Northeastern celebrates its first Hockey East championship in 28 years. (

Northeastern beats UMass Lowell to capture first Hockey East title in 28 years

Scott McLaughlin
March 19, 2016 - 5:40 pm

Sometimes the best plays are the ones that don't go according to plan. And sometimes those plays end 28-year championship droughts. That was the case Saturday night when Northeastern scored the go-ahead goal on a broken play (and broken stick) with 8:57 to go and went on to win 3-2 to capture its first Hockey East tournament title since 1988. The Huskies were on the power play at the time thanks to a retaliation penalty by UMass Lowell's Adam Chapie, and they made the River Hawks pay -- just not in a conventional way. John Stevens teed up a one-timer from center point, but his stick shattered. Fortunately for Northeastern, the puck slid right to Zach Aston-Reese, and also caught Lowell goalie Kevin Boyle off-guard. Aston-Reese calmly flipped a backhander past Boyle for a goal that will go down in Northeastern hockey lore as the one that ended decades of trophy-less frustration. The River Hawks pressed for a late tying goal, but the Huskies kept them off the board. With 1:32 to go, Ryan Ruck made a huge glove save on a Chapie chance from right in front. When the final buzzer sounded, six balcony sections worth of black-and-red-clad students exploded in celebration, as did long-suffering Northeastern fans everywhere. The win is just the latest step in Northeastern's unbelievable turnaround this season. After starting the season 1-11-2, the Huskies managed to pull a complete 180 and turn into the hottest team in the country in the second half, with Saturday's championship extending their winning streak to 13 games and putting their record at 20-1-2 since Dec. 19. It also secured an NCAA tournament berth, their first since 2009. Lowell was looking for its third Hockey East tournament title in the last four years, but came up a goal short one night after beating Providence in triple overtime in the ninth-longest game in college hockey history. The River Hawks are still headed to the NCAA tournament, though. The selection show is Sunday. The game started off looking a lot more like Friday's high-scoring Northeastern-Boston College semifinal than the Lowell-Providence defensive struggle that preceded it. Northeastern got on the board first just 1:12 into the game on a tic-tac-toe passing play from Dylan Sikura to Mike McMurtry to Adam Gaudette for the finish. Lowell answered two minutes later when John Edwardh collected a loose puck at the side of the net and roofed it over Ruck's left arm. It took just three more minutes for the Huskies to retake the lead on the power play, though. Nolan Stevens redirected brother John Stevens' shot from the point and the puck popped off Boyle before landing behind him and bouncing over the line. The River Hawks settled down after Northeastern's second goal and started to take control a little bit, going on a 9-3 shots on goal run at one point. They kept pressing and eventually tied the game with 6:26 left in the second when Chapie won a puck battle behind the net and banked a shot off Ruck's blocker and in. Northeastern was the better team in the third period, though, and drew two power plays in the frame, including the one that set up Aston-Reese's game-winning goal.