ERIE, PA — With 1:10 left in the second period, Alina Mueller took a penalty with the Huskies up 2–0. Robert Morris’s Emily Curlett struck on the power play seconds later to make it a one-goal game. After a long stretch of possession and dominance in the second, Northeastern, for the first time all afternoon, looked to be on their back foot.
As Mueller skated onto the bench, she turned to head coach Dave Flint to complain about the questionable body-checking call that sent her to the sin bin.
“I said, ‘Hey, listen, it’s done now. If you’re upset about it, go score a goal,’” Flint recalled.
Mueller did just that, slamming home a rebound with 3.5 seconds to go in the period to swing the momentum right back and send the Huskies into the locker room up 3–1.
That momentum carried No. 1 Northeastern all the way Monday afternoon, as they advanced to their first Frozen Four in program history with a controlling 5–1 win over eighth-seeded Robert Morris in the first game of the NCAA Tournament.
“Since I’ve been a freshman, we’ve grown so much, we’ve come so far,” defenseman Skylar Fontaine said. “A lot of time and effort has been put in, especially this year with everything being so unpredictable. It’s just a great feeling to come out here and everyone playing with the biggest hearts and me as a senior, this is just a great experience, and I’m grateful for it.”
Northeastern started strong with quite a few quick chances — namely from Mueller and Katy Knoll — but Colonials netminder Raygan “Ray Gun” Kirk was equal to all of them. In fact, as with UConn in the Hockey East semifinal, it took a penalty kill to get Northeastern going.
Mueller kicked a loose puck clear in front of Aerin Frankel, collected it behind the Northeastern net, and started the breakout. At the blue line, she split Robert Morris’s two leading scorers, Lexi Templeman and Micheala Boyle, with a beautiful deke and shot clear through the neutral zone to create a three-on-one chance. She slid the puck to Chloé Aurard, who set up her shot and picked her spot, beating Kirk five-hole for the first goal.
Northeastern hit the ice for the second period with one aim: extend the lead. They held the Colonials deep in their own zone, but they were up to the task. Neither team got established for any considerable zone time, and the puck changed hands constantly.
Robert Morris was more than happy to keep the Husky lead at one, as they used their physicality to slow the high-flying Northeastern offense. The Colonials weren’t truly challenging Frankel, taking shots from the blue line and giving the senior netminder loads of time to see the puck.
The stalemate was finally broken by Northeastern’s star defenseman, Fontaine.
“I passed it up to Chloé Aurard, and I saw that there was so much space,” Fontaine explained. “So I took it and she gave it right back to me, and I just kind of took off and was on a sort of a breakaway.”
Minutes later, Mueller took her penalty, and Curlett scored the Colonials’ first-ever NCAA Tournament goal. The senior defenseman hit such a scorching one-timer that Frankel didn’t react to the puck until it was already in the back of the net.
“You’re not going to get too many power plays at this level and at this type of game,” Robert Morris head coach Paul Colontino said. “So you really have to make the best of them. And, you know, I thought our PP unit came out great. And yeah, in particular, Emily Curlett did just an awesome job of doing what she does on the power play — finding loose pucks and hammering them home.”
It was a punch in the mouth, and the Huskies never take kindly to those. Mueller, incensed by the penalty, was playing at her best and made the Colonials look like traffic cones. She even beat Kirk twice. The only thing the Swiss Olympian couldn’t beat was the post. She rang it twice during the period, and neither shot ended up in the back of the net.
After her discussion with Flint, Mueller finally struck, giving her team a two-goal lead after two periods.
Northeastern got nothing out of their power play early in the third, appearing to have slowed down a bit. But just as that tone looked to seep into the rest of the game, a menacing forecheck from the nation’s best fourth line hit Robert Morris with a dagger. Peyton Anderson knocked the puck away from Gillian Thompson, and it found the stick of Katie Cipra. The human highlight reel on skates switched the puck to her backhand and flipped it past Kirk.
If it wasn’t a done deal after four goals, Fontaine made it five with her second of the night. She played the puck across to Katy Knoll on the rush and cut to the net like a goal-seeking missile. Knoll sent it right back to her, and Fontaine tipped it in with only one hand on her stick to seal the win.
“It’s like a test in school, you know if you prepared for it or not, and they’ve done a great job preparing for this,” Flint said. “There shouldn’t be any jitters or anything like that when we come to Thursday.”
Northeastern’s victory advanced them to their first-ever Frozen Four, setting a new high-water mark for the program. The Huskies will play the winner of the Colgate–Minnesota-Duluth Thursday at 2 PM for a spot in the national title game. WRBB will call the semifinal game, with Jack Sinclair, George Barker, and Mike Puzzanghera on the mic.
Northeastern and UMass Amherst have both seen their Hockey East fortunes change drastically over the past several seasons. The teams had frequently been referred to as the little brothers of Hockey East, but impressive coaching and talented recruiting classes have turned both into true conference powerhouses.
They have almost met in the Hockey East Tournament several times during the past few seasons. Two years ago, the programs seemed destined to meet in the title game; UMass secured the one seed, while Northeastern finished third. Both teams were rolling heading into the semifinals, but an upset by Boston College forced the Minutemen out of the tournament, leading to an NU–BC final (and we all know how that ended).
Northeastern and UMass were finally slated to face off in the first round of the 2020 Hockey East Tournament, but COVID-19 cancelled this meeting just as the Huskies were set to arrive in Amherst. Fast forward one year, and the two finally went at it in postseason play, the same date they were scheduled to just a year prior.
The two meetings between the Massachusetts schools this season ended in two UMass victories by a combined scored of 9–6. A third meeting was cancelled due to COVID protocols. But as the Hockey East Tournament drew near, there would be nothing getting in the way of the long-awaited playoff matchup.
“With the one-and-done format, you have to bring everything you’ve got into each game – that’s been the message we’ve been sending our players,” Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan said before the game. “Now it’s up to them to make the most of this opportunity.”
