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.

No. 1 Huskies to Open NCAA Tournament vs. No. 8 Robert Morris

Story by Mike Puzzanghera

Photos by Jordan Baron and Sarah Olender

The stage is set in Erie, PA, and even with their opening-round NCAA Tournament game on a Monday afternoon, the Northeastern women’s hockey team is ready and raring to go. The top seed in the country breezed through Hockey East this season, and they enter the tournament on a 20-game unbeaten run. 

Their opponent? Upstart College Hockey America (CHA) champs Robert Morris, who won their conference tournament as the #3 seed and scooped up the NCAA’s eighth-seed with the automatic bid.

These teams haven’t faced off since October 2014, making Kendall Coyne the last Northeastern player to score against the Colonials. That’s how long it’s been. Because of that, Northeastern head coach Dave Flint said the prep is just a bit more difficult this time around.

“We’ve got one video of them, and it was of their last game, and I think they had like 30 seconds of a power play,” Flint said.

So what can Northeastern fans expect from Robert Morris? Well, they aren’t going to run and gun as the Huskies love to do. They’re a slower, bigger, more physical team than most of the opponents Northeastern has battled all year.

“If we slow down and play at their pace, then that’s what they want, they’re going to have a good chance,” Flint said. “If we play with our speed, and have all four lines going, I think we’re going to be in pretty good shape.”

Let’s take a deep dive into both teams ahead of their first-round meeting on Monday.

How they got here

Northeastern: We know this story already, but if you don’t: The Huskies, the number one team in the country, haven’t lost since December 13 against Boston College (the sixth seed in this tournament). Since then, the only games that weren’t resounding, dominant wins were a 2–2 tie (and shootout loss) at New Hampshire when a fortuitous bounce beat Aerin Frankel late in the third to send it to OT, a 3–2 OT win against road warriors Maine, and a 2–1 win over UConn (who handed it to BC 5–1 on the road just days before) in the Hockey East semis.

Most recently, they beat Providence (the seventh seed in this tournament) 6–2 to capture their fourth straight conference title. They won this game with zero points combined from Alina Mueller, Chloe Aurard, and Katy Knoll — three of their top four scorers.

That’s right. They didn’t even need those stars to produce to take the win. It’s a level of depth that Flint takes tremendous pride in.

Also of note, they’ve played Providence four times this year. Take a guess at the aggregate score of all those games, just for fun.

Was that guess 19–3? If so, congrats! If not, that’s okay, you can’t be blamed for not anticipating that level of dominance over a fellow top-ten team. That’s just where the Huskies are right now.

They enter this tournament as the hottest team in the country and the number one team in the country. It’s a lethal combination.

Robert Morris: The Colonials are the surprise team in this tournament. They ran through the CHA Tournament, beating RIT, Mercyhurst (in OT), and fellow tourney Cinderella Syracuse, days removed from knocking off top seed and eventual NCAA Tournament snub Penn State. They did so off the back of a goaltending timeshare that got hot at the right time — Molly Singewald, Arielle Desmet, and Raygan Kirk each started a tournament game, with Singewald and Kirk recording shutouts.

Though the CHA has just one representative in this year’s tournament, there are some good teams across the conference. The Colonials paled in comparison to them, going 0–4 against Penn State, 3–2 against Syracuse, and 3–1–1 against Mercyhurst. It’s that Penn State record that’s really eye-popping here, as the Nittany Lions looked poised to make the NCAA Tournament this season and were easily the best regular-season CHA team.

The gap between the top teams and bottom in the CHA is huge. RIT and Lindenwood sat at the bottom of the conference this year, combining for a 3–29–1 record. Eight of RMU’s 16 wins came against those two teams. 

Make no mistake — Northeastern has wins against teams like these in Hockey East, with four straight wins over Merrimack and Holy Cross in January and February. But Northeastern’s record against top teams puts them more than a cut above RMU.

Players of note

Northeastern: The Fearsome Five of Alina Mueller, Chloé Aurard, Maureen Murphy, Skylar Fontaine, and Brooke Hobson is the best unit of skaters in the country, plain and simple. All five were Hockey East All-Stars this year, including Murphy, who amassed 14 points in just 10 regular-season games. They possess speed, skill, and that mysterious clutch gene that gets talked about but never defined. Whatever it is, they have it (especially Aurard).

They also have the best goaltender in the country. Aerin Frankel has shattered Northeastern program records almost every time she has taken the ice this year, and her overall stats are straight out of a video game. An 18–1–1 record, a 0.698 GAA, a .969 save percentage, and NINE shutouts all lead the country. 

