HEMPSTEAD, NY — The Northeastern Huskies (14–6) swept the Hofstra Pride (9–9) in a Saturday doubleheader, winning game one 3–2 and game two 13–5.
Northeastern was able to grind out a victory in game one due to stellar pitching from starter Kyle Murphy and clutch hitting from right fielder Jared Dupere. The Huskies took the momentum from that win and carried into their offensive explosion in game two, powered once again by Dupere along with center fielder Ben Malgeri, catcher Matt Olson, and shortstop Spenser Smith.
Game one was a pitchers’ duel through and through between Northeastern starter Kyle Murphy and Hofstra starter Jimmy Joyce. Murphy notched a career-high 12 punchouts over six and a third innings of work, scattering five hits and allowing two runs. Murphy set down seven straight hitters by way of the K and has struck out 22 over his last two starts. Joyce matched Murphy stride for stride and was arguably better, spinning seven innings, striking out 13 batters, and allowing two earned runs.
“Joyce was awesome for Hofstra,” Northeastern head coach Mike Glavine remarked. “Really really electric . . . and everything was a struggle for us.”
Even though they had trouble getting their bats going against Joyce, the Huskies took advantage of some Hofstra miscues throughout the game, scoring one run each on a balk and a passed ball. Taking what the other team gives you is something Northeastern was trying to improve upon coming into this series.
In the sixth inning against Joyce, Dupere launched a homer to right field, increasing Northeastern’s lead to 3–1 and effectively icing the game.
Northeastern fireballer Brandon Dufault shut down Hofstra in the ninth, notching his second save of the season and securing a game one victory. Murphy, reliever Eric Yost, and Dufault combined to tally 13 strikeouts against just one walk and six hits. In a game where offense was at a premium, the bullpen putting zeroes on the board and taking some pressure off of Murphy was incredibly clutch.
“Game one was a grind, it could have gone either way,” Glavine said. “The guys battled in what was not an easy game . . . [They] played well under pressure, and we came out on top.”
In game two, the Huskies came out firing on all cylinders, plating four runs in the second courtesy of a two-run blast by Olson and another bomb by Dupere. They would never relinquish this lead.
Husky starter Sebastian Keane spun six quality innings to get the win, allowing two runs and striking out eight. Keane benefitted from stellar defense behind him — including some highlight-reel plays by Spenser Smith — and the early four-run cushion that he was tasked with protecting.
“Keane was good . . . though he would tell you it was not his best,” Glavine said. “He fought and he battled . . . settled in and gave us six strong innings.”
After entering the final three innings of action up 6-2, the Huskies went for the jugular, tacking on seven more runs. Leadoff hitter Ben Malgeri hit his first home run of the season, Jared Dupere continued his domination with an RBI double, Kyle Peterson hit a two-run triple, and Spenser Smith capped off the scoring with a solo homer in the ninth.
“Offensively, the guys really took over,” Glavine said. “It was really just a great team win.”
Game one was a grind for Northeastern, but getting that first win was huge to relax the team heading into game two. That relaxed approach led to better at-bats, and with the momentum from the previous win the Huskies struck early and played under less pressure. In game one, Northeastern batters struck out 15 times. Compare that to game two, where they struck out only twice. This progression is a testament to how this team can quickly adapt and change its approach.
This weekend against Hofstra marks the first of many conference series for Northeastern. So far they couldn’t have asked for a better start, as they’ve won their first three and will look to chalk up a fourth against Hofstra on Sunday.
People fall in love with teams for different reasons.
Sometimes it happens before you reach the age of awareness. By the time you can talk, you can recite the whole starting lineup, and by that point it’s so ingrained in your DNA that you can’t fathom a “before” time. You can’t fathom an “after” time either. It’s a part of who you are.
Sometimes you find a team because you switch cities, and it seems as good a way as any to make the new town into a hometown. Sometimes it’s the influence of a new group of friends or a new romantic partner, and before you know it, you’re rooting for a team you never cared about before, or even actively despised.
And sometimes it happens because you observe a team closely — not just physically, but as a storyteller. When you craft a narrative for that team in real time on the radio, then synthesize a more detailed one in print after the final buzzer, weekend after weekend after weekend, you find yourself attached to it in a way you can’t quite explain. It’s something different. It’s a new first love.
You become aware of all the little things about the team that escape the box score, the recaps, and the casual fans. You become unflinchingly convinced that Max Boursiquot should win CAA Defensive Player of the Year, even though the media and coaches leave him off the all-defensive team altogether. You’re only half-joking when you swear up and down on the radio that Shaq Walters, a 20-something percent three-point shooter, could be a viable threat from distance, then smile with satisfaction when he shoots 38 percent the next season. You understand that Donnell Gresham Jr.’s value comes not from his stats, but from his leadership, savvy, and impossibly steady hand directing an offense. You appreciate the way the basket apparatus shakes after Anthony Green throws down a monstrous alley-oop, and the way it keeps shaking as the Huskies set up on defense. You marvel at Jordan Roland hitting multiple threes with his non-dominant hand, but you know what the hosts on SportsCenter don’t — that his consistent, deadly left-hand floater game means he could hit that shot a third time.
