Sky’s the Limit: Fontaine sends NU to NCAA Title Game with OT Winner

Story by Mike Puzzanghera and Jack Sinclair

Photos by Sarah Olender

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.

Frankel Secures Shutout Record as Northeastern Annihilates Holy Cross

Story by Jordan Baron

Photos by Sarah Olender

BOSTON — You don’t often get the opportunity to see a hockey team beat their opponent by over ten goals, nor is it common to witness a player surpass a seemingly insurmountable record.

On Saturday afternoon at Matthews Arena, the No. 3 Northeastern women’s hockey team provided both, annihilating the Holy Cross Crusaders 12–0 on the back of Aerin Frankel’s fifth consecutive shutout and record-breaking 25th career Hockey East shutout.

“It’s obviously something that has taken a body of work over four years and credit to my teammates for helping me so much and being there for me when I need them,” Frankel said. “I think they knew that tonight could be the night, and they helped me a lot.”

Northeastern passed around the scoring plate, as 10 skaters launched pucks across the line into the Holy Cross net. Katie Cipra, who had two goals on the season coming into Saturday, doubled her total on two snipes from the slot. Skyler Fontaine notched one each in the second and third periods, and Chloé Aurard added to her marvelous weekend with her fourth goal in two days. Junior forward Alina Mueller added a five-point performance with a goal and four assists.

“I thought it was a great continuation from last night,” Northeastern head coach Dave Flint said. “We were firing on all cylinders, and it was good to see. We got production from everybody, rolled all the lines. It was a great, great game and obviously really happy for Aerin.”

The Huskies outshot the Crusaders 55 to 12, leaving Frankel with a pretty slow day on the job. Still, there were some interesting moments, as Holy Cross freshman forward Bryn Saarela fired some decent shots that were blocked. The Crusaders had a particularly good opportunity in the third period on a rebound that caught Frankel on the wrong side of the net, but a brilliant diving block by Carter preserved the shutout.

“It kind of happened quickly and behind me but I think the puck hit off me, bounced over to a Holy Cross player and she was about to stuff it home and [Carter] kind of dove out of nowhere and blocked it for me,” Frankel said. “I said ‘thank you’ to her of course, because that was probably the hugest save of the night. She always has my back tonight and every night, just always a sound defenseman for me.”

Carter did a wonderful job on the offensive end as well, defending the blue line well and keeping the puck in the Huskies’ offensive zone. She even added her own goal in the third off a rebound to put the Husky goal column in double digits.

The scoring didn’t start right away, but the penalties did. Just 74 seconds into the game, Crusader freshman forward Lily Feeney was called for tripping and journeyed into the box, putting the Huskies in a fantastic position to strike. The Crusaders did well to kill it though, and surprisingly held the fearsome five of the Husky power play to just two shots, one off the post and the other blocked by junior goaltender Jada Brenon. Brenon, who gave up all eight goals the night before, allowed eight more on Saturday before giving way to junior Sarah Street in the second.

After the Huskies killed a Holy Cross penalty, Cipra started the scoring, skating up the right side and firing a shot into the open left half of the net to put the Huskies on the board. Later on in the second, Cipra picked up the puck at the blue line after Fontaine kept it in the zone, skated into the slot, and fired a wrister into the top-right side for her second of the game.

“Those were some snipes, weren’t they?” Flint said. “This week in practice, she looked awesome. I was joking with her . . . I said ‘I don’t know what you have been eating this week, but you look awesome, and you’re playing great.’ We were trying to get to that third one to get her a hat trick, their goalie made a nice save in the second period to keep her from getting that.”

Mia Brown added the second goal of the first period off a brilliant pass from Veronika Pettey to get herself on the board. The Huskies entered the locker room ready to continue their onslaught. 

Pettey started the scoring in the second off a rebound close to the Crusader goal, assisted by Katy Knoll and Carter. After Cipra’s second goal, Mueller got herself on the board; a pass bounced to her stick, and we all know what happens when Mueller gets open space near the net. 

Just 40 seconds later the Fontaine show began, as she drove up the left side of the ice and fired towards the net from behind, looking for a teammates’ stick. It worked out even better, as Brenon didn’t press her leg tight enough against the left post. The puck skirted off her skate and into the goal to put the Huskies up by six. 

