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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
BOSTON — A spot in the championship game was on the line for Northeastern as they faced the University of Connecticut on Wednesday afternoon at Matthews Arena. Northeastern, as the newly minted top-ranked team in the nation, was the favorite. UConn was the underdog after upsetting nationally ranked Boston College for their spot in the semifinals.
The match of the Huskies was bound to be tense, and neither team disappointed. UConn battled hard, but a late shorthanded goal gave the Huskies a dramatic 2–1 win.
UConn (9–10–1) came out strong in the first period with a great shot by Danika Pasqua that led to Husky goaltender Aerin Frankel flipping head over heels to make the save. Northeastern (19–1–1) battled UConn for control of the puck, but shot only twice in the first fifteen minutes.
Northeastern’s luck appeared to change after a timeout at the five-minute mark, as the first line came out firing at freshman goaltender Tia Chan. Chloé Aurard gained the puck, skated around the back of the net, and dished to Alina Mueller in front. With ten seconds left in the period, Mueller tapped it in for the first goal of the night.
Once Northeastern gets a goal, it’s often over for their opponent. The Huskies like to pile the goals on, as they did in their 7–0 quarterfinal win over New Hampshire. But the other Huskies weren’t about to give up so easily.
The opening of the second period resembled the opening of the first, with the puck not spending extended time in either offensive zone. Northeastern looked like they were about to get an insurance goal when Aurard appeared to shoot the puck past Chan, sending the red goal light flaring. But after a few seconds, the light turned off, signaling the puck hadn’t quite made it and keeping the score at 1–0.
A couple minutes later, UConn retaliated with one of their own when Coryn Tormala sent what looked like a pass to the net from the back corner that bounced off Aerin Frankel and tied the score 1–1.
“I think she wished she had that first one back, but when I look back at this year, that was that was the first goal that I say ‘Oh, you know, she should have had it.’”
Northeastern stayed in their offensive zone for much of the rest of the period but couldn’t get anything past Chan.
As the seconds trickled down in the third period, it began to seem like overtime was on the horizon. With five minutes left of regulation, Northeastern’s Brooke Hobson slammed Taylor Wabick into the boards, sending Wabick onto the ice and Northeastern head coach Dave Flint into apoplexy. Wabick left the ice of her own accord and Hobson earned a two-minute penalty for boarding.
If Northeastern were any other team, hope might have been lost. But Northeastern has an elite penalty kill unit and was prepared to fight until the end. Thirty seconds into the penalty kill, two-time-defending Hockey East Defenseman of the Year Skylar Fontaine dished to Aurard, who dumped it in for the win.
“They were lining up for the face off and I just had this feeling in the back of my head, we got a really good chance of scoring a goal here,” Flint recalled. “Anytime Alina, Chloé, and Skylar are on the penalty kill and all on the ice, I like our chances of scoring a goal if the other team turns a puck over.”
UConn pulled Chan with two minutes left, hoping to get something going with an extra forward. But they were stymied by the home Huskies and only narrowly avoided two empty-net goals by Mueller.
“It’s okay for us to have some of those games,” Flint said, “to grind out games and compete, battle and have some adversity and then come out on the winning end, because that makes us a better team.”
Northeastern will play for their fourth consecutive Hockey East Championship on Saturday night. Their foe is No. 9 Providence, who the Huskies swept in three regular-season matches. WRBB will call that game live from Matthews Arena, with coverage beginning at 6:50 PM Eastern.
BOSTON — The forecast for Sunday night’s women’s hockey game was straightforward.
New Hampshire was one of the few teams to meaningfully challenge the No. 2 Northeastern Huskies this season. They’re strong. They’re physical. They have a great goaltender. And they’ll make the Huskies work hard for everything. And after one gritty, aggressive, competitive period, that’s what it looked like was in store.
But the Huskies have a Hockey East Championship to defend, and a five-goal onslaught in the second period proved just how hard they’d fight to keep it. They flattened the Wildcats 7–0 and will face UConn in the semifinals on Wednesday night.
“We played fast from the drop of the puck and were relentless for the full 60 minutes,” head coach Dave Flint said.
Both squads were quick on their feet from the beginning and favored using their bodies and sticks to get on the puck. After an aggressive last meeting between the teams, Sunday brought a new level of animosity and extracurricular hits. Players seemingly got into it after every other whistle, either jawing at each other or letting loose a few shoves.
