Porter Protects, Murphy and Mueller Match, Aurard Overcomes

Story by Jack Sinclair

Photos by Sarah Olender

BOSTON — On one end a new face; on the other, a lot of empty seats.

On Sunday afternoon, the Northeastern and Maine women’s hockey teams faced off for the third time this month. Maine came to the arena with a severely shortened bench, including just five defensemen and nine forwards.

Northeastern (6–1–1) had five more skaters on their bench than Maine (4–5–0). Among them was Maureen Murphy, who transferred to Northeastern after two years at Providence. After some post-transfer eligibility issues prohibited her from playing, Murphy was finally unleashed on Sunday. She took over at right wing on the top line with Alina Mueller and Chloé Aurard.

“It was great,” Murphy said after the game, “I hadn’t played a game in a long time, and my teammates were also very supportive. They welcomed me in with open arms.”

All three would score a goal by the end of the day, and the line’s chemistry was obvious.

“Obviously, Alina and Chloe are great people and great players,” Murphy said. “We talked a lot before the game and between periods and last night, so a lot of communication.” 

In the past few games, it took 15 minutes for Northeastern to begin generating sustained offense. Tonight, they quickly established themselves in the offensive zone. It paid off, as two-and-a-half minutes after puck drop, Alina Mueller coolly netted her third goal of the season, assisted by Skylar Fontaine.

Maine goaltender Loryn Porter, coming off a two-week break from game action, had allowed a goal on the first shot she had faced. She was quick to remedy that, shutting out the Huskies for the rest of the period. Porter made some spectacular saves, including a dive across her crease to rob Murphy.

Maine, with their reduced bench, played conservatively. They allowed Northeastern to cycle the puck around the perimeter and simply parked the bus in front of Porter. Despite this, the Huskies created good looks at the net. Porter fought everything off, and her skaters blocked several shots as well.

“I’m going to have nightmares about Porter,” Northeastern associate head coach Nick Carpenito said.

Both teams returned to the ice for the second period with fresh legs. Maine tried to generate some offense, even forcing Husky netminder Gwyneth Phillips to make her first saves of the game early in the second. Northeastern didn’t take too kindly to that, and upped the tempo of the game.

The Black Bears devoured ice, taking lengthy shifts in their defensive zone for almost two minutes at a time. Northeastern continued to pound shots at Porter and any skater who dared step into a shooting lane. Porter, who had saved 24 consecutive shots after the initial cough-up, was finally beaten again after a quick scrum in front of her. It was Murphy who knocked the loose puck in for her first goal as a Husky.

“We had a lot of momentum and a lot of possession throughout the entire game,” Murphy noted. “Obviously, Maine’s goalie played great. I don’t know, I just ended up in front of the net. Even if I hadn’t put it in, I knew Chloé was there too.”

The Black Bears then went on the power play after Ani FitzGerald was called for tripping, but the Huskies’ lethal penalty kill unit silenced it with ease. The Huskies started pressuring the Black Bears again, but got caught in a change. Maine’s Ida Press recognized the error and quickly dished to Morgan Sadler on the wing. Sadler sniped the corner of the cage for Maine’s first goal in Matthews Arena this season. 

Maine continued their surge into the third period, forcing an offensive zone faceoff early. Ali Beltz won the puck back on the forecheck and fired a quick wraparound shot from the goal line. Phillips positioned her pad slightly above the ice, and the puck slid through the opening and into the net. Maine, despite their shortened bench, had tied the game. 

Northeastern once again turned up the tempo and poured on the pressure. They smothered the Maine skaters, won every puck battle, and allowed Maine only the occasional look at Phillips’ net. Loryn Porter was unfazed by it all, stopping every shot that came her way. Northeastern played superbly, but Porter was playing 4D chess while the Huskies were playing checkers. 

End of regulation. Game tied 2–2.

The teams slowly felt each other out as the overtime began. Northeastern got the first few looks, but Porter was still too much to handle. However, Maine’s Ally Johnson was whistled for body checking on Murphy, giving Northeastern a power play; though the Huskies couldn’t capitalize, they firmly established themselves on Maine’s side of the ice. In the last minute of overtime, Chloé Aurard took the zone, skated into the slot, shook off a defender, and finally beat Porter with a blistering, game-winning wrister.

“I was on my offhand, and I know Chloé has a great shot,” Murphy explained. “I was yelling ‘Shoot, shoot, shoot,’ and she heard me, picked her spot, and scored it. It was a nice shot.”