After goals from Aurard and Knoll — who scored off a beautiful feed from Andrea Renner — Fontaine picked up another goal on the power play, absolutely nuking the puck into the right side of the net for her second of the night.

Carter added her goal to start the third before Peyton Anderson decided she had gone too long without a major contribution. The sophomore notched a power play goal to put the Huskies up by 11 before assisting on the last goal of the game, a rebound shot from Tessa Ward off a blocked Anderson shot attempt.

“The thing I’ve been trying to instill in them for the last few years is ‘you don’t stop, you don’t lay off the gas,’” Flint said. “Just because you get up a couple goals, you don’t coast. Championship teams, they play hard all the time. They play at the same level, whether they’re up 10 or down 10. And I thought we got a great effort out of them today.”

The Huskies scored three of their 12 goals on the power play, and successfully killed one Crusader power play each period. Northeastern holds the nation’s longest unbeaten streak at 13 games, hasn’t allowed a goal in 380 minutes, and has scored 40 unanswered goals.

Frankel now has five straight shutouts and seven on the season. She added to her personal record of 320 straight scoreless minutes. Her 25th career shutout surpassed the previous Hockey East record of 24, set by Katie Burt of Boston College.

“I actually had no idea,” she said when asked if she’d thought about it. “Someone told me a few days ago before the first game. When I had the record for shutouts at Northeastern, I also didn’t know about that. So that was a pretty cool moment for me. But finding out about this one’s obviously an honor as well. There’s been a whole slew of amazing goaltenders that have come through Hockey East and it’s really awesome to have my name up there as well.”

Huskies Fry Friars by Four

Story by Sarah Olender

Photos by Jordan Baron

BOSTON — Coming off a disappointing overtime shootout loss to New Hampshire, the #4 Northeastern women’s hockey team was looking for a rebound win against #7 Providence. 

The first period bored anyone who watched it. Northeastern botched two power-play chances, looked slow, and missed their passes, but both teams played a mediocre 20 minutes and spent time in both zones.

The second period started off at the same pace. Providence fended off Northeastern pretty well considering they were playing only 10 forwards and six defenders. But their skaters started getting noticeably tired, and if there’s one thing an opponent can’t do against Huskies, it’s show any sign of weakness. One drop of blood in the water and Northeastern will sense it and attack.

The Huskies first smelled out the weakness about 16 minutes into the second period when Providence’s Isabelle Hardy was whistled for interference. This power play was the final push the Huskies needed. Six seconds in, the Husky forwards tied up the Friar defense, giving Skylar Fontaine the time and space to find a gap in goalie Sandra Abstreiter’s guard and send a shot screaming into the back of the net. 

“I noticed that I had a ton of room to walk into the zone,” Fontaine explained. “So I looked up to notice there was a lot of traffic and . . . I saw there was like a little hole there.”

Twenty-five seconds later, the Huskies used the momentum Fontaine had given them to capitalize again. Peyton Anderson took a shot that Abstreiter saved, but the puck slipped free in front of her. Brooke Becker tried to clear the rebound, but Anderson got there first and doubled the lead.

With seven seconds left in the period, Chloé Aurard got a penalty for high sticking, putting the Huskies at a disadvantage going into the third. But as Providence went on the man advantage, it became evident that the whole team was losing steam. As the Friars got tired, they got sloppy, knocking Northeastern into the boards and tripping them. They couldn’t keep up with the Huskies’ passes and their defenders often failed to get back in time.

Northeastern associate head coach Nick Carpenito said that he wanted to use a cycle-heavy game to make the Friars chase them, a strategy that proved extremely effective.

“I think we did a really good job with that and a byproduct of that is when they chase us, they’re gonna get tired,” said Carpenito. “Towards the end of the game, it was pretty clear that we started to wear them down a little bit.”

Ten minutes into the third, Andrea Renner became the first Husky to take advantage of the Friars’ tired legs. Renner bulleted into the offensive zone on a breakaway, Abstreiter aggressively came out in front of the crease to meet her, and Renner darted to Abstreiter’s right for a clear backhanded shot.

Six minutes later Aurard did the same thing, zipping by Providence’s defense on a breakaway and slotting the puck under Abstreiter’s right leg to bring the score to 4–0. 

