Northeastern came back in the second period to lead, 3-2, but eventually fell, 5-3, to Massachusetts on Sunday at Matthews Arena. After UMass got out to a 2-1 lead, NU's Chad Costello and Bryan Esner scored to make it 3-2 before P.J. Fenton and Justin Braun scored to give the Minutemen the lead for good. Chris Donovan also scored for NU. Huskies goalie Brad Thiessen made 29 saves on 33 shots and UMass added an empty netter with just over a minute to go.
Northeastern dropped to 12-16-5 overall and 8-13-5 in Hockey East with the loss while Massachusetts improved to 16-11-5 and 13-9-3. Northeastern is seventh in the Hockey East standings with one game left and needs one point or a Providence tie or loss to clinch the No. 7 seed in the Hockey East playoffs. Massachusetts vaulted ahead of Vermont into a tie for fourth in Hockey East with Maine heading into the final weekend of the regular season.
UMass struck first in the first period when Chris Capraro passed the puck from behind the net to Cory Quirk, who was open in front. Quirk scored on a backhander at 1:19 in the first period to give the Minutemen the lead.
The Huskies put the pressure on after the UMass goal, including six power play shots when Brett Watson was in the penalty box for hooking. Joe Vitale made a perfect pass to Ryan Ginand, who was open in front, but Massachusetts goalie Dan Meyers deflected Ginand's shot high.
Vitale's next setup was more successful, however. When the play started, Vitale was in the penalty box for contact to the head-elbowing. Donavan passed the puck ahead to Esner in the neutral zone. Vitale got out of the penalty box and went up the left side. Esner passed it across to Vitale, whose shot was saved by Meyers. The rebound went straight out front and Donavan caught up to the play to deflect it in for his fourth goal of the season at 7:54.
UMass took the lead back before the end of the period when Matt Anderson scored on the rebound of a David Leaderer shot at 17:34. Leaderer shot the puck from the left side and the rebound went right to Anderson, who was open on the right and made it 2-1 with his seventh goal of the season.
Northeastern came back with a pair of goals to take a 3-2 lead to start the second period. On the tying play, Vitale took the puck through the right circle and passed it to Costello and it looked like Costello lost the puck in his skates. However, he had control and shot it past Meyers to make it 2-2 at 8:12.
Just over a minute later with Massachusetts on the power play, Northeastern's top penalty killers, Esner and Ray Ortiz, were in the UMass zone. Meyers tried to pass the puck along the boards but Ortiz intercepted it and passed it to Esner in the slot. Esner spun around and shot it past Meyers to make it 3-2 in favor of Northeastern at 9:59 in the second. It was Esner's third power play goal in four games.
Massachusetts got the lead back before the period was over on goals by Fenton and Braun. Fenton scored on a power play at 11:27 when he banged in the rebound of a Chris Capraro shot. Capraro had three assists in the game. Braun scored when he took the puck into the Northeastern zone and shot it over Thiessen's shoulder from the right circle to make it 4-3 at 18:05.
Northeastern outshot UMass, 11-10, in the third period but couldn't generate any offense. The Huskies pulled Thiessen with over a minute to go and Mike Kostka scored an empty netter from the UMass blueline at 18:55. It was his second empty netter in as many games against NU.
Northeastern plays its final regular season game on Wednesday, when the Huskies host Boston University at Matthews Arena at 7:30 p.m. The game will be televised live on CN8 and will be broadcast on 890 ESPN Boston and WRBB Radio, 104.9 FM.