You become intimately familiar — too familiar — with the conference they play in, and realize that it has no consistent internal logic, that predictions are guesswork, that the only point in forming expectations at all is to have them shattered. Like the universe, it is under no obligation to make sense to anyone. So when the team you love is pegged to finish seventh out of ten, trudges into conference play embattled by a non-conference schedule groaning under the weight of high-major schools, then wins its first seven conference games and ties for the regular season title, you’re enthralled, but by no means shocked. The conference is simply insane.
You see the team’s balanced offense, the endless string of all-conference first team guards, the bevy of valuable role players, the March Madness trip, the three straight CAA title game appearances — and yet the one that sticks in your head most is the time they took a helpless Holy Cross team behind the woodshed and made them wish they’d picked up a different sport as children. Maybe it’s because you spent the last few minutes of the first half involuntarily laughing into your headset as they built a 41-point lead.
For the last three and a half years, I’ve covered Northeastern men’s basketball for this station, first as a mostly lost sideline reporter, then as a slightly more comfortable color announcer, and finally as the lead play-by-play guy. That journey made me comfortable behind a microphone and confident telling a story. It confirmed that this is the line of work I want for myself, mostly because it seldom felt like work.
It also granted me access to a smaller, cozier fandom than most. Northeastern basketball, while reliably competitive in the CAA and occasionally a thorn in the side of a Power Five squad, is not world-famous, especially in a city where every college team is overshadowed by the perennial powerhouse that dons green in TD Garden. So the team’s dedicated fans can always identify with each other in a niche, specific way.
And that’s why, after spending my entire life as a Lakers fan and two-thirds of it as a Dodgers fan, the Northeastern Huskies men’s basketball team occupies a space in my heart that no other team does. It’s intimate and up close and personal. It’s a story waiting to be told.
BROOKLINE, MA — The Northeastern Huskies (10–6) fell to the Boston College Eagles (14–13) 5–3 on Tuesday afternoon in a slow-paced and mostly uneventful game.
The Eagles scored two runs in the second inning and didn’t look back, never relinquishing their lead and leaning on their talented pitching staff to close out the win. Starter Joe Mancini spun six solid innings, allowing just two runs and striking out four.
“Give Mancini and their relievers credit,” Northeastern head coach Mike Glavine said. “We couldn’t get anything on the barrel for a bunch of innings.”
In Northeastern’s defense, they were coming off a ten-day hiatus after their series against the University of Rhode Island was canceled. Their bats were rusty early in the game and they needed time to adjust.
But BC took advantage. Shades of the Huskies’ regular production were evident later in the game, but they couldn’t get that one big hit with runners in scoring position to really make themselves competitive.
“You gotta play really well against a team like that,” said Glavine. “We just kinda played okay and they took advantage.”
The ten-day break also presented pitching complications for the Huskies, who opted to run a bullpen game in lieu of a traditional starter. Starter Kyle Long pitched the first, reliever Wyatt Scotti pitched the second and third, Eric Yost spun the next three scoreless, and Brian Rodriguez finished the last three, allowing two runs. Scotti was saddled with the loss after allowing the first runs of the game to BC in the second. This move was done in order to try and stretch out as many pitchers as possible after not playing over the past week and a half.
“[I wanted to] just get some guys out there and get the adrenaline going again,” Glavine remarked. “[We’ll] pitch a bunch of guys tomorrow.”
In the sixth inning, down 3–0, Northeastern provided some excitement in the form of back-to-back jacks from second baseman Scott Holzwasser and left fielder Jared Dupere.
It looked as if the Huskies were nearing a comeback, but they fell just short, consistently stranding their runners in scoring position and allowing BC to tack on two insurance runs.
“I thought we had a little momentum there after those two solo home runs,” remarked Glavine. “But … they ended up taking the momentum right back.”
The Huskies will look for some consistency in their schedule going forward. We’ve seen how successful they can be when they get going; they came into this game having won their last six. But this was the third time this season the Huskies have had 10 days between games, and it showed.
The Huskies play next on Wednesday at UMass Amherst at 3 PM.
BROOKLINE, MA — The Northeastern Huskies (10–5) secured a three-game weekend sweep on Saturday afternoon against UMass (7–8), winning the doubleheader games 5–2 and 4–3. Throughout the day, the Huskies were powered by dominant starters Cam Schlittler and Sebastian Keane along with potent hitters Ben Malgeri, Jeff Costello, and Spenser Smith.
In a seven-inning first game, Northeastern pounced on the Minutemen early, notching three runs on four hits against opposing starter Max LeBlanc in the first. LeBlanc didn’t make it past the second inning and was saddled with the loss, giving up four runs. On the season, Northeastern has yet to lose a game after scoring the first run.
“We jumped out early and they kept chipping away,” Northeastern head coach Mike Glavine remarked.
Husky hitters forced LeBlanc to labor through at-bats, waited for the inevitable mistakes, and promptly capitalized on them. In the fourth, Malgeri extended the Huskies’ lead to five with an RBI triple. Malgeri led off both games and had himself a day at the dish, going four for six with two runs batted in, a run scored, three steals, and a walk.