“We talked about everybody keeping their composure,” Flint said. “They’re a physical team and they’re trying to get us off our game. I told them, ‘Don’t let them do it. Don’t fall into the trap. If they make you mad, do it on the scoreboard.’ I think they were a little pissed off at some of the plays, but they kept their heads, played hard, and took care of it on the scoreboard.”
Six minutes in, Veronika Pettey tried a backhand flip pass from behind the net to Katy Knoll out front. The connection might not have happened if not for a Wildcat skater’s deflection, and Knoll redirected the loose puck to get the scoring going.
The Huskies didn’t let up, and generated several near-chances in the offensive zone. But Wildcat netminder Ava Boutilier kept Northeastern at bay for the rest of the period.
“If you don’t get in there and bang in rebounds and make things difficult for her, if you’re perimeter, she’s going to stop pucks all night.” Flint said.
Thus, going into the second, the issue was finding ways to best Boutilier. It took seven minutes for the Huskies to figure it out, and when they did, the floodgates opened. Goals from Katie Cipra, Veronika Pettey, Skylar Fontaine, and Kate Holmes within a six-minute span effectively ended the game.
“We got stuck out there on an icing before that second goal,” New Hampshire head coach Hilary Witt explained. “We didn’t do a good enough job getting the puck deep to get a good change opportunity. We got a little fatigued and that’s how things broke down on that second goal. After that, probably not a great decision on our pinch, giving them another odd-man situation. They’re so talented that if you’re going to give them opportunities like that, they’re going to hurt you.”
And with the clock ticking down at the end of the period, Mia Brown stole New Hampshire’s cookies and ate them all by herself.
“We were like sharks around the net tonight and that’s why we were successful,” Flint remarked of the second-period run. “We were hunting pucks on the forecheck like I haven’t seen us do this year. We were all over UNH. One went in and they got hungry for a second. The confidence built up and we just kept going and going.”
Then the Wildcats got desperate. They were a lot more physical and took more penalties as they tried to keep up with the Huskies’ offensive acceleration. Northeastern rebuffed the increased sticks and shoving by breaking up the Wildcats’ setups in their offensive zone with ease. They denied any and every Wildcat scoring chance while setting up chances of their own. One such chance allowed Patty Kaz nominee, Hockey East all-star, and phenom first-liner Alina Mueller to get her piece and nail the coffin shut.
With seven goals by seven different skaters, this game, like many this season, showed just how deep the Huskies are.
“We run four lines, we play our extra skater too. That, for me, is reassuring knowing that we can run any of those lines out there.” Coach Flint said about his skaters. “We’ve put our third and fourth lines against teams’ first lines to get mismatches for our first line. It’s nice to have that luxury.”
This is a team that has new tricks up their sleeve every time you play them, a team where each player contributes. They’re exciting, cohesive, and clearly worthy of the accolades they’ve already received. They’ll continue to chase another Wednesday night against UConn; WRBB will call that game live from Matthews Arena.
In their regular season finale on Saturday afternoon in Burlington, the No. 2 Northeastern women’s hockey team secured a weekend sweep over the Vermont Catamounts. The Huskies (17–1–1) scored late in the first period and didn’t look back from there, ultimately emerging with a 4–1 victory.
“It was a hard-fought win,” Northeastern head coach Dave Flint remarked. “We did what we needed to do.”
Junior Chloé Aurard notched her 100th and 101st Northeastern points with a goal and an assist, becoming just the 32nd women’s hockey player to reach the 100-point milestone.
“She’s been a big part of our success over the past couple of years,” Flint said. “It was great to see that 100th point . . . it was quite a goal.”
The first period began with a competitive back-and-forth that led to some decent scoring opportunities for both sides. Catamount netminder Jessie McPherson made a few great saves during a Northeastern offensive stretch.
Time ticked down quickly in the first period, but it was clear that the Huskies were getting faster over time and starting to dominate puck possession. They kept the puck deep in the offensive zone for long stretches, shooting from under the dots and making Jessie McPherson’s life very difficult. Pinning Vermont in their own zone proved fruitful over a first period in which Northeastern gave up only three shots.
On the power play with just over six minutes left in the period, Northeastern forward Katy Knoll took a pass from netminder Aerin Frankel and absolutely dusted two defenders, whipping the puck past McPherson with ease. The primary assist was credited to Frankel.
The second period was much more balanced, with the Catamounts creating more scoring opportunities and nabbing some key takeaways. They controlled the puck much better than they did in the first, and it looked as if they were gaining back some momentum.
“The ice is tilting in the wrong direction right now,” Flint recalled telling his team during a timeout. “We need to take the momentum back from them. Let’s ramp it up in these last five minutes and flip the table on them.”
