New York Rangers prospect Riley Hughes plays at Frozen Fenway

Frozen Fenway
Jan 2, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; A general view of Fenway Park during the 2023 Winter Classic ice hockey game. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

On the heels of the 2023 NHL Winter Classic, Fenway Park played host to a Hockey East Double Header on Saturday, January 7th. The event was coined Frozen Fenway.

The first contest featured 2018 New York Rangers seventh-round pick Riley Hughes and Northeastern University Huskies facing off against the #9 ranked University of Connecticut Huskies. 

Northeastern was coming off a disappointing return from the Christmas break, as they lost both games the weekend prior against Bentley and cross-town rivals Harvard. On the opposite end, UConn ended 2022 with a weekend sweep against the LIU Sharks. 

Big East Hockey at Frozen Fenway

Both teams marked the unique occasion of playing an outdoor hockey game at the historic baseball stadium by dressing in special uniforms for the game. Northeastern University wore red jerseys with white along the shoulders and sleeves, as well as across the bottom, while a husky head logo on the front was surrounded by “NORTHEASTERN” lettering arched overhead. UConn drew inspiration from their baseball team, representing the “Hook C” prominently displayed with “CONNECTICUT” written above in white on the front of a navy blue jersey. It was refreshing to see both teams wearing colored jerseys for the contest. 

Interestingly, UConn officially served as the home team for the game, despite the Northeastern campus being less than one mile from the ballpark. The #IceBus fans did travel in respectable numbers, and were on hand to cheer along with the official mascot, Jonathan the Husky (Jonathan XIV). Notably absent however was the UConn Pep Band, though Northeastern’s band, and a large student section sat behind the home dugout along the first base line. 

2022 Mike Richter Award winner (given to the goaltender voted to be the most outstanding in Division I NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey during the regular season) Devon Levi started in net for Northeastern. The public address announcer incorrectly listed #35 Logan Terness as the starting netminder for Connecticut, though #30 Arsenii Sergeev, who was drafted in the seventh round by the Calgary Flames in 2021 was in goal.

New York Rangers prospect Riley Hughes in action 

Riley Hughes
Riley Hughes in action (Photo Credit: Jim Pierce – Northeastern Athletics)

Northeastern won the opening faceoff, but the puck went out of play fifty six seconds into the game. WIth 17:32 on the clock, a turnover in front of the NU net ultimately led to Levi’s helmet to be knocked off after being knocked into. Momentum favored UConn in the first few minutes, as shots on goal were 7-0 in their favor. 

New York Rangers prospect Riley Hughes had a big hit in the offensive zone on the forecheck with 13:40 remaining in the first period. Thirty seconds later, Ryan Tverberg of UConn was assessed a boarding penalty, his 15th of the season so far, and fourth consecutive game being charged with an infraction.

Northeastern wasn’t able to generate any shots with the man advantage however. With 9:41 to go in the first, Justin Pearson of Connecticut drove hard to the net, causing an opposing defender on NU to bump into Levi. Northeastern would score the opening goal at 9:24 when Aidan McDonagh beat Sergeev off a 2 on 1 rush. The Northeastern captain would then celebrate with a mock homerun swing over the Green Monster.

Riley Hughes came out for the ensuing faceoff, then with under six minutes in the period had a physical shift while throwing multiple hits against UConn forwards. 

Liam Walsh stuffed in a loose puck in front of the UConn net to make the score 2-0 with 4:37 on the clock. The call on the ice was a goal, which was confirmed after review. UConn gained their first power play with just under three minutes remaining when Riley Hughes of Northeastern was called for hooking.

After Northeastern killed the penalty, Hughes came out of the box, and gained the puck, but shot wide. He was stopped on another shot attempt with 38.8 seconds on the timer. The first period ended with the score 2-0 for Northeastern, despite UConn holding the shot advantage 13-9. 

The second period would also end with the score 2-0 for Northeastern after Devon Levi stood tall in the face of constant pressure from Connecticut, who failed to convert on the powerplay after Sam Colangelo was called for tripping at 5:55. 

UConn went back on the power play fifty one seconds into the third period as Jackson Dorrington was called for boarding. Northeastern successfully killed the penalty though, not allowing any shots on goal, while also generating one shorthanded. With 14:10 on the clock, Riley Hughes had an opportunity with a 2 on 1 break, but his shot deflected wide off a defender. On his next shift, Hughes was part of a nice cycle by Northeastern to pin UConn in their defensive end for a long stretch. 

Hughes sits at one goal, and three assists in twenty one games played on the season. His NCAA career stats are ten goals, twenty assists, and twenty three penalties in one hundred seven games played.

With such minimal offensive production, and due to turn 23 years of age in June, he is a long shot to be signed to a professional contract by the New York Rangers. According to CapFriendly, his rights expire August 15th, 2023. It would not be surprising however if he was traded in a package to the Montreal Canadiens, as his father Kent Hughes serves as General Manager of the club, while former New York Rangers GM, is the Executive Vice President who originally drafted Riley. 

2023 NHL draft eligible freshman Matthew Wood scored the first goal at Fenway Park for the University of Connecticut with 7:37 on the clock, though NU answered right back as his goal was being announced, when Justin Hryckowian made the score 3-1. Thirty seconds later, Hudson Schandor appeared to bring Connecticut back within one goal. The play was under review after Northeastern challenged for goaltender interference, and the call on the ice was overturned after a lengthy review. 

Northeastern added another insurance goal with 3:16 remaining, scored by Jack Williams to bring the final to 4-1. The two teams will meet again on Saturday, January 14th in the main event of the opening weekend for the newly constructed on-campus Toscano Family Ice Forum in Storrs, CT. 

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