Northeastern received positive injury news before the game, as touted freshman forward Sam Colangelo returned to the lineup for the Huskies. Meanwhile, the third-seeded Minutemen headed into the tournament fully healthy and ready to finally make their mark.
Junior forward Garrett Wait got the scoring going for Amherst just three minutes in. The goal came after an impressive push from UMass, with fellow junior Bobby Trivigno setting up his linemate with an impressive pass from behind the Northeastern net.
Sophomore defenseman Zac Jones doubled the UMass lead just six minutes later, as Trivigno picked up yet another assist. The goal came off an odd-man rush that found Jones in the slot with just the goalie to beat. With NU defenders trailing back, Jones coolly finished off a wrister to give UMass the 2–0 lead.
Northeastern’s best chance to get on the board in the first came in the period’s dying minutes, as the Huskies went on their first power play. Despite some nice chances, the Minutemen’s kill proved too much for the Huskies.
The Minutemen continued to dominate through the first few minutes of the second period, but their two-goal lead would not hold for long. Northeastern finally got their first goal halfway through the second, as sophomore defenseman Jeremie Bucheler scored with an impressive wrister from just in front of the goal line. Bucheler’s defensive linemate Jayden Struble was crucial, as he opened up room on the ice before finding his teammate on the blue line. Bucheler then employed a nifty shot fake before firing the wrister into the back of the net.
Despite the new Husky confidence, the Minutemen continued their assault. While UMass certainly had their fair share of chances, Northeastern goaltender Connor Murphy came up big to keep the score 2–1.
Northeastern continued to make defensive plays and generated their fair share of chances, but the UMass attack proved too much as Bobby Trivigno would showed why he’s a finalist for Hockey East Player of the Year, finishing off a two-on-one with a calm five-hole shot against Murphy. The chance came almost completely against the run of play, as Northeastern had enjoyed extended zone time prior to the break lead. The goal came with under two minutes remaining in the second period, giving UMass a 3–1 lead and all the momentum heading into the final frame.
It would not take long for UMass to widen their margin, as Philip Lagunov made it 4–1 four minutes into the third period. While the Huskies continued to fight, the score would remain 4–1, sending UMass into a semifinal matchup against Providence.
Madigan was candid after the game, explaining that today was “a game similar to the last few games . . . chasing from behind. Can’t be playing from behind against good teams. Been chasing the last few weeks. 9–9–3, being .500, is not what this program is about.” But he noted later that “these guys faced a lot this season and dealt with it with class; I’m proud of all of them and I’m excited for the future.”
Madigan also mentioned the injuries his team has dealt with throughout the campaign, specifically during the past month. Almost every Northeastern player was dealing with some type of knock at this point, and simply being in the lineup did not make a player fully healthy.
Madigan closed his final press conference of the season by praising this year’s senior class, the best in Northeastern’s history, one that often exceeded expectations and continued the program’s upward trajectory.
“Those seniors deserved a better finish to their careers, but they’ve all enjoyed successful careers here,” Madigan said, listing the accolades and hardware the class collected, which includes two Hockey East championships and three Beanpot titles.
“The culture was changed by Josh Manson, passed down to the Solows and Jozefeks and the graduating group,” he continued. “They’ve continued the passing of the torch.”
Despite a lackluster end to the season, the Huskies’ future is bright. Northeastern will take the offseason to reassess and continue improving the program Madigan and company have built during the last decade. While NU will again enjoy an impressive recruiting class next season, perhaps the greatest change will come between the pipes, as goalie Devon Levi will likely make his Husky debut to start next season. After being sidelined this season due to an injury suffered during World Juniors, Levi will look to finally make his mark and step into the large shoes left by Cayden Primeau two years ago.
Northeastern will also return its top freshman class, including Sam Colangelo and all-rookie selection Gunnarwolfe Fontaine. The bar has unquestionably been raised for this program.
BROOKLINE, MA — A close game in any sport will cause palpable tension to form.
In baseball, each pitch could cause an eruption of joy or a sting of regret. There is no clock, the pitcher dictates the pace, and the hitter adjusts as best they can. In no other sport does the home team enjoy such an advantage in the drama of exhilaration and pain.
For the last pitch of the Northeastern Huskies’ (6–5) 2–1 win over the UMass Lowell River Hawks (1–8), it was Northeastern catcher JP Olson who commanded the hearts of the surrounding spectators.
Lowell reliever Cam Seguin delivered his final pitch of the outing. He watched it leave the bat but was generally unconcerned as to where it was going. His and everyone else’s eyes were locked on Danny Crossen raring to go, one foot on the third-base bag.
Olson’s fly ball fell into the glove of right fielder Vinnie Martin for an out that didn’t matter. As soon as it touched leather, Crossen’s cleats tore up turf, as he easily made it home ahead of the throw.
Huskies roared from the dugout. The bullpen beyond left field leapt to their feet and charged toward their catcher, who was smiling like the Cheshire Cat after rounding first base.
Northeastern’s walk-off win was a cherry on top of the team’s first series win of the season. After a 10–7 loss and a 2–0 win on Friday, the Huskies rode Saturday’s win to move above .500 for the first time this season.
In the rubber match, Husky head coach Mike Glavine handed the ball to Cam Schlittler, who had the unfortunate assignment of following fellow redshirt freshman Sebastian Keane’s nine-inning shutout the day prior. Schlittler valiantly competed to match his teammate’s effort, allowing a single run in seven innings in his third start of the season.
“The two freshmen really need to feed off of each other, they are really good friends,” Glavine said. “I am seeing them compete with each other and that friendly competition is taking place. Those two guys are horses and we are going to need them all year long.”
Schlittler faced a few hiccups along the way, but stranded every runner he allowed on. The freshman had the River Hawks pounding the turf with grounders, and his infielders made plenty of plays to keep their opponents off the scoreboard.
For every ball that found a Northeastern defender, Lowell junior righty Matt Draper countered, refusing to give in. Draper laid into the young Husky squad, not striking out many but generating tons of weak contact. He allowed just two hits over his first five innings.