Northeastern hurler Cam Schlittler continued his solid run of starts, spinning five innings of one-run ball, striking out nine, and scattering just three hits. He mowed down UMass hitters early, but a questionable balk call following a couple of hits and a wild pitch in the fifth ended his bid for a shutout. Northeastern coach Mike Glavine had some choice words for the umpire after the call, but it was an overall dominant performance for Schlittler, who was credited with the win.
“I thought Schlittler was outstanding in game one,” Glavine said. “Gave us a chance to win that ballgame.”
The Northeastern offense stalled after the fourth and the Minutemen began chipping away at the lead, bringing the game to 5–2 heading into the seventh. Northeastern fireballer Brandon Dufault came in with some heat, consistently hitting 96 with his fastball to shut the door on the Minutemen and secure the win.
In the second game, Northeastern again jumped out to an early lead courtesy of an RBI double by Costello. UMass starter Daniel Livnat limited Northeastern to just that one run in his five innings of work, but he consistently created jams that he then pitched himself out of.
“We had a bunch of opportunities early in the game to extend the lead and we just couldn’t come up with the big hit,” remarked Glavine. “We just couldn’t get anything going and then finally late in the game we just kept grinding.”
The real story of the game was Northeastern starter and Boston Red Sox draft pick Sebastian Keane. Keane started by retiring the first 14 batters he saw, striking out eight. However, his perfect game bid was broken by UMass slugger Michael Rounds, who tied the game with a solo blast to left field.
It looked like the Minutemen were starting to figure out Keane the third time through the lineup, as second baseman Eddy Hart blasted a two-run homer in the sixth to put them up 3–1. Keane finished his night with a career-high 10 strikeouts, giving up three runs on three hits over seven strong innings.
“Seb was cruising along and pitching great,” Glavine noted. ”I thought he looked awesome . . . as good as he’s thrown for us and as time went on, the at bats got a little bit harder.”
Northeastern’s Smith provided a badly needed offensive spark in the seventh, blasting a triple after working a masterful 12-pitch at-bat. Malgeri drove him in to cut the deficit to one.
“Spenser Smith — huge, huge at-bat, as big of an at-bat we had all day,” said Glavine. “He hit the huge triple and it relaxed our team and was really a game changer.”
In the eighth, the Huskies rallied to take the lead with RBI hits from Costello and Danny Crossen. In the most important moment, the Northeastern offense finally strung some hits together and put runs on the board.
But the drama was not yet over. Reliever Thomas Balboni was brought in to save the 4–3 lead, but he had some trouble finding the zone. After recording the first two outs, he put runners on second and third and forced Glavine to put in Jake Gigliotti. After a walk, Gigliotti recorded a lineout to finish an absolute nail-biter of a ninth inning and secure the sweep.
After an extended hiatus, this weekend series showed some serious versatility from Northeastern, which Glavine recognized. They ran up the score on Friday, manufactured and kept the lead in the first game on Saturday, and rallied to win the second game. Going forward, the Huskies may try and work on fixing some baserunning issues and increasing their batting average with runners in scoring position.
The Huskies face off against Bryant University on March 30 in Rhode Island.
BROOKLINE, MA — Friday afternoon’s game was overcast and humid, and the Northeastern Huskies brought the rain.
Northeastern (8–5) went through their entire lineup in the first inning against UMass (7–6) starter Jack Steele, who looked to be struggling with his windup, throwing almost sidearm with a dropped elbow. On one of his first pitches, Steele accidentally held on to the ball in what would have been called a balk had there been runners on base. This was a sign of bad things to come for Steele, who gave up seven runs in the first inning, including doubles by Scott Holzwasser, Ian Fair, and Danny Crossen.
Steele was (surprisingly) kept in for the next five and a third innings, but couldn’t wrestle back his command. Although he was in desperate need of defensive support, the Minutemen played like they had forgotten they were a D1 college team with a winning record. Errors abounded, with not one, but two made by catcher Dylan Judd, plus two plays which should’ve resulted in outs but which suddenly became fielder’s choices.
If the Minutemen were plagued by lackluster offense, weak defense, and wild pitching, the Huskies were the complete opposite. Northeastern starter Kyle Murphy had his best game of the year, with a personal best of ten strikeouts in six innings.
“He had the curveball and the changeup, the slider, he’s got his fastball,” Northeastern head coach Mike Glavine said. “His command was excellent today. That’s what we need from him. He’s a veteran, he’s talented, he’s a true four-pitch guy so it was great to see him have that success today.”
Northeastern kept up their offensive production, scoring in every inning except the fourth. Every starter got a hit, which was a welcome departure from some uneven batting in prior games. Fair had a particularly good day coming off a cool streak to start the season. Fair hit a triple, double, and home run to finish one single shy of the cycle.
“We definitely need him to get going, he changes our lineup,” Glavine noted. “It was great to see him get the results he deserves. He’s such a hard worker and a great kid, tremendous hitter, slow start and today was huge.”
Corey DiLoreto was also a welcome sight in the lineup; the infielder hadn’t played since taking a pitch to the head on March 12. And the offensive output was welcome too, especially considering the Huskies hadn’t seen the field since March 16.
