WORCESTER — All season long, the Northeastern men’s hockey team could count on Devon Levi.
The sophomore goalie, playing his first season of college hockey after an injury kept him out his freshman year, set a team record for shutouts in a season with 10 en route to being named the Hockey East Rookie of the Year and Goaltender of the Year. Earlier this week he was named a finalist for the Richter Award, which is given to the best goaltender in Division 1.
And throughout NU’s NCAA East Regional semifinal matchup against Western Michigan, Levi again seemed to have all the answers, recording 34 saves Friday to keep the Huskies in the game, the teams headed to overtime with the score, 1-1, at DCU Center.
But in the second minute of the extra session, Levi made an uncharacteristic mistake: He skated behind the net to play the puck and shot it into the chest of Western Michigan sophomore forward Luke Grainger behind the goal line. Grainger then collected the puck, skated behind Levi, and wrapped it inside the left post.
At first, it appeared Levi made another one of his spectacular saves, lunging across the net and blocking the puck with his glove. That’s what the referee thought on the ice, signaling no goal.
But an overhead video replay clearly showed the puck had crossed the line. It was a quick review, with officials declaring the goal good at 1:33 of overtime, ending Northeastern’s season, while sending Western Michigan onto Sunday’s regional final.
It was a bitter ending for a Northeastern team that finished 25-13-1 and collected the program’s first Hockey East regular-season title.
“We’re not in this game without [Levi],” said junior Aidan McDonough, who scored NU’s tying goal at 16:40 of the third. “He’s an unbelievable goaltender and an unbelievable person.
“I just feel bad for him, because I know how much he cares about the boys. He’s the most selfless kid that I’ve ever met. I know he’s probably beating himself up about it, but it’s on all of us and it’s just a bounce and there’s no need for him to hang his head.”
Western Michigan (26-11-1) will next play the winner of the second game in Worcester between UMass and Minnesota on Sunday (4 p.m. ESPN2) for a trip to the Frozen Four at TD Garden on April 7, something Northeastern had been hoping to achieve.
“Our seniors really made a mark on this program,” said Northeastern coach Jerry Keefe. “They were terrific and, being a first-year head coach, you couldn’t ask for anything more from your seniors.
“I knew how badly they wanted to win and we’re a better program moving forward because of this season.”
The game was almost settled in regulation, but, with time winding down, McDonough kept Huskies’ season alive.
After freshman Justin Hryckowian made a nice play to keep the puck in the Western Michigan zone, he sent it over to Sam Colangelo, who found McDonough heading down the right side.
The junior from Milton swooped in past a sprawled defender, going across the crease with a nifty toe drag and putting the puck on net. Western Michigan’s Brandon Bussi (30 saves) made the initial stop, but McDonough knocked home the rebound.
The Broncos drew first blood in the first period, capitalizing on a Northeastern turnover in the neutral zone. Ethen Frank intercepted a pass and kicked it over to Drew Worrad, who broke in on a 2 on 1 with Cole Gallant. Worrad sent the puck to Gallant, who roofed one over Levi’s shoulder at 14:01.
“I would like to congratulate Northeastern on a great season and a great battle today,” said Western Michigan coach Pat Ferschweiler. “I think that is how NCAA hockey should look.”
Follow Andrew Mahoney on Twitter @GlobeMahoney.