Northeastern, however, loves to score, and even though it was a chilly day, the bats were bound to get hot.
Husky designated hitter Ryan Cervone, another freshman, came to the plate in the bottom of the sixth still seeking his first hit of the season. For Draper and the River Hawks, Cervone may have appeared to be a pushover — until he ripped a double down the right-field line.
When right fielder Jared Dupere walked, the Huskies were poised to get their bats awake and push some runners across the plate. But after Max Viera hit the perfect double-play ball to shortstop Keagan Calero, it was all up to Crossen. The sophomore hit a bouncer to third baseman Cedric Rose, but Rose was playing too far back to have a chance at the speedy Crossen. By the time the ball got to first, Cervone had scored the Huskies’ first run of the game and Crossen was steps beyond the bag.
“Ryan Cervone is a grinder and a kid who brings it every day in practice and will give you a tough at-bat every time he’s in there,” Glavine said. “We need our bench guys to have big years and Danny Crossen is the same mold. Of course we don’t want injuries, but both of those guys are making our team better for the long run.”
But as Robert Frost said, “nothing gold can stay” and the game did not remain easy for the Huskies following their run in the sixth.
The first batter that Schlittler faced in the seventh, Joey Castellanos, lofted a ball to deep right that was corralled by Dupere but was by far the hardest-hit ball off Schlittler to that point. The next batter, Cam Climo, hammered one to deep center. Northeastern’s Ben Malgeri drifted back but the ball kept carrying, landing beyond the wall in dead center.
Schlittler fanned two of the next three batters to end the inning, but the damage had been done. Lowell had new life and Schlittler’s day was done.
The Huskies got men on again in the bottom of the seventh but left two stranded, and in the eighth were set down in order by Draper and Seguin.
Northeastern reliever Brian Rodriguez came in for a clean eighth inning and then handed the ball to Brandon Dufault for the ninth. Dufault faced pressure early on, as Martin ripped a line drive to left for a single. A bunt moved him over, and Glavine took advantage of the open base by intentionally walking Climo. Dufault defused the ticking time bomb, stranding the baserunners with a strikeout and a ground ball to end the inning.
“Brandon has been pitching well but has just had some tough luck this year,” Glavine said. “It has been a combination of everything for him, with some bad pitch calls, poor defensive plays, and he has gotten himself into trouble with some walks. He has struggled to put it all together, but I trust him.”
Crossen started off the bottom of the ninth for the Huskies, slapping a ball between the second and first basemen. Kyle Peterson followed with a somewhat controversial hit-by-pitch, then Scott Holzwasser laid down a bunt to advance his teammates. With runners on second and third, Olson did all anyone could have asked of him: plate the run.
The Huskies will carry their two-game winning streak into a Tuesday afternoon matchup with Bryant.
The Northeastern Huskies (5–5) split a doubleheader with the UMass Lowell River Hawks (1–7) Friday afternoon at Parsons Field.
In the first game, Northeastern starter Kyle Murphy settled in, striking out eight and only allowing four hits and three earned runs. Murphy, who battled command issues in his previous start, breezed through six innings. Northeastern backed up Murphy offensively, scoring four runs in the fifth on top of three runs from the first four innings.
“The good thing is he’s been able to settle in some games and come back,” Northeastern head coach Mike Glavine said. “I think he was 90 to 94 today and stuff looked excellent. We’ve just got to find a way to be cleaner when he pitches. We’ve gotta limit the free bases . . . It seems to speed up on us a little bit, but he’s a calming presence out there which is big for us.”
UMass Lowell pitcher Collin Duffley, on the other hand, struggled with his command, allowing five runs (four earned) in four innings. He only struck out three and hit two.
His replacement, Sal Fusco, didn’t fare much better. Fusco came in with two batters on base, and promptly hit Corey DiLoreto in the head. DiLoreto looked shaken as he walked to first base and was looked at by an athletic trainer, then was replaced by Ryan Cervone. It was a huge loss, as DiLoreto is one of Northeastern’s main offensive producers.
Northeastern’s next batter, Scott Holzwasser, got revenge with a two-run double. Fusco was clearly rattled and gave up another run, threw a wild pitch, and hit another Northeastern player to make the score 7–3 Northeastern after five.
Northeastern has not had a problem this season tacking the runs on, but has struggled to pitch and field well enough to keep leads in the later innings. Friday afternoon was no different.
David Stiehl replaced Murphy in the seventh and quickly found himself in a jam with bases loaded and one out. Stiehl was clearly rattled and walked the next batter, making the score 7–4 Northeastern. He stuck out the next batter with six pitches, and looked as if he might be regaining his composure. The feeling didn’t last long, however, as the next batter homered to left field for a grand slam, sending the UMass Lowell dugout into wild cheers and giving the River Hawks an 8–7 lead. Owen Langdon replaced Stiehl to get the last out and give Northeastern a chance to regain the lead after a disastrous seventh inning.
Northeastern couldn’t recover however, and failed to get anything going in the last two innings. UMass Lowell added another two runs in the ninth, handing Northeastern a disappointing 10–7 defeat.
“The first game was just a really, really, tough loss,” Glavine said. “We just couldn’t put them away. We had an opportunity to extend the lead multiple times offensively and then we just didn’t do enough defensively and on the mound . . . We just gotta learn how to win these tight games.”
Northeastern has struggled to find its identity this season after COVID-19 shortened their last campaign, and this doubleheader was a prime example of that. Whereas the first game was a long, drawn-out slugfest, the second game was a short and sweet pitchers’ duel.
Freshman Sebastian Keane started for the Huskies. After some rocky starts this year, Keane was lights out Friday, pitching a shutout while allowing only two hits and zero walks. Keane worked quickly and efficiently, striking out nine and throwing only 102 pitches.
“I thought his fastball was awesome,” Glavine said. “He was throwing 93 in the ninth so I thought that was a big thing for him, the slider was a strikeout pitch as well. I thought he really commanded the strike zone with both pitches. I thought JP Olsen was outstanding behind the plate receiving Seb and did a great job. He really was just dominant today and hopefully he’s got many more of those ahead.”