“I’m pretty shocked,” Glavine said. “They didn’t miss a beat and they were just having good at-bats and getting the outs.”
Northeastern will look to win the series tomorrow with a doubleheader against the Minutemen.
ERIE, PA — There really wasn’t a more heartbreaking way for it to end.
Just over three minutes into overtime, Daryl Watts banked a pass from behind the net off Megan Carter’s shoulder and into the Northeastern goal, giving Wisconsin their sixth national championship and second in a row, and ending the best season any Northeastern University team has ever had.
“Disappointing, obviously, the way it ended,” head coach Dave Flint said. “Also, wish it was maybe a better goal that ended that game, but that’s the way it goes, that’s the breaks and I’m proud of my team. They battled all year long.”
The two teams skated to a scoreless tie through two and a half periods before Wisconsin’s Makenna Webster laced in a rebound with nine minutes to play. Northeastern walked up the ice and, 35 seconds later, Chloé Aurard hit a missile past Kennedy Blair to knot things up again.
It was made possible by an excellent keep from Brooke Hobson at the blue line, as she chopped the puck down low to allow the Huskies to continue their attack.
The game between the two best teams in the country certainly lived up to its billing. The teams flew up and down the ice, traded shots back and forth, and got into physical scrums after nearly every whistle. By the end of the night, they did not like each other one bit.
The defensive work from Northeastern’s forwards — mainly the third line of Tessa Ward, Mia Brown, and Miceala Sindoris — was noticeable all game, as they forechecked and backchecked well to limit Wisconsin’s grade-A chances. Offensively, Alina Mueller was bright, as she always is. The Swiss phenom dangled between players with ease in all three zones and provided the primary assist for Aurard’s goal with a neat drop pass to her fellow European linemate.
Aerin Frankel stood on her head for the whole game, as she always does. She made a remarkable stop to keep Badger forward Casey O’Brien off the board in the second as O’Brien raced in all alone. She stifled a few Watts snapshots to keep her fellow top-three Patty Kaz finalist out of the back of the net. She directed a Webster attempt off the post and out. It was a remarkable game from the best goalie in the country.
But an unfortunate bounce ended the season.
“She gave us a chance, and that’s what we asked of her and she does that every time she steps in the net,” Flint said. “She’s proven she’s the best goalie in the NCAA — I’d say the best player in the NCAA and is a huge, huge reason for our success.”
It was only the second loss of the year for the Huskies: they lost a 2–1 game against BC on December 13 and were undefeated the rest of the way. They won Hockey East with ease, blistered past Robert Morris for the program’s first NCAA Tournament win, and came from behind to beat Minnesota-Duluth in the Frozen Four to earn their first-ever title game appearance.
Such a bright season of firsts came with a darker side: their first-ever loss in a national championship game.
“There were some skeptics questioning whether we were even good enough to be here and I think we set the record straight,” Flint said. “We earned our spot here and in the championship game, and we gave Wisconsin everything they could handle. I’m just proud of my team’s effort and what they’ve done all year long and all the accomplishments that they’ve had.”
With only Veronika Pettey receiving honors on Senior Day, there is an expectation that many of the team’s seniors will return for a fifth season. Frankel has already confirmed she will. This Northeastern team has the pieces and has the potential to return to the title game, and they’ll hope for a better break when they get there.
WRBB would like to thank those reading for their support all year. The station will be the first one in Matthews next year when puck drops for another fantastic season for Northeastern women’s hockey.
Another thank you is in order for the entire Northeastern Athletics staff. They have moved heaven and earth to make sure we can bring you the best possible coverage of everything Husky Sports, even in the midst of a global pandemic.
WRBB is calling the NCAA Women’s Hockey National Championship Game tonight live from Erie, Pennsylvania. Jack Sinclair, George Barker, and Mike Puzzanghera will be on mic, with coverage beginning at 7:15 PM Eastern.CLICK HERE to listen.
ERIE, PA — A perennial national title contender vs. an 18-game winning streak. The two seed vs. the one seed. Anyone trying to draw up a national title game couldn’t have picked a better one than Wisconsin vs. Northeastern.
It’s Wisconsin’s ninth national championship appearance, and third in the last four tournaments. They are the reigning national champions, and flew to a 12–3–1 record in the toughest conference in the country, the Western College Hockey Association (WCHA). With two wins to snatch the conference title, and two more to get here, the Badgers are now 16–3–1. Two of those playoff wins came against No. 3 Ohio State, including a 4–2 win Thursday night. This is a scary, scary team.
“They’ve earned the right to be here,” Wisconsin head coach Mark Johnson said. “It’s been a challenging year for everybody in college sports, and to get to play in the national championship game this year is pretty special. Hopefully we can take advantage of it and look back on it with great memories.”
Speaking of scary, their opponent is Northeastern. The Huskies will play in their first national championship game Saturday after winning their first-ever Frozen Four game Thursday afternoon over Minnesota-Duluth, 3–2, in OT. They haven’t lost since December 13 and won their fourth-straight Hockey East title this year.