“I thought we were really, really, good,” Carpenito said. “I thought we were executing well, I thought we had good presence up front. I thought defensively we were fantastic.”

The Huskies’ next scheduled game is Friday at 7 PM Eastern against #7 Providence, though this is subject to change given pandemic concerns. Check WRBB’s schedule page for coverage information.

Women’s Hockey Advances to Hockey East Final

By Jack Sinclair

Reminder: Northeastern will play Connecticut in the Hockey East Championship game Sunday at 2 PM. Christian Skroce and Dale Desantis will be on the call from Lawler Rink at Merrimack College, with coverage beginning at 1:45 PM EST.

Northeastern established themselves as the team to beat early in the season. They clinched the number one seed at the end of January and have lost just four games all season. The reward for their regular-season dominance was a first-round playoff series against the eighth-seeded Vermont Catamounts, who they swept back to Burlington last weekend.

As a result, they headed up to Lawler Rink in North Andover, MA, to play a neutral-ice semifinal matchup against the University of Maine Black Bears. Maine’s journey to the semifinal game was not as smooth as Northeastern’s, as they barely edged Vermont out for the seventh seed, but their sweep of BU in an away series was impressive. The Black Bears came to Lawler Rink riding the high of their sweep, and this revealed itself early in the game.

Maine burst out of the gates firing. They were flying up and down the rink, and drew an early penalty. Less than a minute into their man advantage, Maine’s Ida Press slipped the puck past Hockey East Goaltender of the Year Aerin Frankel.

The Black Bears didn’t stop there, staying one step ahead of the Huskies by establishing a strong 1–2–2 trap on defense. This slower pace cramped Northeastern’s usual high-octane play style, and if not for the efforts of Frankel the score could have easily gotten out of hand. Maine managed to draw another penalty towards the end of the period, but the strength of Northeastern’s penalty kill was on full display, as they held the puck in Maine’s end of the rink for the duration of the penalty. 

The second period started, and Northeastern’s goal was clear. Establish their brand of hockey and simply keep the puck away from the Black Bears. Maine was ready for this, and jammed their bodies into the neutral zone, making it impossible for the line of Alina Mueller, Chloe Aurard, and Jess Schryver to blitz their way into the attacking zone on transition.

This resulted in a hard-fought stalemate of a period, with both teams fighting along the boards for possession. Northeastern managed to get some glimpses at the Black Bears’ goal, with a few great chances coming for Mueller in particular. Maine goaltender Carly Jackson used every square inch of her leg pads to keep the puck out of the back of the net and made some incredible saves to preserve her team’s lead going into the third period.

Whatever coach Dave Flint told the Huskies during the second intermission worked. Just over a minute of a power play carried over from the second period was all it took for Skylar Fontaine to send a rocket from just in front of the blue line into the back of the net. 

This was the cue for the Huskies. They had exposed a weakness in Maine’s trap: they simply could not keep up with the Huskies. The Black Bears had spent a lot of the game holding onto the puck and working slowly from their end of the ice into the Huskies zone. This proved costly, as their fatigue was apparent early on in the third period.

It took only two minutes for the Huskies to pounce on the tiring Black Bears and go up 2–1. Swiss Sensation Alina Mueller found herself with miles of space in the slot off a lovely feed from Skylar Fontaine. Mueller wasted no time, taking only one touch of the puck before sliding it coolly into the bottom left corner of the goal. 

Maine, despite their early skid, managed to establish their brand of hockey once more, and began to work into the Huskies zone. The defense held fast, and the Huskies were more than happy to dump the puck back into the Maine zone, switch out for some fresh legs, allow Maine to work their way back to their end of the ice, rinse, and repeat. Maine got a few looks at the net, but Frankel was having a grand total of zero percent of the Black Bears’ nonsense, and coolly protected her net. 

In the closing minute of the game, the Black Bears pulled their goaltender in a last-ditch effort to even up the score. Unlike the Beanpot final, there was no last-gasp goal. Fontaine forced a turnover in the neutral zone and sniped the empty net to ice the game for the Huskies. Fontaine has either scored or assisted on the Huskies’ last seven goals going back to last week’s doubleheader against Vermont.

The Huskies sealed their fourth straight Hockey East Championship appearance and will fight Sunday afternoon for their third straight title.