Pain in Pennsylvania: Wisconsin Beats Northeastern in OT to Win National Title

Story by Mike Puzzanghera and Jack Sinclair

Photos by Sarah Olender

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.

No. 1 Northeastern and No. 2 Wisconsin Square Off for National Title

By Mike Puzzanghera and Jack Sinclair

WRBB is calling the NCAA Women’s Hockey National Championship Game tonight live from Erie, Pennsylvania. Jack Sinclair, George Barker, and Mike Puzzanghera will be on mic, with coverage beginning at 7:15 PM Eastern. CLICK HERE to listen.

ERIE, PA — A perennial national title contender vs. an 18-game winning streak. The two seed vs. the one seed. Anyone trying to draw up a national title game couldn’t have picked a better one than Wisconsin vs. Northeastern.

It’s Wisconsin’s ninth national championship appearance, and third in the last four tournaments. They are the reigning national champions, and flew to a 12–3–1 record in the toughest conference in the country, the Western College Hockey Association (WCHA). With two wins to snatch the conference title, and two more to get here, the Badgers are now 16–3–1. Two of those playoff wins came against No. 3 Ohio State, including a 4–2 win Thursday night. This is a scary, scary team.

“They’ve earned the right to be here,” Wisconsin head coach Mark Johnson said. “It’s been a challenging year for everybody in college sports, and to get to play in the national championship game this year is pretty special. Hopefully we can take advantage of it and look back on it with great memories.”

Speaking of scary, their opponent is Northeastern. The Huskies will play in their first national championship game Saturday after winning their first-ever Frozen Four game Thursday afternoon over Minnesota-Duluth, 3–2, in OT. They haven’t lost since December 13 and won their fourth-straight Hockey East title this year.

“I started at Northeastern in 2008, and this was one of my goals, to get the program back to national prominence and compete for a national championship,” head coach Dave Flint said. “A lot of hard work from our players, our staff, and our support staff got us to this point.”

This game features six All-Americans, five top-10 Patty Kaz finalists, two top-three Patty Kaz finalists, and the national goaltender of the year. With so many stars out on the ice, the Huskies are hoping that their depth, something they’ve relied on all year, will be a factor.

“If we can shut down their first line and a couple players here and there, I think that will lead to success offensively,” Northeastern senior Tessa Ward said. “If everybody’s going, then I think we’re going to do well.”

On the Wisconsin side, they’re hoping that their experience in tournament games will give them an extra boost and help them avoid any initial nerves.

“We have plenty of experience on our team with about half of our girls being in this game before,” senior defender Grace Bowlby said. “I think that that brings a calming presence towards the younger girls so it’s pretty valuable.”

Take a look at how each of these teams got here and what to expect from them.

Last two in Erie

Northeastern: The Huskies haven’t had to battle much this year. They stormed through Hockey East with ease and, in the first game of this tournament, fought off a physical Robert Morris team without too much trouble.

But Duluth tested them all Thursday afternoon. They peppered Aerin Frankel with shots in the first, swarmed her net to create problems in front all game, and took a 2–0 lead into the third period.

“It’s definitely different from what we see in Hockey East,” Ward said. “WCHA is a lot more physical, a lot faster every game than what we were initially expecting, but I think our team responded well to the physicality of the game, and we were able to keep our composure and make the plays that we needed to play to get things done.”

But Northeastern battled back. They got a Maureen Murphy power-play goal less than a minute into the third period and, a few minutes later, got the tying goal from Katy Knoll after relentless forechecking from Veronika Pettey.

“It was definitely good that [Duluth] were physical knowing that this next game is also going to be, but I think that just drives us to have more of a chip on our shoulder, making sure that we’re not taking any penalties or anything. It just allows us to kind of compete harder and win those battles,” Pettey said.

They bombarded the Duluth net with shots from the second period on, but goalie Emma Söderberg kept the Bulldogs in it. That didn’t last forever though, as Skylar Fontaine buried the winner in OT to send the Huskies to the final.

One of the biggest keys for Northeastern in that game was the defensive play from their forward group. That play from Pettey started with a poke check at Northeastern’s blue line, and ended with her chasing the puck down to win it off a Bulldog behind their net before feeding a pass to the slot.