“I started at Northeastern in 2008, and this was one of my goals, to get the program back to national prominence and compete for a national championship,” head coach Dave Flint said. “A lot of hard work from our players, our staff, and our support staff got us to this point.”
This game features six All-Americans, five top-10 Patty Kaz finalists, two top-three Patty Kaz finalists, and the national goaltender of the year. With so many stars out on the ice, the Huskies are hoping that their depth, something they’ve relied on all year, will be a factor.
“If we can shut down their first line and a couple players here and there, I think that will lead to success offensively,” Northeastern senior Tessa Ward said. “If everybody’s going, then I think we’re going to do well.”
On the Wisconsin side, they’re hoping that their experience in tournament games will give them an extra boost and help them avoid any initial nerves.
“We have plenty of experience on our team with about half of our girls being in this game before,” senior defender Grace Bowlby said. “I think that that brings a calming presence towards the younger girls so it’s pretty valuable.”
Take a look at how each of these teams got here and what to expect from them.
Last two in Erie
Northeastern: The Huskies haven’t had to battle much this year. They stormed through Hockey East with ease and, in the first game of this tournament, fought off a physical Robert Morris team without too much trouble.
But Duluth tested them all Thursday afternoon. They peppered Aerin Frankel with shots in the first, swarmed her net to create problems in front all game, and took a 2–0 lead into the third period.
“It’s definitely different from what we see in Hockey East,” Ward said. “WCHA is a lot more physical, a lot faster every game than what we were initially expecting, but I think our team responded well to the physicality of the game, and we were able to keep our composure and make the plays that we needed to play to get things done.”
But Northeastern battled back. They got a Maureen Murphy power-play goal less than a minute into the third period and, a few minutes later, got the tying goal from Katy Knoll after relentless forechecking from Veronika Pettey.
“It was definitely good that [Duluth] were physical knowing that this next game is also going to be, but I think that just drives us to have more of a chip on our shoulder, making sure that we’re not taking any penalties or anything. It just allows us to kind of compete harder and win those battles,” Pettey said.
They bombarded the Duluth net with shots from the second period on, but goalie Emma Söderberg kept the Bulldogs in it. That didn’t last forever though, as Skylar Fontaine buried the winner in OT to send the Huskies to the final.
One of the biggest keys for Northeastern in that game was the defensive play from their forward group. That play from Pettey started with a poke check at Northeastern’s blue line, and ended with her chasing the puck down to win it off a Bulldog behind their net before feeding a pass to the slot.
“We always talk about our performance in the D zone as the most important throughout the game, so I think we’ve just been emphasizing it a lot and as a forward, it still makes a huge difference,” Pettey said. “We’ve been talking about blocking shots and sealing off players from coming to the net so I think that, for me, focusing a lot on the D zone is really important.”
Northeastern’s third line, in particular, created many opportunities with their defensive work. Miceala Sindoris got a good snap shot on Söderberg in the third period before turning to set up Ward on a rush later in the frame after good work in the neutral zone.
“Defensively, I’ve come a long way in the past couple of years since I started here my freshman year, and it’s something that I really take pride in,” Ward said. “I think our line yesterday played really well defensively and that’s something that on the bench we’re always talking about. Offense starts in the D zone, and if we can get those pucks out and get those pucks deep that makes a huge difference in the momentum of the game.”
Wisconsin: The Badgers had a tougher conference path than the Huskies, but the result was the same, as they claimed their ninth WCHA title. They were matched up against a familiar foe to open the tournament in the Providence Friars.
Wisconsin made quick work of the Hockey East runner-up, cruising to a 3–0 win. They continued their hot streak in the semifinals, jumping on the Ohio State Buckeyes just over a minute into the first period. Wisconsin’s third line of forwards produced that first goal, and they would produce the next two as well.
“They’ve shown improvement the last six or eight games, they’ve really stepped their game up,” Johnson said of his third line. “I was very happy for them in [the semifinal] because they got rewarded on what they’ve been able to do the last several weekends for us and so hopefully that confidence that they came away from [the semifinal] springboards them into tomorrow night’s game.”
It took only two minutes of the second period for Wisconsin to strike again. Six minutes later, they made it 3–0.
The Buckeyes weren’t done though, as they grabbed a goal of their own with six minutes on the clock in the second.
Ohio hit the ice for the third reenergized, and they cornered Wisconsin in their own zone. Eight minutes into the third, the Buckeyes got one back. They continued to pound the Wisconsin net, but the stingy Badger defense, as well as some stellar goaltending by Kennedy Blair, kept the Buckeyes down by one. Ohio opted for the empty net in the dying moments of the game and a turnover in the final seconds of the game gave the NCAA’s leading goal scorer Daryl Watts a clear path to the empty net, icing the game at 4–2.
The Badgers shuffled their lines before the WCHA tournament, shifting Watts to the second line to play with Lacey Eden and Delaney Drake and, while they’ve struggled a bit to get going in this tournament, it creates a ridiculously effective second unit. They also rock a top line with Sophie Shirley, Britta Curl, and Brette Pettet that has combined for 59 points in 20 games.