Northeastern did just that, crushing that momentum in the second half of the second period. Aerin Frankel shut down opposing rushes, making some spectacular saves look routine as usual. Every single time the Catamounts attempted to drive their offense in motion, Frankel stopped them in their tracks.
After one such sequence, forward Alina Mueller took the puck and sped deep into the offensive zone, flipping it in and doubling the Huskies lead.
If that goal wasn’t the backbreaker, then Mia Brown’s missile with just over a minute left in the second was. In the span of two minutes, Northeastern took what had been a solid period by the Catamounts and turned it on its head, tripling their lead.
Both teams scored in the third; Vermont skater Sara Levesque put the Catamounts on the board three minutes in, and 10 minutes later Chloe Aurard showed off some ridiculous stickhandling off the faceoff for an unassisted goal.
Vermont outshot Northeastern 11 to three in the third, but Frankel was too talented for it to matter. The outcome was never in question after the second period. The Catamounts played well throughout, but the Huskies just played better.
“Credit to them — they came at us hard and didn’t let up once,” Flint remarked. “We had to weather a couple storms, Frankel had to make a couple nice saves there in the third to keep the score where it was, and Chloé stepped up to ice the game.”
This game marks the 11th in a row where the Huskies have allowed one or no goals. Their unbeaten streak stands at 17. The Huskies are clearly the best team in Hockey East. Friday and Saturday’s matches against a very strong Vermont team proved to be challenging at times, but in the end the Huskies took care of business once again.
Northeastern will enjoy an important bye for the first round of the Hockey East Tournament. Following a reseed after the first single-elimination round, first-place Northeastern will presumably face the eighth seed on Sunday, February 28 at Matthews Arena.
“Anything can happen in single elimination,” Flint said of the team’s playoff chances. “Over the next week . . . we’ll make sure everyone is feeling good and we’ll fine tune our special teams.”
This hockey season has been a little chaotic at times due to COVID-19. Teams were shut down, games were postponed, and a new ranking system was created. The number of games played ranged from 10 at the lowest to 20 at the highest. One of the only constants: Northeastern’s domination.
The No. 2 Northeastern Huskies traveled up to Burlington, Vermont on Friday for the first of two games against the Catamounts. The Huskies entered Gutterson Fieldhouse riding a 15-game unbeaten streak, while the Catamounts were fresh off a hard-fought series split against Boston University.
It was a rather inauspicious first period for the Huskies. The sharp edge of their play was dulled by the physical play of the Catamounts. Passes missed tape, and the puck was constantly ceded in the neutral zone.
However, when the Huskies did break into the Catamount zone, they looked threatening. The top trio of Alina Mueller, Maureen Murphy, and Chloé Aurard dominated the puck, cycling it crisply around the ice. But they couldn’t find the back of the net.
The action bounced up and down, with neither team establishing themselves in either zone. Megan Carter was shaken up on an ugly collision with Vermont’s Theresa Schafzahl that gave the Huskies their first power play. They dominated the ice and managed to slip the puck in after a chaotic scrum in front of the net, but the effort was waived off. After a review, the call stood, and the score remained 0–0.
The action continued to go back and forth, with Vermont’s physical play causing Northeastern some difficulty.
“We were a bit too perimeter,” Northeastern head coach Dave Flint said. “We weren’t getting pucks in deep. We needed to get bodies in front of the net.”
The period ended with the Huskies’ penalty kill on the ice after Skylar Fontaine was called for checking with 20 seconds left. The kill unit allowed Vermont a few chances, but Aerin Frankel made herself look twice as big as she moved across the crease. As soon as the penalty was killed off, the Huskies found themselves on an odd-man rush. A swiftly moving Molly Griffin took the puck deep into the zone before sliding it across to Tessa Ward, who slotted it home to give the Huskies a one-goal lead.
The momentum swung the Huskies’ way, and their attacking zone presence instantly increased. The Catamounts struggled to get the puck past their blue line, as the Husky forecheck applied unrelenting pressure.
After about 10 minutes of domination, the Catamounts finally put pressure on the net. Frankel was firing on all cylinders, darting back and forth across the crease as shots came flying in from all directions.
The Catamounts’ efforts did not bear fruit, and the Huskies marched back down the ice. A thundering slapshot off Carter’s stick was tipped by Veronika Pettey, giving the Huskies their second goal of the period and Pettey her second on the year.