“We always talk about our performance in the D zone as the most important throughout the game, so I think we’ve just been emphasizing it a lot and as a forward, it still makes a huge difference,” Pettey said. “We’ve been talking about blocking shots and sealing off players from coming to the net so I think that, for me, focusing a lot on the D zone is really important.”

Northeastern’s third line, in particular, created many opportunities with their defensive work. Miceala Sindoris got a good snap shot on Söderberg in the third period before turning to set up Ward on a rush later in the frame after good work in the neutral zone. 

“Defensively, I’ve come a long way in the past couple of years since I started here my freshman year, and it’s something that I really take pride in,” Ward said. “I think our line yesterday played really well defensively and that’s something that on the bench we’re always talking about. Offense starts in the D zone, and if we can get those pucks out and get those pucks deep that makes a huge difference in the momentum of the game.”

Wisconsin: The Badgers had a tougher conference path than the Huskies, but the result was the same, as they claimed their ninth WCHA title. They were matched up against a familiar foe to open the tournament in the Providence Friars.

Wisconsin made quick work of the Hockey East runner-up, cruising to a 3–0 win. They continued their hot streak in the semifinals, jumping on the Ohio State Buckeyes just over a minute into the first period. Wisconsin’s third line of forwards produced that first goal, and they would produce the next two as well. 

“They’ve shown improvement the last six or eight games, they’ve really stepped their game up,” Johnson said of his third line. “I was very happy for them in [the semifinal] because they got rewarded on what they’ve been able to do the last several weekends for us and so hopefully that confidence that they came away from [the semifinal] springboards them into tomorrow night’s game.”

It took only two minutes of the second period for Wisconsin to strike again. Six minutes later, they made it 3–0. 

The Buckeyes weren’t done though, as they grabbed a goal of their own with six minutes on the clock in the second.

Ohio hit the ice for the third reenergized, and they cornered Wisconsin in their own zone. Eight minutes into the third, the Buckeyes got one back. They continued to pound the Wisconsin net, but the stingy Badger defense, as well as some stellar goaltending by Kennedy Blair, kept the Buckeyes down by one. Ohio opted for the empty net in the dying moments of the game and a turnover in the final seconds of the game gave the NCAA’s leading goal scorer Daryl Watts a clear path to the empty net, icing the game at 4–2. 

The Badgers shuffled their lines before the WCHA tournament, shifting Watts to the second line to play with Lacey Eden and Delaney Drake and, while they’ve struggled a bit to get going in this tournament, it creates a ridiculously effective second unit. They also rock a top line with Sophie Shirley, Britta Curl, and Brette Pettet that has combined for 59 points in 20 games.

In the back, Bowlby is an All-American defender with elite playmaking ability, and leads the Badgers with 17 assists. Nicole LaMantia is an All-WCHA Second-Team performer who operates on their second pair to give them defensive depth. Natalie Buchbinder is another big performer who offers senior leadership on the third pair. She missed time at the beginning of the year, but is back on the ice and making her impact. From front to back, the team is about as good as it gets.

“We just emphasize that everyone has each other’s back,” Bowlby said. “Hockey’s a game of mistakes and mistakes are going to happen, it’s how you handle them and bounce back from them.”

What to expect

This game will be FAST. Both teams play with speed in all zones. Wisconsin fits the traditional western mold of a fast, physical team, while Northeastern has shredded the idea that eastern teams can’t play with pace. As Skylar Fontaine said on Thursday, she loves to play with speed, since she does have speed herself.

“There’s gonna be a lot of talented players out there and it’ll just be a fun, fun game to be a part of,” Bowlby said.

Expect goaltending to be a factor as it was for Northeastern Thursday afternoon. Wisconsin’s Kennedy Blair is a very good goalie. Is she at Aerin Frankel’s level? No, no one is. But her 1.51 GAA and .933 save percentage while playing against WCHA opposition is impressive nonetheless.

More than anything else, expect a fantastic hockey game.

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.

Huskies Face Minnesota-Duluth in First-Ever Frozen Four Appearance

By Mike Puzzanghera

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.

Approach

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.

X Factors

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.

Frozen Four Fantasies Fulfilled: Top-Seeded Huskies Outrun RMU, 5–1

Story by Mike Puzzanghera and Jack Sinclair

Photos by Sarah Olender

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 Clinches Fourth Straight Hockey East Championship

Story by Rae Deer

Photos by Sarah Olender

BOSTON — Coming off of one of their best seasons — if not their best season — to date, Northeastern women’s hockey had set the stage for a historic achievement.