Not only did Northeastern silence the best power-play unit in the country, they even effortlessly killed off a three-on-five in the game’s closing minutes after Tessa Ward was called for high sticking and Hobson was whistled for roughing. The Huskies played quick shifts, constantly cycling on new legs to keep their play competitive and energized. 

The game could easily have been closer if Aerin Frankel hadn’t halted all 32 of the shots that came her way. Frankel held down the fort by blocking multiple rebounds, angling herself correctly for shots, and seeing through the many bodies that Providence put in front of her. 

The win moved Northeastern (5–1–1) into third place in Hockey East with three games in hand over the teams ahead of them. Northeastern also further proved their adaptability, maintaining a constant attitude amid a schedule riddled with last-minute game cancellations and substitutions.

“We need to take every opportunity we have and give it our all,” Fontaine said. “Good things happen when we work hard.”

Northeastern Women’s Hockey Bests BC to Kick Off Season

By Mike Puzzanghera

CHESTNUT HILL, MA — It took Northeastern about a period and a half to shake off the rust, but the Huskies are back and rolling as they scored three times in the third period to beat Boston College, 4–1.

Northeastern (1–0) faced the tough task of opening their season on the road against the ninth-ranked team in the country, the BC Eagles (4–3). With BC coming off a weekend sweep of UConn and playing some good hockey, Northeastern was thrown into the deep end in game one.

Things didn’t start well for the Huskies — they made some sloppy passes in the opening frame and gifted BC some chances, which they eventually took advantage of. BC’s Jillian Fey scored her third goal of the season 18 minutes in with a shot from the point. Off the replay, it looked like the shot deflected off NU captain Brooke Hobson in front of the net to beat Aerin Frankel in goal.

The Huskies got their goal in the second, though. After absorbing BC pressure in their own zone for almost five minutes, Northeastern hit back on the rush. Megan Carter grabbed a loose puck and fired a rocket of a pass to Katy Knoll to release the break. Knoll went forward down the left and played a pass across to Andrea Renner in between the circles. Renner, after missing a few chances early, didn’t miss again, and went five-hole on BC goalie Maddy McArthur for her first goal in over a year.

Renner missed all of last season with an injury, and her goal highlighted a great all-around game in her return. It was her first goal since the Hockey East championship game in 2019, also against BC.

Northeastern started the third period on the kill, but maintained offensive pressure throughout BC’s power play and added momentum through the period. They finally took their first lead of the season six minutes in, as Knoll scored a miraculous backhanded goal off a great feed from freshman Lily Yovetich. Yovetich found Knoll cutting in between the circles and the sophomore grabbed the puck and flicked it past McArthur for her second point of the game.

The fourth line added the Huskies’ third goal, as they capped a great game as a unit with a goal from Kate Holmes. Micaela Sindoris and Katie Cipra won the puck behind McArthur’s net, and Cipra managed to slide the puck out to Holmes, who was parked in front of the net. Holmes generated an insane amount of power from only a few feet out, leaving McArthur with no chance at a save and putting NU up 3–1.

A minute and a half later, the reigning Hockey East Player of the Year made her presence felt. Alina Mueller took a pass, beat two defenders, and sniped the bottom right corner of the net, beating McArthur glove-side (where she had made plenty of big saves all game) and capping the scoring for Northeastern.

“It feels great that we got on the ice and the girls got to play a game,” Northeastern Head Coach Dave Flint said. “The victory was just the icing on the cake.”

It was a strong all-around performance. Renner was incredible on offense, creating multiple chances with powerful shots to test McArthur and logging a goal to go cap it off (though she’ll probably want a scuffed shot on a first-period power play back). Frankel made 25 saves in net, including some tough ones against reigning National Rookie of the Year Hannah Bilka. And Hobson was as sure-handed as ever captaining the side and leading the defensive unit. But Flint was quick to point out some errors the team made, particularly early on.

“There were too many turnovers, we weren’t moving the puck quick enough,” Flint said. “When you haven’t played a game in that long, it’s different than practice.”

The Huskies will be at home next time out against the same BC unit, facing off at Matthews Arena on Sunday. Milton Posner and Catherine Morrison will broadcast that game, with coverage beginning at 4:45 PM Eastern.