Despite Keane’s incredible performance, Northeastern didn’t do much to back him up offensively. The only two runs came in the third inning. Freshman River Hawk hurler Zach Fortuna was already on shaky ground with his command, and started the inning by striking out Max Viera. He then walked Jared Dupere, who advanced to second on a wild pitch. In keeping with Northeastern’s aggressive base stealing policy, Dupere then stole third. The aggressive baserunning was for nought, as Fortuna walked Holzwasser and then advanced him to second when he hit the next batter.
Clearly spent, Fortuna was replaced by Miles Cota, who walked his first batter to give Northeastern their first run. Cota was saved by his fielders when the next batter, Danny Crossen flied out to left field. The third baseman threw to second for the third out after Dupere ran home to make the score 2–0 Northeastern.
“When we talk about the offense, it’s whatever it takes,” Glavine said. “Some days it’s going to take ten, some days it’s going to take two, and a lot of the times the two is much harder than the ten. That means somebody’s pitching really well or we’re shorthanded or things just aren’t going our way . . . In game two we’re just scrapping and clawing and got some free bases and walks and stole some bases and got a bunt down and just fighting to find those runs.”
After a shaky third, Cota settled in and pitched a stellar five innings without giving up another run.
Northeastern battled through two very different games to split the doubleheader against the Seahawks, exemplifying the struggles they’ve had early into the season.
“We are searching for answers a little bit here and right now we’re just a poorly coached team and not doing enough things well,” Glavine admitted. “We just have to find a way to get better. We gotta start believing we can win.”
Northeastern will look to win the series tomorrow against UMass Lowell at 1 PM.
The stage is set in Erie, PA, and even with their opening-round NCAA Tournament game on a Monday afternoon, the Northeastern women’s hockey team is ready and raring to go. The top seed in the country breezed through Hockey East this season, and they enter the tournament on a 20-game unbeaten run.
Their opponent? Upstart College Hockey America (CHA) champs Robert Morris, who won their conference tournament as the #3 seed and scooped up the NCAA’s eighth-seed with the automatic bid.
These teams haven’t faced off since October 2014, making Kendall Coyne the last Northeastern player to score against the Colonials. That’s how long it’s been. Because of that, Northeastern head coach Dave Flint said the prep is just a bit more difficult this time around.
“We’ve got one video of them, and it was of their last game, and I think they had like 30 seconds of a power play,” Flint said.
So what can Northeastern fans expect from Robert Morris? Well, they aren’t going to run and gun as the Huskies love to do. They’re a slower, bigger, more physical team than most of the opponents Northeastern has battled all year.
“If we slow down and play at their pace, then that’s what they want, they’re going to have a good chance,” Flint said. “If we play with our speed, and have all four lines going, I think we’re going to be in pretty good shape.”
Let’s take a deep dive into both teams ahead of their first-round meeting on Monday.
How they got here
Northeastern: We know this story already, but if you don’t: The Huskies, the number one team in the country, haven’t lost since December 13 against Boston College (the sixth seed in this tournament). Since then, the only games that weren’t resounding, dominant wins were a 2–2 tie (and shootout loss) at New Hampshire when a fortuitous bounce beat Aerin Frankel late in the third to send it to OT, a 3–2 OT win against road warriors Maine, and a 2–1 win over UConn (who handed it to BC 5–1 on the road just days before) in the Hockey East semis.
Most recently, they beat Providence (the seventh seed in this tournament) 6–2 to capture their fourth straight conference title. They won this game with zero points combined from Alina Mueller, Chloe Aurard, and Katy Knoll — three of their top four scorers.
That’s right. They didn’t even need those stars to produce to take the win. It’s a level of depth that Flint takes tremendous pride in.
Also of note, they’ve played Providence four times this year. Take a guess at the aggregate score of all those games, just for fun.
Was that guess 19–3? If so, congrats! If not, that’s okay, you can’t be blamed for not anticipating that level of dominance over a fellow top-ten team. That’s just where the Huskies are right now.
They enter this tournament as the hottest team in the country and the number one team in the country. It’s a lethal combination.
Robert Morris: The Colonials are the surprise team in this tournament. They ran through the CHA Tournament, beating RIT, Mercyhurst (in OT), and fellow tourney Cinderella Syracuse, days removed from knocking off top seed and eventual NCAA Tournament snub Penn State. They did so off the back of a goaltending timeshare that got hot at the right time — Molly Singewald, Arielle Desmet, and Raygan Kirk each started a tournament game, with Singewald and Kirk recording shutouts.
Though the CHA has just one representative in this year’s tournament, there are some good teams across the conference. The Colonials paled in comparison to them, going 0–4 against Penn State, 3–2 against Syracuse, and 3–1–1 against Mercyhurst. It’s that Penn State record that’s really eye-popping here, as the Nittany Lions looked poised to make the NCAA Tournament this season and were easily the best regular-season CHA team.
The gap between the top teams and bottom in the CHA is huge. RIT and Lindenwood sat at the bottom of the conference this year, combining for a 3–29–1 record. Eight of RMU’s 16 wins came against those two teams.
Make no mistake — Northeastern has wins against teams like these in Hockey East, with four straight wins over Merrimack and Holy Cross in January and February. But Northeastern’s record against top teams puts them more than a cut above RMU.
Players of note
Northeastern: The Fearsome Five of Alina Mueller, Chloé Aurard, Maureen Murphy, Skylar Fontaine, and Brooke Hobson is the best unit of skaters in the country, plain and simple. All five were Hockey East All-Stars this year, including Murphy, who amassed 14 points in just 10 regular-season games. They possess speed, skill, and that mysterious clutch gene that gets talked about but never defined. Whatever it is, they have it (especially Aurard).
They also have the best goaltender in the country. Aerin Frankel has shattered Northeastern program records almost every time she has taken the ice this year, and her overall stats are straight out of a video game. An 18–1–1 record, a 0.698 GAA, a .969 save percentage, and NINE shutouts all lead the country.