On Saturday night at Matthews Arena, they reached new heights after defeating Providence 6–2 to win their fourth straight Bertagna Trophy and cement themselves as the best team in the country.

Going into the championship game, Northeastern (20–1–1) knew they had to give it their all. They dominated from the drop of the puck, holding possession for long stretches in the first period. Providence (12–7–1) attempted to keep up by applying immense pressure, playing close man-to-man, and trying to deny Northeastern scoring chances. However, it was hard to stop the Huskies from making Providence goaltender Sandra Abstreiter work extra hard in her zone.

“I told them pregame ‘Let’s try to pop one in, first five minutes,’” Hockey East Coach of the Year Dave Flint said.

And just like that, Northeastern did. Katie Cipra skated a beautiful stretch from the blue line and backhanded the puck nicely over Abstreiter to open the scoring.

That seemed to flip a switch for the Friars, who upped the pressure for the second half of the period. Despite giving Northeastern a tougher time in the offensive zone, they still couldn’t establish a rhythm of their own.

Going into the second, both teams had dominating shifts, but a mistake by Abstreiter gave the Huskies their next goal. She allowed a Tessa Ward missile from the blue line to clang off the post, then found herself tangled up as the puck caromed off her and across the line. 

A goal like that can be hard on a team — especially in a game this important — so the Friars needed something quickly. They seemed to figure it out when first-line forward Caroline Peterson got them on the board midway through the period.

However, the Huskies answered with some sweet revenge. Providence had reportedly made things unnecessarily difficult when Maureen Murphy was transferring to Northeastern, and Murphy’s absence from the teams’ regular season tilts was suspect. Now, in her first game against her old squad, Murphy scored the third goal for Northeastern on the power play, prompting an eruption from her linemates and the bench. 

“She’s been one of my best friends all throughout high school and it was so exciting for me to hear that she made the decision to come to Northeastern.” tournament MVP Aerin Frankel said. “It’s amazing that we can have her, she’s just a huge piece to the puzzle . . . Just seeing her get that rewarding goal, especially against a team that she just came from and has played on before, just speaks measures to her and her work ethic, and she left it all out there.” 

The Huskies’ domination only amplified in the final period. Molly Griffin and Miceala Sindoris each notched a goal, bringing the game to 5–1 six minutes into the third. 

At this point the Friars were trapped. They managed to score once more, with senior Giana Savastano getting her first collegiate goal. 

“She’s been tremendous.” Providence coach Matt Kelly said. “She’s been a D up until a week ago, then she went up to forward. She’s a kid that just has a motor.”

But then Northeastern shut the door. In a last-ditch attempt to narrow the score, Providence pulled Abstreiter with about three minutes left. But all that did was give the Huskies another scoring chance, as two-time Hockey East Best Defenseman Skylar Fontaine showed off her stellar pokecheck, accelerated down the ice to beat Friar Ariane Julien, and hooked the puck into the empty net while sliding down the ice. 

That was all she wrote. Northeastern had their fourth straight championship. For the senior Huskies, this was an honorable moment. 

“Some people go through their whole career and never win one championship, so winning a championship is pretty remarkable, but to win four in a row is usually unheard of,” Flint noted. “For them to never have lost a Hockey East playoff game is a credit to them.”

Now all that’s left for the Huskies is the ultimate goal: a national championship. After being unable to take their talents all the way last season due to the pandemic, they’ll finally get their shot on the biggest stage.

“We’re all super motivated and fueled having that opportunity taken away from us,” Frankel said of the team’s cancelled NCAA Tournament game last season. “It’s something that a lot of teams had to go through, so I think everyone has that competitive edge on their shoulder this year.”

WRBB will cover those games when they’re announced. Stay tuned on our social media for updates.

No. 1 Huskies Stamp Ticket to Fourth Straight Conference Championship

Story by Catherine Morrison

Photos by Mike Puzzanghera

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.

Huskies Chase Wildcats Out of the Doghouse

Story by Rae Deer and Milton Posner

Photos by Jordan Baron

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.