In every press conference, she receives what we here at WRBB have dubbed “the question”: something like, “Aerin, how do you stay ready to make important saves when the puck is down on the other end of the ice all the time?” Frankel will always sit back and answer that she’ll communicate with her D corps and stay on her toes or, as she did after the 12–0 win over Holy Cross, Frankel will have some fun with it and say that she “can’t be sleeping out there.”

But it’s not just that starting group that is of note for this Northeastern team. A special highlight and shoutout to NU’s fourth line, who have grinded all year and, especially in the playoffs, provided clutch scoring. Peyton Anderson, Kate Holmes, and Katie Cipra use their elite speed to forecheck well and win the puck down low. Cipra scores maybe the nicest goals in all of college hockey (both men’s and women’s), and is no stranger to SportsCenter. 

Add to that group extra skater Molly Griffin, who doubled her season point total in the three playoff games, and you have a threatening, speedy fourth line — quite possibly the best in the NCAA — that not only gives the top groups some rest, but scores some key goals.

“It’s a huge luxury to have,” Flint said. “And it only makes your top kids fresher in the third period, especially if we do have to shorten it up for some reason. They’re going to be a lot fresher than the other teams’ top units.”

Robert Morris: The Colonials are led by senior Lexi Templeman (seven goals and 22 assists in 24 games), who is averaging nearly a point per game across 129 career games. Templeman was the only Colonial named to a CHA All-Star team, earning her place on the first team alongside multiple Penn State honorees. It’s Templeman who makes the offense click: the captain’s +16 rating leads RMU.

Junior Michaela Boyle is another key forward and RMU’s leading goalscorer with 10 after amassing 22 as a sophomore. The two of them are joined on RMU’s top power-play unit by Maggie Burbidge and defensemen Emelie Harley and Emily Curlett.

“One of their lines kind of really makes them go, but the other ones really work hard and they generate a lot of shots,” Flint said of the Colonials.

Curlett is one of the most prolific defensemen in the country. She has amassed 90 points in her career, and finished 2019–20 tied for first nationally with 13 power-play goals. Harley stands at an intimidating six feet and, despite that size implying physical play, she limits her penalties — only three all year.

RMU has used a timeshare in goal all year, but expect sophomore Raygan Kirk to start Monday afternoon. She got the start in the CHA title game against Syracuse and is the Colonials’ go-to netminder. Across 14 appearances, Kirk is 8–4–1 with a 1.68 GAA and .945 save percentage. 

Special Teams

Northeastern: A power play that’s scoring at a 22 percent clip. A kill unit with more shorthanded goals for than power-play goals against. There’s only so much that can be said about how they operate. The power play moves the puck around quickly, and both units can score almost at will. The penalty kill is tops in the country with a 97 percent success rate.


First power play: Mueller, Aurard, Murphy, Fontaine, Hobson

Second power play: Knoll, Renner, Ward, Anderson, Carter

First PK: Mueller, Aurard, Fontaine, Hobson

Second PK: Knoll, Murphy, Carter, Abbey Marohn

Third PK: Ward, Brown, MacInnis, Yovetich

Robert Morris: RMU’s power play is also quite good — with a conversion rate of 18 percent — which goes without saying with a player like Templeman leading the top unit. The kill is successful on 88 percent of their attempts. Again, another good rate, but they’ll have to kick it up to another level to deny NU’s man advantage.

Of note: As Flint said, the team only has 30 seconds of film on the RMU power play. Expect this to be a key factor. It’s no secret that the Huskies have an elite penalty kill, but the lack of footage at their disposal might cause some problems early, particularly against the top group.

First power play: Templeman, Boyle, Burbidge, Harley, Curlett

Second power play: Diffendal*, Fiala, Marcovsky, Rice, Thompson

*Diffendal, Marino, and Wagner have all seen time on the power play this year, but expect Diffendal to take that spot first Monday.

First PK: Templeman, Boyle, Curlett, Harley

Second PK: Fiala, Burbidge, Rice, Thompson

Recent tournament history

Northeastern: The Huskies have never advanced to the Frozen Four. The closest they came was a heartbreaking 3–2 OT loss in 2019 to Cornell at Matthews Arena in a year where Northeastern earned the third seed in the tourney. That felt like their shot. Last year they picked up the third seed and had a lot more confidence coming in, but COVID-19 halted the whole tournament.

“It’s in the minds of all our returners and there’s obviously something to prove,” Flint said. “They felt like a really good opportunity was taken away from them last year, so they want to make good on it this year.”