In the back, Bowlby is an All-American defender with elite playmaking ability, and leads the Badgers with 17 assists. Nicole LaMantia is an All-WCHA Second-Team performer who operates on their second pair to give them defensive depth. Natalie Buchbinder is another big performer who offers senior leadership on the third pair. She missed time at the beginning of the year, but is back on the ice and making her impact. From front to back, the team is about as good as it gets.
“We just emphasize that everyone has each other’s back,” Bowlby said. “Hockey’s a game of mistakes and mistakes are going to happen, it’s how you handle them and bounce back from them.”
What to expect
This game will be FAST. Both teams play with speed in all zones. Wisconsin fits the traditional western mold of a fast, physical team, while Northeastern has shredded the idea that eastern teams can’t play with pace. As Skylar Fontaine said on Thursday, she loves to play with speed, since she does have speed herself.
“There’s gonna be a lot of talented players out there and it’ll just be a fun, fun game to be a part of,” Bowlby said.
Expect goaltending to be a factor as it was for Northeastern Thursday afternoon. Wisconsin’s Kennedy Blair is a very good goalie. Is she at Aerin Frankel’s level? No, no one is. But her 1.51 GAA and .933 save percentage while playing against WCHA opposition is impressive nonetheless.
More than anything else, expect a fantastic hockey game.
ERIE, PA — Skylar Fontaine has been the best defenseman in Hockey East — and maybe even the country — in each of the past two seasons. Since she joined Northeastern, she’s been an impact player.
That impact may never have been as big as it was in Thursday’s intense game against Minnesota-Duluth, as the senior racked up 16 shots on goal, and, in a moment frozen in time, scored with 26 seconds left in overtime to send Northeastern to their first national title game in program history.
“I love playing fast games because, I mean, I do have speed myself, so it’s always a fun time when you’re playing other teams that are equally as fast and can push me and push my teammates,” Fontaine said.
The Huskies had to battle Thursday afternoon in the first game of the NCAA Frozen Four, but they were up to the task. After going down 2–0 in the second period, they scored a power-play goal early in the third before striking again a few minutes later. The third period and most of overtime featured the Huskies bombarding the Duluth net, but Emma Söderberg stopped 44 shots to keep the Bulldogs in the game before Fontaine broke the dam.
“They gave us everything we could handle,” Northeastern head coach Dave Flint said. “[I’m] obviously thrilled for the opportunity to play in our first ever national championship game, and just really proud of my team and their resiliency.”
It was an unusually quiet start for the Huskies. The high-flying top line of Alina Mueller, Maureen Murphy, and Chloé Aurard was shut down by the Bulldog defense. Duluth was flexible and responded well to the Northeastern pressure. They allowed the Huskies to get deep into their zone, then used their speed and size to create some strong transition offense.
The Huskies were more than capable of hanging around and keeping pace, but that was all they did for the first period, as Duluth bullied the Husky forwards away from the slot. Northeastern tried a season-low three shots on goal in the first period. Despite the difference in shot totals, Aerin Frankel kept the puck out of the back of the net, keeping the period scoreless.
“We hadn’t seen that speed in a while, and they were doing a good job of taking away time and space, and then we weren’t making good decisions with the puck,” Flint said.
Bulldog forward Mannon McMahon finally broke the deadlock halfway through the second. With Aerin Frankel tangled up to the side of the Northeastern net, the goal was open for Duluth’s Kailee Skinner. Her shot missed wide, but the rebound bounced off the boards straight to McMahon, who backhanded it in for her first goal of the season, which stood after a review.
Duluth grabbed their second just over five minutes later, with Taylor Anderson slamming one in from the slot to beat Frankel. Anna Klein caused problems all game for Northeastern’s blueliners, and it was her effort down the wing and behind the goal that allowed the Bulldogs time to enter on the rush behind her. She fired in a shot that got blocked in front, but it squirted out to Anderson, who switched it to her forehand and beat Frankel high as she was trying to recover. After nothing between the two sides in the first, the Bulldogs had a 2–0 lead.
“We were peppering shots and [Frankel] happened to save a lot of them so props to her for that,” Anderson said. “We did a great job getting shots on net, and we were just focusing on going hard to the net and burying it.”
But that second goal hit the switch for Northeastern. They turned up their intensity and piled on 16 shots in the period, including five from Mueller and four from Fontaine. That energy put Duluth on their back foot and, after Tessa Ward took a penalty for slashing, the Bulldogs took two of their own: Anneke Linser sat for tripping and Gabbie Hughes hit the sin bin for interfering with Molly Griffin.
With 50 seconds to go in the period, Northeastern had a five-on-three chance and, though they didn’t strike before the end of the frame, they would keep the advantage — and their momentum — to start the third.
It took 40 seconds for the Huskies to get on the board, as a Skylar Fontaine seam pass to a wide-open Maureen Murphy on the backdoor was enough to beat Söderberg. Fontaine’s assist tied the Northeastern record for points by a defenseman, a record that has stood since the late 1980s.
The Huskies now had the momentum they needed. Söderberg’s net was peppered from all directions as Northeastern put her rebound management to the test. The Swedish netminder passed with flying colors until a rebound off an Andrea Renner wrister bounced right to Katy Knoll, who popped the puck into the back of the net to tie the game at two.