In every press conference, she receives what we here at WRBB have dubbed “the question”: something like, “Aerin, how do you stay ready to make important saves when the puck is down on the other end of the ice all the time?” Frankel will always sit back and answer that she’ll communicate with her D corps and stay on her toes or, as she did after the 12–0 win over Holy Cross, Frankel will have some fun with it and say that she “can’t be sleeping out there.”
But it’s not just that starting group that is of note for this Northeastern team. A special highlight and shoutout to NU’s fourth line, who have grinded all year and, especially in the playoffs, provided clutch scoring. Peyton Anderson, Kate Holmes, and Katie Cipra use their elite speed to forecheck well and win the puck down low. Cipra scores maybe the nicest goals in all of college hockey (both men’s and women’s), and is no stranger to SportsCenter.
Add to that group extra skater Molly Griffin, who doubled her season point total in the three playoff games, and you have a threatening, speedy fourth line — quite possibly the best in the NCAA — that not only gives the top groups some rest, but scores some key goals.
“It’s a huge luxury to have,” Flint said. “And it only makes your top kids fresher in the third period, especially if we do have to shorten it up for some reason. They’re going to be a lot fresher than the other teams’ top units.”
Robert Morris: The Colonials are led by senior Lexi Templeman (seven goals and 22 assists in 24 games), who is averaging nearly a point per game across 129 career games. Templeman was the only Colonial named to a CHA All-Star team, earning her place on the first team alongside multiple Penn State honorees. It’s Templeman who makes the offense click: the captain’s +16 rating leads RMU.
Junior Michaela Boyle is another key forward and RMU’s leading goalscorer with 10 after amassing 22 as a sophomore. The two of them are joined on RMU’s top power-play unit by Maggie Burbidge and defensemen Emelie Harley and Emily Curlett.
“One of their lines kind of really makes them go, but the other ones really work hard and they generate a lot of shots,” Flint said of the Colonials.
Curlett is one of the most prolific defensemen in the country. She has amassed 90 points in her career, and finished 2019–20 tied for first nationally with 13 power-play goals. Harley stands at an intimidating six feet and, despite that size implying physical play, she limits her penalties — only three all year.
RMU has used a timeshare in goal all year, but expect sophomore Raygan Kirk to start Monday afternoon. She got the start in the CHA title game against Syracuse and is the Colonials’ go-to netminder. Across 14 appearances, Kirk is 8–4–1 with a 1.68 GAA and .945 save percentage.
Northeastern: A power play that’s scoring at a 22 percent clip. A kill unit with more shorthanded goals for than power-play goals against. There’s only so much that can be said about how they operate. The power play moves the puck around quickly, and both units can score almost at will. The penalty kill is tops in the country with a 97 percent success rate.
First power play: Mueller, Aurard, Murphy, Fontaine, Hobson
Second power play: Knoll, Renner, Ward, Anderson, Carter
First PK: Mueller, Aurard, Fontaine, Hobson
Second PK: Knoll, Murphy, Carter, Abbey Marohn
Third PK: Ward, Brown, MacInnis, Yovetich
Robert Morris: RMU’s power play is also quite good — with a conversion rate of 18 percent — which goes without saying with a player like Templeman leading the top unit. The kill is successful on 88 percent of their attempts. Again, another good rate, but they’ll have to kick it up to another level to deny NU’s man advantage.
Of note: As Flint said, the team only has 30 seconds of film on the RMU power play. Expect this to be a key factor. It’s no secret that the Huskies have an elite penalty kill, but the lack of footage at their disposal might cause some problems early, particularly against the top group.
First power play: Templeman, Boyle, Burbidge, Harley, Curlett
Second power play: Diffendal*, Fiala, Marcovsky, Rice, Thompson
*Diffendal, Marino, and Wagner have all seen time on the power play this year, but expect Diffendal to take that spot first Monday.
First PK: Templeman, Boyle, Curlett, Harley
Second PK: Fiala, Burbidge, Rice, Thompson
Recent tournament history
Northeastern: The Huskies have never advanced to the Frozen Four. The closest they came was a heartbreaking 3–2 OT loss in 2019 to Cornell at Matthews Arena in a year where Northeastern earned the third seed in the tourney. That felt like their shot. Last year they picked up the third seed and had a lot more confidence coming in, but COVID-19 halted the whole tournament.
“It’s in the minds of all our returners and there’s obviously something to prove,” Flint said. “They felt like a really good opportunity was taken away from them last year, so they want to make good on it this year.”
One huge thing that held them back in 2019 was not having Mueller. The Swiss star, just a freshman that year, suffered a broken hand in the conference tournament and did not play against Cornell. It was a game the Huskies started slowly in but, as they did all of 2018–19, they battled back to tie it in the third.
“I think part of the slow start was definitely some nerves,” Flint said. “I think also the team was unsure without their best player, with Alina, there might have been some doubts . . . The team was resilient in the fact that they didn’t pack it in after a 2–0 deficit and they battled back. They just ended up coming up a little short.”
This time around, Mueller is on track to play. Flint has no doubt she’ll be on her game.
“Alina gets excited for scrimmages,” Flint said. “So for her, she’s just excited to play and obviously it’s a big game and she’s been on the big stage many times so she knows what it takes. She’s not going to be the least bit phased or rattled. I think her demeanor and her poise will rub off on some of the players that might be nervous.”
Robert Morris: This is only RMU’s second national tournament appearance. In their first go at it in 2017, they also picked up the eighth seed before running into the buzzsaw that was top-seeded Wisconsin. Led by Annie Pankowski, the Badgers rolled to a 7–0 win, and went on to finish as runners-up to Clarkson. Certainly, the Colonials will be hoping for a much better performance in Erie this year. Maybe they’ll pick up a little bit of a home-state advantage.
Puck drop is set for 2 PM between No. 1 Northeastern and No. 8 Robert Morris, the opening game of the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
“It’s like you’re on a treadmill, you’re running about ten miles an hour, and somebody hits the stop button. And everything stops. Your mind, the players’ rhythm, ‘what time is practice tomorrow’, ‘what are we doing’, ‘what do we have to get better at’ — you’re just in that kind of cycle.”
