Story by Jack Sinclair
Photos by Sarah Olender
BOSTON — A tale as old as time. Two bitter rivals. One sheet of ice.
The No. 7 Northeastern Huskies took on the No. 4 Providence Friars this afternoon in the first game of a home-and-home. The last time they met, Northeastern shut out Providence, 4–0, at Matthews Arena. The Huskies boasted a larger winning percentage coming in, but Providence sat atop the Hockey East standings by virtue of having several games in hand.
The game began slowly, with both teams feeling each other out and the pace far below what both they were capable of. But Chloé Aurard did not get the memo. After Lauren MacInnis went to the box for tripping, Aurard broke out of the zone on the penalty kill and scorched through the Friars’ defense. She almost lost control of the puck, held on with some slick stick work, and slid a backhand shot past Providence goalie Sandra Abstreiter.
The awkward “getting to know you” phase continued after the goal, with neither team committing too far up the ice. After about 10 minutes, they finally picked up the pace. Each team’s strategy became apparent; Providence was going to test Frankel, opting to shoot when a pass was equally viable. Northeastern was going to rely on their speed to get in behind the Friars’ slower defenders and create scoring opportunities. Both Abstreiter and Aerin Frankel stood strong in net, though, and the period ended with no additional scoring.
Northeastern started the second off on the back foot, with a penalty bleeding over from the first. After killing it off, the Huskies quickly resumed their stranglehold over the game. They immediately rooted themselves deep in the Providence zone, then Katy Knoll tapped in the puck after an incredible seam pass from Andrea Renner for her fourth goal of the season, and Northeastern’s second of the evening.
“[Veronika Pettey] does a phenomenal job distributing the puck. Katy and Renner do a great job getting pucks to her. On top of the fact that they [shoot] pucks so well,” Northeastern associate head coach Nick Carpenito said. “If our first line isn’t producing as much as they normally would, we’ve got three other lines that are more than capable of doing it.”
Providence wouldn’t just lie down and die, though. With the memory of the 4–0 shutout just a few short weeks earlier fresh in their minds, the Friars turned up their game. They stopped trying to outskate the Huskies and instead focused on possession.
After 15 minutes of back-and-forth action, Providence went on the power play after Alina Mueller, Northeastern’s best penalty killer, was whistled for cross-checking. Providence pounced on the opportunity, and in the dying moments of the period, scored. It was Claire Tyo who fired a scorching wrist shot from the faceoff circle to beat Frankel blocker side, halving the Friars’ deficit.
The Huskies did not take kindly to Providence’s audacity to score against them. Northeastern would keep the puck in Providence’s zone for almost two minutes at a time. The shorthanded Friars were gasping at air like a fish out of water, and it showed. The Huskies were relentless, and even though Abstreiter did her best to keep her team in the game, Veronika Pettey beat her for the Huskies’ third goal of the affair.
The Friars were on the ropes. Down 3–1, they threw everything but the kitchen sink at the Huskies. They tried mixing up their lines to get something going. They tried cherry-picking at Northeastern’s blue line to create breakways. They even tried to outskate the Huskies with some dump-and-chase action. But nothing got past Frankel, as she made everything look exceedingly easy, as per usual.
With about three minutes left to go, Providence head coach Matt Kelly decided to throw the kitchen sink out there too. He pulled Abstreiter, gambling on his team’s ability with the additional skater. It didn’t work out; Northeastern immediately broke out of the zone, Miceala Sindoris found Molly Griffin open in the slot, and Griffin potted the puck for her first collegiate goal.
After their fourth goal, and with only a couple minutes left to play, the Friars knew the game was over. The Huskies, again, missed the memo. Coach Carpenito rolled out his fourth line of forwards, and they immediately put the pressure back on Abstreiter, forcing her to make a couple of saves before the final whistle.
The Huskies played without forward Maureen Murphy, who transferred from Providence after last season. Murphy started on the top line in the Huskies’ last game and did not appear to sustain an injury, and although Carpenito declined to offer specifics, at least one report indicated that Murphy’s former team was giving a hard time in granting the release. Murphy played her first game after the last NU–Providence team, and Carpenito confirmed that she would not play in either game against Providence this weekend.
The Huskies also lost forward Ani FitzGerald, who collided with teammate Skylar Fontaine, hit the ice hard, and was helped off the ice unable to put weight on her right leg.
Northeastern (7–1–1) will make the trip down to Providence (9–3–1) tomorrow for the second game of the home and home series. Jack Sinclair will have the review.