One huge thing that held them back in 2019 was not having Mueller. The Swiss star, just a freshman that year, suffered a broken hand in the conference tournament and did not play against Cornell. It was a game the Huskies started slowly in but, as they did all of 2018–19, they battled back to tie it in the third.

“I think part of the slow start was definitely some nerves,” Flint said. “I think also the team was unsure without their best player, with Alina, there might have been some doubts . . . The team was resilient in the fact that they didn’t pack it in after a 2–0 deficit and they battled back. They just ended up coming up a little short.”

This time around, Mueller is on track to play. Flint has no doubt she’ll be on her game.

“Alina gets excited for scrimmages,” Flint said. “So for her, she’s just excited to play and obviously it’s a big game and she’s been on the big stage many times so she knows what it takes. She’s not going to be the least bit phased or rattled. I think her demeanor and her poise will rub off on some of the players that might be nervous.”

Robert Morris: This is only RMU’s second national tournament appearance. In their first go at it in 2017, they also picked up the eighth seed before running into the buzzsaw that was top-seeded Wisconsin. Led by Annie Pankowski, the Badgers rolled to a 7–0 win, and went on to finish as runners-up to Clarkson. Certainly, the Colonials will be hoping for a much better performance in Erie this year. Maybe they’ll pick up a little bit of a home-state advantage.

Puck drop is set for 2 PM between No. 1 Northeastern and No. 8 Robert Morris, the opening game of the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

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.

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.

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.”

Women’s Hockey Washes Away Warriors

By Sarah Olender and Mike Puzzanghera

NORTH ANDOVER, MA — On Friday night, Northeastern women’s hockey handled Merrimack easily, skating almost effortlessly to a 5–0 win backed by a Maureen Murphy hat trick. By all accounts, it was their most dominant game of the year.

Until today.

Backed by a three-point effort from Skylar Fontaine and a couple of firsts, the Huskies made quick work of the Merrimack Warriors in a 6–0 win at Lawler Rink.

“That was a full 60 minutes. We were working hard the whole time, we were possessing the puck very well,” Northeastern associate head coach Nick Carpenito said. “We did a great job keeping our heads and matching the intensity that Merrimack was bringing.”

Northeastern controlled from the start, even after Katy Knoll took a penalty four minutes in. In fact, that’s what gave them the lead. On the kill, Fontaine picked up a pass from Alina Mueller and found herself in acres of space. She ripped her shot by Merrimack goaltender Emma Gorski to give the Huskies a quick 1–0 lead. 

The Huskies were determined to widen their lead. Junior forward Emma Jurusik soon scored her first collegiate goal and first point. With a quick scrum in front of the net, Jurusik got her stick on the puck, took it back into open space, and fired a shot that the heavily screened Gorski stood no chance of saving.

Of the 11 goals Northeastern scored this weekend, this one sent the bench into the wildest frenzy.

“Jurusik is probably one of the best teammates that any of these players have ever had,” Carpenito said. “She’s always positive. She always works really hard. We always try to find an opportunity for her to play and the team loves her, the coaching staff loves her. When someone like her gets an opportunity to play and they’re rewarded for how they’re doing out there, it’s really special.”

All of this happened in the first eight minutes of the first period. Already, anyone watching knew this game was going to be eventful.

But things lulled down until the final minute of the first, when Mia Brown, coming off an injury that kept her out of the lineup for a few weeks, sniped the top corner from just above the right face-off dot, the area Carpenito referred to as “Mia’s office”.

After a couple of rough games, Northeastern’s power play is finally clicking, and they got another tally today. After an impressive play down low by Brown to win the puck, Mueller found Megan Carter between the circles. Carter, who normally isn’t that high up in the offensive zone, took her chance with glee, picking out the top corner with a bullet for her first tally of the year.

The third period started quietly. There were a few back-and-forth penalties, but nothing was brewing until Fontaine matched Northeastern’s goal total from yesterday by placing a rebound five-hole on Gorski during four-on-four play. Murphy picked up the primary helper on the goal, her fourth point of the weekend after Friday’s hat trick.

And then Husky Katie Cipra, who potted a beautiful NESN Top 10 goal earlier in the season, notched another picture-perfect snipe. She collected the puck near Northeastern netminder Gwyneth Philips, then wove up the ice, through Merrimack’s players, swooped around the goal, and fired from the left faceoff circle. She saw Merrimack’s positioning, chose to not take a wrap-around, backed into open space, took Gorski off her angle, and fired a more strategic shot. Cipra’s quick reaction helped the Huskies bring the score to 6–0. 