Bill Coen had good reason to feel that way. One night after setting the Northeastern record for career wins, one night after his team notched a resounding playoff win without two players who had started every game to that point, they were done. A conference season that began with a seven-game winning streak and yielded a share of the regular season title ended with a 74–67 loss to Drexel in the semifinals of the CAA Tournament.
“The thing that doesn’t change at the end of the year is the emotion in the locker room,” Coen said, clearly dealing with plenty of it himself. “When you see guys get visibly emotional, although it’s tough, I think that’s a good sign. It shows how much they care, it shows how important it is to them, and it shows how much pride and character they have.”
Without the services of Shaquille Walters for the second day in a row, and without Jason Strong for most of the night, the Huskies couldn’t overcome Drexel’s potent, balanced attack or the one-dimensional nature of their own shorthanded offense.
“Ten days ago, a lot of us were in beds not even knowing if we were going to play,” forward Jahmyl Telfort said. “We practiced probably three times before the tournament.”
“We had guys who played in the game who weren’t even close to 100 percent,” Coen noted. “We had guys who were basically coming to the tournament without having practiced. So we were just trying to cobble it together with different guys and different lineups.”
Early on, Northeastern started relying on just two players to carry the scoring load, as All-CAA First Teamer Tyson Walker and Sixth Man of the Year Telfort notched 25 of the Huskies’ 29 first-half points. Telfort, who has typically had frigid first halves and white-hot second halves, turned in a performance to remember, ending the first frame with a game-high 13.
Walker was close behind with 12, and while both shooters posted efficient lines, Walker’s four missed threes — including an airball on his first attempt — were a harbinger of things to come.
Northeastern searched constantly for a third hot hand in Walters’s stead. The ailing Strong subbed in, committed several errors including an unforced inbound violation, and was done for the night. Vito Cubrilo played 23 minutes and contributed mightily with effort and aggression, but didn’t spark the offense much. Chris Doherty chipped in three points and five valuable rebounds, but was exceeded by his counterpart James Butler, who notched 12 points and 12 boards. Doherty did impact the game with the sort of defense that box scores elide, but the Dragons’ 38–26 rebounding advantage stung.
The Huskies’ defense kept them afloat. Northeastern made things difficult for Drexel ballhandlers — filling passing lanes, snatching steals, co-opting the shot clock as a sixth defender, and forcing Drexel to settle for poor shots.
“They’re really aggressive with their hands,” Drexel head coach Zach Spiker explained. “Coach Coen has built a culture of playing and defending without fouling.”
Unlike their wire-to-wire masterpiece from Sunday night, however, this iron defense would not last. As the first half progressed, the Dragons poked holes in the Husky fortifications, finding open looks under the hoop, in the midrange, and beyond the arc. They got diverse first-half contributions, with Xavier Bell, Zach Walton, and Camren Wynter notching seven points and TJ Bickerstaff adding six. Northeastern finished the half down just five, but Drexel held significant momentum and the Husky offense was still searching for answers.
Early in the second frame, Coen reached into his bag of tricks again and found an unexpected answer in reserve forward Alexander Nwagha. Nwagha, who had played just 41 minutes in the Huskies 18 previous games, restarted the defense with his length, leaping, and activity. Cubrilo also returned to the floor and made unexpected defensive contributions, grabbing two key steals and forcing an additional turnover as the Huskies clawed their way back.
Drexel kept Northeastern at arm’s length for the first half of the final period, but Northeastern finally made their move with eight minutes remaining. Telfort put in a nifty layup, followed by a fastbreak finish from Walker, a free throw from Doherty, and an emphatic stepback three from Telfort to bring the Huskies within one.
“We put a little game pressure on them,” Coen said. “Until that point, we hadn’t put any game pressure on them. We just needed one more stop.”
They didn’t get it. Drexel’s offense lit up and regrew the lead. The Dragons’ shooting barrage included the first of two threes from Butler, who had made just two treys all season.
“I knew it was going in,” Wynter said. “JB’s a good shooter and in practice he shoots guard numbers.”
“He’s shot a whole lot in his career, they just haven’t been in games yet,” Spiker added. “James Butler took advantage of the pandemic. James Butler evolved his game.”
Wynter, Walton, and Bell each turned in a double-digit performance on 50 perfect shooting or better, while Bickerstaff nearly matched Butler in rebounds. Defeating these performances would have required brilliance from Northeastern’s stars. They did get an 30-point masterpiece from Telfort, who also defended Wynter for long stretches.
“You could score 60 points or you could score zero,” a dejected Telfort said. “A loss is a loss.”
Walker finished with 23 points, four boards, and five assists, though his one-for-eight mark from downtown damaged his efficiency.
“I thought we did a great job on him, making everything tough, putting multiple bodies on him,” Wynter said. “We were just trying to tire him out and make him take a lot of contested shots, and we did just that.”
But the rest of the Huskies combined for just 14 points on 29 percent shooting, not enough to overcome Drexel’s four double-digit scorers. And thus ended a season that exceeded expectations in so many respects.
“Even though it was a young group, it was able to accomplish a lot of great things,” Coen said. “We earned a share of the CAA regular season title. I think we had the most road wins in the conference.
In a hard fought series, Northeastern (3–4) lost the final game against Old Dominion (8–3), 3–2 in eleven innings Sunday afternoon.
There weren’t many parts of the game that had the socially distanced crowd in Norfolk, Virginia standing up to cheer, but this close game was one of the most exciting because it kept people on the edge of their seats.
Both teams displayed elite performances, holding each other to one run each until extra innings and chipping away at each other’s pitchers.
“I thought it was a great series,” Northeastern head coach Mike Glavine said. “I thought we played well these last couple of days and we really only had one bad inning all weekend long and it swung the whole series, but this thing could have went either way.”
Cam Schlittler started for the Huskies. In comparison to his performance in the Wake Forest series, he walked a few more batters, but still battled through each inning. He gave up five hits and struck out four.
