As the regular season winds down, Northeastern’s eyes are set on the playoffs. The Hockey East playoffs begin with a best-of-three at home against the Vermont Catamounts on Thursday. Before that, however, the team had one more job to do.
Merrimack and Northeastern sit at opposite ends of the Hockey East standings. The Huskies, with 44 points, tower above the rest, while the Warriors, with nine, are in the cellar. Northeastern looked to bounce back from a split home-and-home against Providence by sweeping Merrimack to close the regular season. Of additional note, Alina Mueller and Aerin Frankel saw a renewed spotlight, as both are top 10 finalists for women’s college hockey’s most prestigious honor — the Patty Kazmaier Award.
Tonight’s match began with engaging action, as both teams exchanged early scoring opportunities. Eventually, things settled down, and about halfway through the first period, Northeastern saw their first power play. The man advantage did not yield a goal, but it allowed Northeastern to firmly plant themselves in the offensive zone, and their lethal puck cycling began.
Minutes after going to full-strength, the Huskies caught the Warriors in a defensive change, and Alina Mueller found herself on a breakaway with only Merrimack netminder Léa-Kristine Demers between her and the goal. The nation’s fourth-leading scorer wasted no time, putting a move on Demers and netting her 22nd goal of the season.
The remainder of the period saw a few more Husky chances, but Demers held fast and kept the score at 1–0.
Second period action saw an energized Merrimack team establish themselves in the Northeastern zone, aided by an early Northeastern penalty. Northeastern killed off the penalty, but Merrimack put some pressure on Aerin Frankel between the pipes. Frankel was forced to make some impressive saves as Merrimack found themselves on a breakaway midway through the period.
Both teams exchanged penalties, but an impressive effort from both netminders meant the second period would conclude with the same score as the first.
The third period saw a reenergized Northeastern team occupy the offensive zone. An early penalty against the Huskies was negated by another penalty from the man-up Warriors, resulting in a four-on-four that allowed the Huskies to maintain their momentum. Midway through the third the Huskies finally found their breakthrough. Peyton Anderson powered past several Merrimack players and promptly placed the puck off the post and past the Warriors’ pipe protector to put the Huskies ahead 2–0.
Whatever battle cries the Warriors used to rally themselves were silenced at this point, as the celebration of their seniors’ last home game took hold and their game lost some of its intensity. The Huskies, however, said “screw that” and continued to put pressure on the Warriors. With just under four minutes to go, sophomore forward Miceala Sindoris found herself one-on-one with Demers off of a great feed from linemate Tessa Ward. A simple snipe beat the blocker side of the goalie, and Sindoris’ second goal of the season iced the Huskies’ 3–0 victory. The clock wound down to zero, and Northeastern goalie Aerin Frankel had secured her ninth shutout of the season.
Northeastern (27–4–2, 23–3–0 WHEA) will conclude the home-and-home, and their season, on Saturday. Matt Neiser, Sarah Olender, and George Barker will be on the call, with coverage beginning at 1:45 PM EST. We’ll post the Listen Live link on our Twitter before game time.