park that the Huskies will never forget, they upset their namesakes from the University of Connecticut, 4-1, on 29 saves from Devon Levi.

The thrilling win against No. 10 UConn on Saturday ended a Northeastern rut of six losses in its previous seven games. The performance was especially redemptive for Levi, the reigning national goaltender of the year, who was coming off an 8-4 loss at Harvard just one weekend ago. His teammates celebrated on the Fenway ice by gathering around him.

“Levi’s the best goaltender in the country and we know that,” Northeastern coach Jerry Keefe said. “Last week, we had a lot of missed checks and Harvard made some good plays—that was not Dev’s fault at all. But he knows how to respond. If anything, he looked at it like, hey, this is part of development, this is good for me to go through it. And he took it as a challenge and went out there and played great for us.”

After so much recent misery, the Huskies (9-9-3 overall) momentarily found themselves in third place in Hockey East at 7-4-2—instant proof that they’re still alive in the conference.

“We have a lot of believability in our room,” Keefe said with emotion. “We’ve got a lot of guys that have won. There’s a lot of confidence there. Sometimes all it takes is just finding a way to win one. 

“And whenever you can do it on a big stage like this,” he added, in reference to the opportunity to perform in America’s oldest and most cherished ballpark, “it means a little bit more.”

Hockey players playing on an ice skating rink in the middle of Fenway Park.
The rink, installed for the NHL’s Winter Classic one weekend earlier, occupied Fenway’s diamond and short right field. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

The Huskies pulled away with a couple of first-period goals. Their leading scorer, Aidan McDonough, broke down the left side in the 11th minute for his 13th goal of the season and celebrated with a baseball swing toward the looming Green Monster. 

Five minutes later, graduate student Liam Walsh, a transfer from Merrimack College, put away his first Northeastern goal in front of the net on a feed from freshman forward Jack Williams—who in the final minutes would score the clinching goal on an assist by Walsh.

For this pivotal victory the Huskies reprised the formula that delivered their first Hockey East regular season title last year—goals by McDonough and goaltending by Levi.

Though the blowout at Harvard suggested that the Huskies had bottomed out, McDonough insisted that he and his teammates had drawn strength from it.

“I felt it building the last two weeks—I think we’ve taken some really positive strides,” McDonough said. “We have been getting better. Our practices are upbeat, there’s energy, guys are having fun coming to the rink and I think it was just about time for us.”

The Huskies maintained their 2-0 advantage throughout the middle period and well into the third, enabling the noisy crowd of more than 12,000 to take account of the memorable setting. The rink, installed for the NHL’s Winter Classic one weekend earlier, occupied Fenway’s diamond and short right field, a long infield’s throw from the box seats. 

The Huskies, dressed in red, entered from the Red Sox dugout. Pillowy gray clouds covered the skyline like blankets before dusk settled in and the lights came on.

The steadiness was broken when UConn’s Matthew Wood beat Levi to abruptly cut Northeastern’s lead in half with 7:34 left. 

UConn quickly pelted a dangerous shot that was blocked by freshman defenseman Vinny Borgesi and cleared by his classmate Cam Lund to McDonough, who chipped a pass over an opponent’s stick to find Justin Hryckowian for his 11th goal of the year with 6:59 to go.

“There was a lot of Northeastern faithful in the crowd and it was an unreal turnout,” Hryckowian said.

“We had the band, the big student section, and when we scored it got pretty loud,” McDonough added. “It felt like a home game.”

UConn (13-6-3 overall) believed it had responded yet again during an apparently successful scrum at the net. But Hudson Schandor’s goal was waved off after video review due to goaltender interference.

Williams’ concluding goal came with 3:16 left.

“They buried their opportunities and we didn’t,” UConn coach Mike Cavanaugh said. “Northeastern’s a really good team. Their record is not indicative of the type of talent they have. They were opportunistic and we weren’t.”

The teams will be meeting twice more over the next month as Northeastern renews its ambitious goals. The Huskies, who are one of the youngest teams in NCAA Division 1, were ranked as high as No. 8 nationally entering the season.

“We knew this was a big stage,” Keefe said. “It was a big opportunity for our team and we took advantage.”

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