“He definitely wasn’t as sharp today. His command was a little bit off. His velocity was good and he was strong,” Glavine said. “If that’s him not at his best, six innings and one run, I’ll take that every time. He’s a competitor [and] gave us a chance to win today.”
When Old Dominion left the bases loaded after a series of small hits, one hit-by-pitch, and a walk in the bottom of the second, Northeastern was lucky that the Monarchs had scored only one run.
In the top of the third, Northeastern started making contact with Monarch starter Ryne Moore’s previously untouchable pitching. Jeff Costello singled up the middle and made his way to third with a stolen base and smart baserunning on a ground ball from Teddy Beaudet. The Huskies tied it up after Spenser Smith hit a sacrifice fly to center field, bringing Costello home.
The Huskies’ speed and base-running are among their greatest strengths. Old Dominion did a good job of holding the Huskies on the basepaths, which Glavine credited as one of the reasons why Northeastern didn’t come out on top.
“We couldn’t quite get it going as much as I’d like to this weekend,” Glavine said. “There’s more to it than just stealing bases.”
In the sixth inning, Eric Yost went in to relieve Schlittler. He pitched a solid inning, facing three batters, throwing 19 pitches, and striking out one. In the bottom of the eighth, Thomas Balboni came in to pitch and he faced six batters.
Defensively, Northeastern had a stellar showing. Through nine innings, they had only one error, stranded eight Monarchs on base, and held their opponent to just one run.
In the 10th inning, Brandon Dufault took the mound for the Huskies. Dufault, a veteran reliever with eight strikeouts in his four innings pitched so far this year, had two strikeouts on Sunday, but Old Dominion kept trying to find a way to beat his pitching.
In the top of the 11th, the Huskies started the inning with Smith on second because of the new tiebreaker rule. Ben Malgeri was next and tapped a sacrifice bunt into play, sending Smith to third. Max Viera followed with a sacrifice fly to right field, allowing the speedy Smith to score.
Old Dominion quickly caught up. With a runner on second, Robbie Petracci hit a double off of Dufault, sending home the tying run while keeping the winning run on base.
The Monarchs then decided to pinch run Zach Coldsnow for Petracci as Brock Gagliardi stepped up to bat. With no outs and a runner in scoring position, Gagliardi, who was 0-2 on the day, found the confidence to send one to left-center, ending the game with a walk-off single, bringing the final score 3–2.
The Huskies will return home for a Tuesday tilt with Albany.
HARRISONBURG, VA — If you were paying attention, you could see the answers coming an hour in advance.
After each of his team’s last three wins, plus a CAA press conference a month ago, Northeastern head coach Bill Coen fielded a question about his march toward the program’s all-time wins record of 250, set by Hall of Famer Jim Calhoun from 1972 to 1986.
He offered nearly identical answers each time — rejecting comparisons to Calhoun’s vaunted résumé and deferring credit for the wins to his players, assistant coaches, the university, and medical, training, and support staff. It’s who he is, and it’s why he’s so respected around the conference. He’s naturally humble and gracious. He doesn’t strut. And the last thing he wants, especially after his team wins, is to make himself the story.
“Coaches get way too much credit,” he remarked after Sunday night’s game. “I haven’t scored a basket or grabbed a rebound in a long time. These guys do all the work.”
But after a 63–47 win over William & Mary made him the winningest coach in the history of a century-old program, he didn’t have any say in that. He was the story.
Or at least he was part of it. The win vaulted the second-seeded Huskies into the semifinals of the CAA Tournament, where they will battle the Drexel Dragons. Milton Posner, Jordan Baron, and Justin Diament will call that game for WRBB, with coverage beginning around 9:20 PM Eastern.
“It meant more to me that we’re moving on and playing in the best month of the year — if you’re a college basketball fan,” Coen said. “It meant more to me that these guys were willing to play and show that type of heart and resilience given what we’ve been through.”
The road to this landmark win was not as easy as the final score suggests. Without key starters Shaquille Walters (out for the tournament) and Jason Strong (day-to-day), the Huskies looked lost offensively in the first half. Without Strong, a key perimeter shooter, and Walters, an important ballhandler, the Huskies spent their first 15 minutes searching for answers, and scored just 25 points by the intermission.
“We hadn’t played in three weeks,” star point guard Tyson Walker said. “We were all in quarantine and stuff. We didn’t have that much time to practice. So coming back was rough . . . We all spoke a lot over quarantine. So we were mentally together; it was all about the physical.”
“I think we’ve played three games in about 40 days,” Coen added. “We really didn’t get much practice time before we got down here. Guys were getting out of quarantine at different times.”
Numerous strange lineup configurations found their way to the hardwood. One was a starting lineup featuring defensive-minded guard Quirin Emanga and back-from-injury big man Chris Doherty. Another featured starting point guard Tyson Walker and reserve guard Vito Cubrilo, who usually only enters the game to spell Walker.
Northeastern often meandered late into the shot clock, lacking direction and settling for contested looks. Strong pressure from the Tribe, who feature two CAA All-Defensive selections, piled on the pain for the disoriented Huskies, who racked up 10 first-half turnovers. Northeastern also went without an assist for nearly 15 minutes.
“The ball was sticking a little bit,” Coen explained. “A great metric for us is when you see assisted baskets; that means the ball is moving, it’s not sticking, we’re not overdribbling, we’re cutting better, attacking the paint. In the first half, we didn’t do enough of that.”
The culmination of these attempts to fill the shoes of Strong and Walters was the debut of freshman forward Connor Braun, who had missed the entire season with an ankle injury. Braun played just four minutes, but his presence in such a pivotal game indicated the Huskies far-reaching search for lineup answers.
But they had a saving grace.
“All year long, our defense kept us in games,” Coen said. “That was consistent tonight. We did a really good job on the defensive end and gave ourselves a chance.”