The goal was made possible by a huge effort from Veronika Pettey, who poked the puck away from the Bulldogs in the D zone, chased it all the way back, stole it on the forecheck, and played it to Renner.
“It was a great, great play, and she battled in the corner too to win the puck,” Flint said. “I was telling them all game, ‘Hey, we’ve got to get pucks to the net,’ and Katy Knoll got to the net and banged in the rebound there and it was just a nice goal. It was a huge goal for us, gave us a ton of momentum.”
The game was knotted up with 15 minutes left, and neither team was willing to concede another goal. The puck flew up and down the ice as both teams looked for an offensive foothold. Spectacular goaltending on both ends kept things even after 60 minutes.
In overtime, the pace didn’t change. The Huskies stayed on the gas pedal while the Bulldogs waited in the D zone to break out for transition chances. That style of play gave Duluth their best scoring chance of the extra frame, as Anna Klein broke through and held off pressure from Northeastern’s defense before switching the puck to her backhand. She waited for Frankel to drop before cutting around her, but she couldn’t control the puck and or put a shot on frame. If she had, it likely would have gone in with Frankel out of position.
Other than that chance, the Bulldogs didn’t force Frankel to do too much at the other end, and struggled to get out of their own zone at times.
“We had a little bit more of an easy time at the beginning where we were really spreading the D zone, using the width of the ice with the weak side and we were able to find pretty good passing lanes, and they definitely adjusted and made it a lot harder on us,” Duluth head coach Maura Crowell said. “I think we forced plays up the walls a little more than I would have liked and needed to find space in the middle.”
With 40 seconds to go in overtime, the Huskies won an offensive zone faceoff with the third line on the ice. After the Bulldogs collected the puck behind their own net, forecheck pressure from Ward and Mia Brown forced Clara van Wieren to try a seam pass up to Naomi Rogge. Fontaine jumped that pass, kept it in the zone, and skated across to the left circle. Her hard shot powered its way through Söderberg and into the back of the net.
“We talked about it all game that they look [weak side],” Fontaine said. “I decided to step into it, caught it and was trying to shoot [the] opposite way of the way I was going to throw the goalie off, and [it] ended up working out and going in.”
Through three periods, the game felt a lot like Northeastern’s last NCAA Tournament appearance, where they bowed out against Cornell, 3–2, in OT. In that game, the Huskies went down early before scoring twice in the third to tie it. But this time around, it was Northeastern who found the winner.
“It kind of did throw me back a little,” Fontaine said. “I definitely think this year we’re more disciplined, we lean on each other, we have great culture that we always know we believe in one another, and we have great communication. This year, we’re very deep, and there’s trust in every single person on this team.”
“This game just showed what every team is made of in this tournament and that every team is going to bring their best,” Fontaine continued. “This was a great opportunity for us to realize that games aren’t going to be 5–1 [or] 6–1. I think that this really pushed us, and it prepared us for what Saturday is going to be like.”
For Duluth, the game ended an impressive tournament run. The five seed beat fourth-seeded Colgate 1–0 in overtime in the first round before pushing Northeastern to the brink.
“It’s everything I’ve wanted to do since I’ve gotten to Minnesota-Duluth,” Crowell said. “I’ve wanted to add years to the banners around the rink. I’ve wanted to bring the ultimate trophy back. So fell a little short here but getting to the Frozen Four is really really difficult. I don’t care what year it is; it’s really hard. We have eight coveted spots in our tournament so getting in itself is really challenging, and then coming in, winning, pushing the number one team to overtime. It says a lot about our team and where we’re at.”
The Huskies will play in their first-ever national championship game Saturday night at 7:30 against the winner of Wisconsin–Ohio State. Jack Sinclair, George Barker, and Mike Puzzanghera will be on the call for WRBB, with coverage starting at 7:15 PM Eastern.
After two periods of Frozen Four action in Erie, Pennsylvania, the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs led the Northeastern Huskies 2–0. The Huskies were struggling to break through the Bulldogs’ fierce forecheck, and hadn’t generated a ton of great chances on net.
And then everything changed. Two Northeastern goals in the third period sent the game into overtime, where two-time Hockey East Defenseman of the Year Skylar Fontaine ended the night.
Jack Sinclair on play-by-play, Mike Puzzanghera on color:
Historically, Hockey East teams haven’t found much success against Western Hockey College Association (WCHA) programs in the NCAA Tournament. The WHCA is 19–1 against Hockey East opposition, with that lone win coming from Boston College in 2011. With Northeastern set to face Minnesota-Duluth in the Frozen Four Thursday afternoon, head coach Dave Flint shrugged off the historical balance of power.
“Well, guess what: they haven’t played Northeastern yet,” he said. “Hopefully it’ll be 19–2 after tomorrow.”
The Huskies have every reason to be a little bit cocky. They’re the No. 1 seed in the tournament, they haven’t lost since December 13, and they just ran through No. 8 seed Robert Morris, 5–1, in the quarterfinals.
