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Northeastern has the hot goalie ready for Hockey East men’s semifinals

Northeastern goaltender Devon Levi is a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award as the best player in the nation.Winslow Townson/Associated Press

The last time the Hockey East men’s semifinals were at TD Garden, Northeastern rode the strong play of a sophomore goalie to capture the conference championship. That was in 2019, with Cayden Primeau turning in a stellar performance en route to winning the Mike Richter Award as the nation’s top goalie.

This year, Northeastern (25-11-1) could be following that same path as Hockey East makes its return to the Garden after COVID cut short the 2020 season and the 2021 tournament was held at campus sites.

In net this time around will be Devon Levi, who missed all of last season with an injury but has been spectacular this year, going 21-8-1 with a .954 save percentage, 1.47 goals against average, and 10 shutouts. This week, he was named Hockey East Rookie of the Year and Goalie of the Year and a Hobey Baker finalist.

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“Dev’s been a huge part of our team this year,” said senior captain Jordan Harris, a defenseman from Haverhill. “Whenever you have a goalie back there like Dev, it gives everyone a little more confidence when the puck’s on your stick. Our D corps all year has been rock-solid, we have a bunch of veterans, and our forwards have been able to score timely goals.”

Aidan McDonough’s 23 goals were third in the nation. The Milton native joined Harris and Levi as a first-team Hockey East all-star. Jerry Keefe was named Hockey East Coach of the Year.

While Northeastern is making its fourth trip to the semifinals in the last six years, Friday’s opponent, Connecticut (19-15-0), reached the semifinals for the first time since joining Hockey East in 2014-15. Coach Mike Cavanaugh’s bunch had come close in recent years, and finally broke through for its first Hockey East playoff win with a 3-1 victory over Boston University.

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UConn clinched the win with an empty-net goal, prompting Cavanaugh, a North Andover native who spent 18 seasons on Jerry York’s staff at Boston College before taking over in Storrs nine years ago, to bang on the glass in celebration. The moment was caught on video and made the rounds on social media.

“It’s just awesome, all his emotion, to see all of his hard work pay off from when he came here nine years ago to win now,” said senior forward Marc Gatcomb, who grew up in Woburn and has 7 goals to go with 13 assists this season. “We’re all so happy to be a part of it.”

Northeastern won the season series, 2-1.

Woburn native Marc Gatcomb is an assistant captain for UConn.Stew Milne/Associated Press

Unlike Northeastern, UMass (20-12-2) will not be hoping for a repeat of its performance at the Garden from 2019, when the Minutemen entered as the top seed but were shut out, 3-0, by BC in the semifinals. UMass would regroup and advance to the championship game of the NCAA tournament, but the experience left a bitter taste.

The defending national champions are looking to learn from that experience when they face UMass Lowell.

“It was important for us to talk about it and make it part of their preparation,” said UMass coach Greg Carvel. “Understanding that ‘My focus needs to stay on what I need to do.’ Not how many people are in the building, what building we’re in, whether the game gets delayed. Whatever the case may be, we have to be mentally prepared.”

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Senior Bobby Trivigno leads the Minutemen with 18 goals and 27 assists. He was named Hockey East Player of the Year and joined Levi as a Hobey Baker finalist. Freshman defenseman Scott Morrow (13-19—32) joined him as a conference first-team all-star, and was named to the all-rookie team with along with Ryan Ufko (5-24—29).

UMass defenseman Scott Morrow was named a first-team all-star as a freshman.Stew Milne/Associated Press

The game with the River Hawks will be a rematch of last year’s conference title game, won by UMass, 1-0, in Amherst.

UMass Lowell (21-9-3) will be looking to reach the championship game for the seventh time in the last nine tournaments, and is playing at the Garden for the first time since 2017.

“Giving these kids the opportunity to play in the Garden is a big deal,” said coach Norm Bazin. “For some, it’s going to be one of their career highlights. It’s exciting to play for a Hockey East championship, and we want to keep this going.”

The River Hawks are strong up the middle, with centers Carl Berglund (9-19—28), Lucas Condotta (9-12—21), and Connor Sodergren (6-8—14) leading a balanced attack. Goalie Owen Savory (20-5-2) was named a second-team all-star after posting a .929 save percentage and a 1.85 GAA, while forward Andre Lee (16-12—28) joined Berglund on the third team.

Harvard (19-10-3) also will be in action this weekend, making its sixth consecutive appearance in the ECAC semifinals at Lake Placid, N.Y. The third-seed Crimson are on the outside looking in with regard to a berth in the NCAA tournament, and will need to win out to qualify, beginning with Friday’s game against second seed Clarkson (21-9-6).

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Clarkson swept the season series, the most recent matchup a 4-3 win at Harvard Jan. 22.

Junior Henry Thrun leads Harvard with 31 points.Stew Milne/Associated Press

“We like the matchup in the sense that we made it to Lake Placid and we’re playing for a chance to win our league championship,” said Harvard coach Ted Donato. “Obviously, at this time of year, you’re going to play a tough team, and Clarkson has been excellent over the last several years.”

Junior defenseman Henry Thrun’s 31 points (7 goals, 24 assists) led the Crimson, while first-year forward Matthew Coronato and junior forward Nick Abruzzese have sparked the offense of late. Coronato is 9-6—15 in his last 14 games, while Abruzzese has points in six straight contests (2-5—7).

No. 1 seed Quinnipiac (30-5-3) is the only ECAC team to have clinched a spot in the NCAA tourney, and will face Colgate (18-17-4) in the other semifinal at 4 p.m. Both games can be streamed on ESPN+.

Hockey East tournament

at TD Garden

Semifinals

Friday, March 18

UConn vs. Northeastern, 4 p.m. (NESN)

UMass Lowell vs. UMass, 7:30 p.m (NESN+)

Final

Saturday, March 19, 7 p.m. (NESN)

ECAC tournament

at Lake Placid, N.Y.

Semifinals

Friday, March 18

Quinnipiac vs. Colgate, 4 p.m. (ESPN+)

Clarkson vs. Harvard, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN+)

Final

Saturday, March 19, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN+)




Follow Andrew Mahoney on Twitter @GlobeMahoney.