The Dominance of Northeastern Women’s Hockey, by the Numbers

Story by Khalin Kapoor and Milton Posner

File photos by Sarah Olender and Jordan Baron

To watch this year’s Northeastern team was to watch hockey’s version of a freight train.

They were dependable. They were powerful. And they were liable to barrel through anything and anyone who stood in their way.

The result is a regular season statistical footprint that looks like someone turned down the difficulty sliders. As the Huskies prepare for the Hockey East Tournament and a likely NCAA Tournament bid, let’s examine that footprint.

.921

This is the points percentage you get from a 17–1–1 record. Put another way, it’s what you get when you lose your second game to a No. 9 Boston College squad with six more games under their belt, tie New Hampshire, and win everything else in sight.

Only Penn State is in their neighborhood this season, boasting an .889 percentage with one fewer game played. Even if the Nittany Lions win their last two regular season games, they’ll still fall short of the Huskies.

When gauged by the two-points-for-a-win, one-for-a-tie system used in non-pandemic years, it emerges as the best pound-for-pound regular season in five years. The last team that fared better: the 2015–16 BC Eagles, who won 40 games in a row before losing the national championship to Minnesota. They’re in rarefied air here.

0.65 and .971

These are Aerin Frankel’s goals against average and save percentage stats, respectively. If they hold through the playoffs, they would best the NCAA single-season records of 0.71 and .963, set in 2016–17 by Wisconsin’s Ann-Renée Desbiens.

Frankel’s defenders deserve plenty of credit. Lauren MacInnis, Brooke Hobston, Lily Yovetich, Abbey Marohn, Skylar Fontaine, and Megan Carter have largely shielded her from the brunt of Hockey East’s best attackers. That’s why Frankel doesn’t have as many saves as some of her conference counterparts, and it’s why she won’t approach her own save total from last season or Desbiens’s from 2016–17.

But when she was challenged, she was without peer in Hockey East or anywhere else. A 366-minute shutout streak carried her to the Northeastern and Hockey East shutout records — plus the program goalie wins record — and she’s poised to build on those next season. Best of luck to the rest of the conference.

43

The team’s weeks-long clean sheet allowed the offense to score 43 unanswered goals.

No, you didn’t misread that. Your glasses aren’t smudged and neither is your screen. You haven’t stepped through any sort of wormhole. Sandwiched between a Claire Tyo goal on January 22 and a Chavonne Truter tally on February 13, the Northeastern women’s hockey team scored 43 unanswered goals. Seven of the other nine Hockey East teams didn’t match that total over the entire season.

It was keyed by a 20–0 combined score in two games against Holy Cross at the hands of 11 different scorers. In the second game, 12 Husky goals against 12 Frankel saves meant that the netminder probably could have watched Netflix in net the whole game without changing the outcome. And while Holy Cross and Merrimack are certainly not the best Hockey East had to offer this season, the Huskies also blanked then-No. 7 Providence during the streak to complete a three-game season sweep of the Friars with a combined 13–1 score.

13

The amount of goals Northeastern allowed in 19 games. This was easily the best mark in the nation; Minnesota-Duluth is the current runner-up with 17 goals allowed, but has the advantage of having played three fewer games than the Huskies. Minnesota-Duluth has two games left to play to make the Huskies’ number look even more peerless.

Northeastern countered those 13 with 80 goals of their own, a more than six-to-one advantage. They were dueling with a broadsword; everyone else had sporks.

Even when they challenged themselves by putting opponents on the power play, it was still too easy. In 54 penalty kills this year, Northeastern allowed only two goals and scored five. Think about that for a minute; even with one arm tied behind their back, Northeastern still handily outperformed their full-strength competition. Heck, five shorthanded goals is more than four Hockey East teams got on their power plays all season.

Northeastern head coach Dave Flint has mentioned that they sometimes get “too cute” in their offensive zone, that they spend too much time looking for the perfect shot. Northeastern totaled a Hockey-East-best 736 shots on goal this season, a whopping 140 shots more than runner-up UConn. Imagine what the number would be if they took Flint’s words to heart and shot more aggressively.

Collectively, these stats reflect the sort of wire-to-wire dominance that doesn’t come along every year. This is one of the best teams in recent memory, and they stand a legitimate chance of what that 15–16 BC team failed to do: become the first Hockey East team to win a national championship.

Huskies Best Catamounts in Regular Season Capper

By Khalin Kapoor

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.