They harassed William & Mary’s drives, collecting five first-half blocks from five different Huskies. Northeastern held William & Mary to just 38 percent shooting from the floor, which kept the game tight despite a massive turnover advantage for the Tribe. Confoundingly, despite the aggressive nature of the defense from both teams, neither side attempted a free throw in the first half.
One first-half highlight for the Huskies was the return of Doherty, who hadn’t played major minutes since January 23. He grabbed seven first-half boards and created key second chances for the Huskies. His contributions on both ends were essential to mitigating the losses of Walters and Strong.
With 5:58 remaining in the first half, the Huskies’ offensive woes had them in a 21–12 hole. However, back-to-back threes from Coleman Stucke and Walker served as harbingers of things to come, while another pair of downtown buckets from Emanga and Walker evened the score at 23. William & Mary finished the first half strong and took a three-point lead into the locker room, but the table was set for the turnaround.
Northeastern returned to the floor with a vengeance. Newly minted Sixth Man of the Year Jahmyl Telfort logged seven points in the opening three minutes, including a three-pointer that gave the Huskies a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. The Huskies quickly found another hot hand in Stucke, who splashed two deep threes to raise the Northeastern lead to double digits. Midway through the second half, Stucke led all scorers with 13, while adding five boards and two assists.
The Huskies settled into an offensive groove with contributions from numerous players, including buckets from Telfort and two nifty layups from Cubrilo. However, the biggest key to the sustained Husky dominance was Tyson Walker, who came alive after scoring only seven first-half points. He finished with 19 — including eight in a two-minute stretch — and contributed five rebounds and four assists.
While Northeastern’s offense received a much-needed second half boost, their already-stout defense reached new heights. It was William & Mary’s turn to look lost offensively, as they managed just five second-half field goals and couldn’t keep pace with the invigorated Husky attack. Defenders harassed the Tribe’s ballhandlers and forced eight turnovers, many of which lead to transition opportunities.
Doherty continued to swallow the Tribe’s plentiful missed shots, and finished with an astounding 18 boards in his return. Additionally, both teams rediscovered the free-throw line, combining for 24 free throws in the second half after attempting none in the first. The Huskies outpaced the Tribe in this area as well, connecting on more foul shots despite fewer attempts.
“We talked about him coming into the game,” Tribe head coach Dane Fischer said. “We talked about having a body on him every time the ball goes up, if not two . . . Eight offensive rebounds is way too many for anybody to have.”
“We lost two games in conference this year, and the only two games we lost we didn’t have Chris,” Coen noted. “You can see what kind of a difference he makes — controlling the paint, getting on the glass. Having that type of rebounding effort was special.”
“He’s a dog,” Walker said bluntly. “He works hard. He gets all of his stuff on his own.”
William & Mary was led by star senior Luke Loewe, who contributed 18 points, seven rebounds, and six assists in the Tribe’s lone bright performance. The only other Tribe player in double figures was Quinn Blair, who suffered a shoulder injury early on but pushed through the pain to record 11 points on inefficient four-of-11 shooting.
After arguably the most dominant college hockey season of the last five years, the Northeastern women’s team clinched their fourth consecutive conference title with a 6–2 win over Providence at Matthews Arena. Mike Puzzanghera and Rae Deer have the call.
Cover photo by Sarah Olender. Read our written coverage here.
Friday’s game brought the Huskies a disappointing walk-off loss after a hard-fought back-and-forth battle.
On Saturday, Old Dominion (7–3) scored all of their runs in one third-inning barrage, and spent the rest of the game stranding runners. Throughout the game, Northeastern (3–3) chipped away at the Monarchs’ lead.
Sebastian Keane took the mound for his second start of the year after posting a 23.14 ERA in his first outing. Today he also struggled a bit, but his defense limited the damage.
“I think there’s more in there; we haven’t seen the best of him,” head coach Mike Glavine said. “I thought it was much better today. He was throwing harder, I thought his off-speed stuff was better. He was more competitive. It was in the zone more. I think he trusted everything he was doing more, but today was a step in the right direction and he gave us a chance to win the game.”
In the top of the third, Northeastern’s JP Olson slammed a double to right center, advanced to third on a hit from Spenser Smith, and scored on an error to get the Huskies on the board. That error put the batter, Scott Holzwasser, at second. Though Monarch starter Nick Pantos fanned Jeff Costello, Holzwasser advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored an unearned run. 2–0 Huskies.
Old Dominion answered with a vengeance. They loaded the bases for an Andy Garriola grand slam, then Robbie Petracci quickly tacked on another homer.
In the top of the fourth, Northeastern’s Max Viera fired his first collegiate homer out of the park, trimming the Monarch lead to 5–3.
Keane finished up at the end of the fifth, tallying eight strikeouts. In the top of the sixth the Huskies started building small hits and walks, but ultimately exited the inning scoreless after leaving the bases loaded.
In the bottom of the sixth, Brian Rodriguez took the mound for the Huskies; he would strike out three in two innings of play. In the bottom of the eighth, Jake Gigliotti took the mound, and did not allow a hit in two scoreless innings.
“Rodriguez was really good for us in that role last year,” Glavine said. “We got in trouble in that one inning and made the pitches when he needed to. And that’s a sign of a great pitcher and what you need out of your bullpen.”
As the Huskies stepped up to the plate for their final frame, Olson and Smith both walked, with Olson taking third on a wild pitch. A Holzwasser grounder to third forced Smith out and plated Olson to bring the Huskies within one.
With the deadly baserunner Holzwasser on first and one out, Old Dominion pitcher Jacob Gomez did his best to try to pick him off, or at least keep him close to the bag, but it ultimately wouldn’t matter. After Jeff Costello struck out, Jared Dupere got up to the plate with two outs and took the pitch count deep. Gomez started to tire and lose his accuracy, almost hitting Dupere on multiple occasions, but Dupere pushed through. With a 3-2 count, the lefty offered at a meatball of a pitch and cranked it over the right-field fence, giving the Huskies a 6–5 lead, their first since the third inning and the one that would prove the decider.
The Huskies face Old Dominion again tomorrow at 12:05 PM.