Vermont hit the ice for the third period with a reignited fury. They pursued the puck faster than Northeastern was ready for, and the Huskies found themselves on the back foot early. Frankel continued to stand strong against the UVM attack. The action bounced back and forth, with neither team holding the puck for much longer than thirty seconds. Five minutes into the period, the Catamounts finally beat Frankel when a spinning Corinne McCool cut the deficit to one.
Vermont continued to challenge, forcing Frankel to make a number of difficult saves. The Catamounts fought with desperation, and pulled their goalie with two minutes to go. After a scrum in the neutral zone, Megan Carter batted the puck out, caught a lucky bounce off the boards, and slid the puck into the gaping net.
“They play a lot like us,” Flint said. “If you’re standing around staring at the puck, you’re going to get in trouble, and I feel like we did that a couple times . . . It was one of the toughest games we’ve had in a while.
The Huskies’ 3–1 win boosted them to 16–1–1 and cemented their position atop the Hockey East standings. They will look to extend their unbeaten streak to 17 tomorrow against Vermont (6–3–0) in their final regular-season game.
BOSTON — The Northeastern women’s hockey team isn’t used to playing competitive games this season.
But on Sunday night they had to adjust, as a talented New Hampshire squadron kept them on their toes for most of the game. Still, three third-period goals rocketed the Huskies to a 4–1 victory. Skylar Fontaine, Tessa Ward, Chloé Aurard, and Miceala Sindoris lit the lamp, and Alina Mueller posted another multi-point performance. The win extended the Huskies’ unbeaten streak to 15 games and improved their record to 15–1–1.
The Huskies started off the first period strong, pinning the Wildcats deep in their own end. New Hampshire had learned from the previous day’s affair, and were packing the center of the ice to keep the Huskies on the perimeter. Ava Boutillier rarely had to work for a save, as eight of Northeastern’s 15 shots were blocked by the skaters in front of her.
Northeastern, displaying their unrelenting perseverance, kept pressuring the Wildcats, but Boutilier and company were unwilling to concede. New Hampshire was no longer happy sitting back and trying to prevent the Huskies from scoring, and instead turned the tables by ratcheting up their forecheck. The Huskies suddenly found themselves backed into their own zone, something they didn’t face in previous matchups.
The action went up and down the ice. Both teams tried to create scoring chances off the rush, but each goaltender reached deep into their bag of tricks to keep the game scoreless.
Northeastern hit the ice for the second period frustrated with their lack of scoring, as they turned their pace up to 11 and outskated the Wildcats at every opportunity. New Hampshire couldn’t keep up.
“I told them just to simplify,” said Northeastern head coach Dave Flint. “We were trying to make big plays and stretch passes. We were feeding into what [UNH] was doing.”
And five minutes in, the Huskies took the lead. The Husky first line took the ice for a power play and moved the puck around the perimeter trying to create shooting space. Mueller received the puck from Brooke Hobson in the left faceoff circle, and reared back for an attempt at the back of the net. As Boutilier and the Wildcat blockers prepared for the shot, Mueller sniped a quick pass to Fontaine, who was patiently waiting on the right side of the net. Everyone in the arena was caught off guard as Fontaine easily slotted the puck home for a goal.
The Wildcats stayed persistent, however, and kept the Huskies off the board for the remainder of the period. The Wildcats killed three of four Husky power plays on the evening, including one later in the second. The Wildcats also had four power plays; the Huskies’ fearsome four killed all of them.
The third period is when things started to go wrong for the visiting squad. With just over 10 minutes remaining, Northeastern’s Ward found herself in a prime opportunity as she picked off an errant puck in the neutral zone and skated it across the blue line with minimal coverage between her and the net. She flicked the puck onto the far side of her stick and shoveled it towards the goal, above Boutilier’s left shoulder, and into the back of the net.
“When Tessa came up with that big goal, I think everyone was kind of like ‘Okay, here we go,’ It loosened things up a bit,” Flint said.
Just a minute later, the Huskies found themselves in the offensive zone again, as Mueller shot the puck from about 10 feet out. Boutilier saved it but couldn’t control the rebound, and that was all Aurard needed to get her 11th goal of the season.
Then, just when the Wildcats thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did. Sindoris received the puck in the left faceoff circle with just over seven minutes to play and sniped it home for the fourth Husky goal of the night, and the third of the final period.
The Wildcats attempted to get themselves back in the game in the final minutes, and they did so valiantly, limiting the Huskies’ zone time and even firing one past Frankel with 3:30 remaining to break the shutout. However, there wasn’t enough time left to mount a serious comeback.
“I thought [it was] a hard fought win,” Flint said. “We had to grind it out. They made us really work for it.”