But Minnesota-Duluth is more the more battle-tested of the sides. Since they play in the WHCA, they’ve gone up against a higher caliber of opposition than the Huskies have. The Bulldogs faced No. 2 Wisconsin twice, No. 3 Ohio State three times, and tournament snub Minnesota twice.
Let’s take a quick look at both teams before they meet.
Last time out
Northeastern: For a full look at the Huskies’ season, look here.
In addition to that, they looked every bit like the No. 1 seed against Robert Morris. They controlled the pace of the game in five-on-five, scored a shorthanded goal on the PK, and, though they couldn’t get much going on their one power play, they didn’t need to.
They got contributions all across the lineup. In particular, Skylar Fontaine shined with two goals and an assist, Alina Mueller and Chloé Aurard each had a goal and assist, and Katy Knoll was bright all throughout, tossing seven shots on goal and notching an assist on the second Fontaine tally.
But Northeastern’s secondary scoring is equally important. Though four of the five goals Monday afternoon came from the starting five, it was fourth-liner Katie Cipra who sank the dagger in the third.
“A lot of teams hone in on our first line and try to match lines against them and I think it’s important that we get that secondary scoring,” Flint said. “Our second, third, and fourth lines have really stepped up in key points this year and provided us with timely goals and if we’re going to be successful here on Thursday we’re going to need that again.”
With the quick turnaround to the semifinals, Flint had a simple message for his team.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel here or trying to change what we’re doing,” Flint said. “We’re going to do what we do best.”
Duluth: The Bulldogs had to battle for their spot in the Frozen Four, but after 6:39 of overtime, they found the winner through Ashton Bell. Her snipe went post-and-in to finally beat Colgate goalie Kayle Osborne and send the five-time national champs back to the semifinals.
Junior Emma Söderberg made 30 saves in the win, a huge bounce-back game for Duluth. Before that, they had lost 7–2 in the WCHA playoffs to Ohio State.
“That game against OSU is not the type of hockey we play as a team so it was easy to come back to the right style; that was an exception,” Söderberg said.
Northeastern: The Huskies floored the gas against a slightly slower Robert Morris team Monday. But now, they’ll be up against a classic western team: one that plays with speed. It’s a big strength Duluth has, as well as the size of their D corps.
“They’re fast, and I still think we’re faster,” Flint said. “So the transition game is going to be key. And I think that the depth of our lineup will be hopefully a factor too.”
Northeastern is also keying in on the defensive zone. With the imposing first line of Gabbie Hughes, Anna Klein, and Taylor Anderson bearing down on them, the D corps will need to be at their sharpest.
“If we’re sound defensively and we’re keeping them to the outside, we can shut down their first line, which I think is one of their strengths, then I think we’ll be able to be successful,” goaltender Aerin Frankel said.
The Bulldogs also play more of a possession style than many of the teams Northeastern has faced, similar to how the Huskies play themselves.
“They’re going to try to take a lot of time and space, but we’re going to take it away from them,” Frankel said.
Duluth: The Bulldogs know that this is a team that plays similarly to how they do — with speed, in possession, and they excel in transition. To slow that down, they need to be on the gas pedal.
“A big focus of ours is to come out and have a really good start and put a lot of pressure on them right away, and hopefully that will lead to more offense,” defenseman Ashton Bell said. “Obviously always having a good D zone and playing gritty in the D zone is our style of play.”
There are plenty of Huskies that need to be keyed in on, but Fontaine especially caught the eye of Duluth head coach Maura Crowell.
“On the back check, you have to be responsible, understanding that it’s not just the three forwards that are going to attack offensively there’s going to be a jump-up D making it even more complicated,” Crowell said. “A lot of our defensemen are offensive, obviously Ashton in particular, but a lot of them can jump up into the play, so I think we’re familiar with that style.”
The Bulldogs are aware of these threats, and they know that they have a path to victory.
“I think our style of play is going to be something that they’re not used to. We’re fast, we bring a different brand in our toughness and our defensive structure,” Crowell said.
Northeastern: This is a physical game, which means it’s built for Tessa Ward. The grittiest player on the ice, Ward’s aggression and forechecking make her an ideal weapon against a strong team that holds possession well. Another key forechecker is Peyton Anderson, who flies forward to apply pressure (it was that pressure that created the Cipra goal on Monday).
Another player to watch, outside of The Fearsome Five, is Knoll, who was one of the best players on the ice Monday and is knocking on the doorstep for a goal.
The Huskies’ top-ranked penalty kill is another key. With Duluth having only four power-play goals on the year, Northeastern can gain an advantage there, potentially creating another shorthanded goal.
Duluth: Anna Klein and Gabbie Hughes are the two obvious picks, as they make the team go with their scoring and playmaking. Bell is one of the best two-way defenders in the country.
Outside of their top group, a key player to watch is Clara van Wieren. The freshman has seven goals on the year and is one of the Bulldogs’ best secondary scorers. She can leverage her size to body off defenders and create scoring lanes and passing angles.
Puck drops at 2 PM for this Frozen Four matchup. WRBB will have the call with Jack Sinclair, George Barker, and Mike Puzzanghera on the mic, with coverage beginning at 1:45.