It seemed like Northeastern’s puzzle pieces were fitting together perfectly. New and old Huskies found the back of the net, passes connected, and nothing got past Philips.

“I thought we saw a quality Gwyneth Philips today,” Carpenito noted. “She was seeing the pucks really well, I thought she actually made a couple of big saves for us when Merrimack had a couple flurries on net. She’s an outstanding goaltender, very athletic, and we’re very fortunate to have her.”

If Merrimack had one saving grace, it was Gorski. She made many saves on rebounds, flinging herself from one post to the other. Other than that, the Huskies dominated the game and fought hard for the win.

The team’s next games will likely be announced in a few days. Check the “Schedule” tab on this website for updates on our coverage.

Dogs Over Cats

By Sarah Olender

BOSTON — Going into Friday night’s game, with New Hampshire stalling near the bottom of the Hockey East standings and Northeastern hovering in third, it was natural to expect a blowout. The reality was far closer.

“I thought at times out execution was good,” Northeastern Acting Head Coach Nick Carpenito said. “I thought at times our execution was not so good and I think that’s just going to come with playing more.”

By the end of the first period, the Wildcats were outshooting the Huskies 14–6, not what anyone expected from a conference cellar dweller playing against a strong Husky defense. But one of the six Husky shots was a gorgeous strike from Katie Cipra, who wove between the Wildcat defenders and effortlessly found the top right corner of the net for the Huskies first opening-period goal of the season.

“She’s got [some] of the best hands I’ve seen in a long time,” Carpenito said. “She makes it look effortless. If you give that kid a little bit of space, she’s going to make you pay. To have somebody with that talent on the fourth line, I think it speaks so much to our depth and why we’re so successful.”

Katy Knoll kept things rolling to start the second period, tipping a shot from defender Megan Carter past Wildcat goaltender Ava Boutilier. In an TV interview after the period ended, Knoll noted that she and Carter — who is her roommate — practiced this shot before the game. It was rewarding, she said, to see their practice pay off. 

However, the celebration was short lived. Brianna Brooks quickly answered, freezing Husky defender Lily Yovetich in a two-on-one and firing an unobstructed shot past goalie Aerin Frankel.

“It was definitely a little bit of an unfortunate bounce,” Frankel commented. “I think I made the stop and the puck actually bounced up and went behind me. I feel like there’s some tough bounces that we’re going to run into and it happens and that’s just hockey.”

The goal was the first Frankel allowed in nearly a month, as she recorded shutouts in the only two games Northeastern played during that span. Just four days after breaking the program’s career shutout record, Frankel nabbed another piece of Husky history.

In the third period, Northeastern’s Ani FitzGerald drew a five-minute major and game misconduct penalty from Nicole Kelly when the Wildcats’ star freshman forward contacted FitzGerald’s head. During this power play, the Huskies fought hard and spent an overwhelming amount of time in the offensive zone, yet could not find the back of the net. Within the first 13 minutes of the period, they had 19 shots on goal, as many as they’d had in the first two periods combined.

FitzGerald, shaken up from the hit, sat for a shift, with Knoll replacing her on the first line. When FitzGerald returned, she was tagged with her own penalty for goalie interference. With about 90 seconds to go, the Huskies had no choice but to bring out their lethal penalty kill lineup of Alina Mueller, Chloe Aurard, Brooke Hobson, and Skylar Fontaine. New Hampshire compounded the pressure by pulling Boutilier, leaving Northeastern to rebuff a four-on-six in their own defensive zone. 

“Whenever we’re protecting the lead, typically we got that lead because we were aggressive and we were taking away space and we were putting on pretty solid pressure,” Carpenito said. “So we didn’t really change up our penalty kill philosophy too much.”

Good call. With 30 seconds to play, Hobson fired the puck out of the zone. As it caromed off the pipe of New Hampshire’s goal, Tessa Ward got there first and slotted home an empty netter to yield the 3–1 final score.

The Huskies (4–1–0) will rematch the Wildcats (3–8–0) tomorrow in New Hampshire at 6 PM Eastern. Jack Sinclair and George Barker will call the game, with coverage beginning about 10 minutes before puck drop.

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.

IT’S A THREE-PEAT! Women’s Hockey Wins Hockey East Championship

By Christian Skroce

NORTH ANDOVER, MA — There was a theme for the 2020 Hockey East Championship, a theme the Northeastern Huskies hammered home forcefully and often: goals, goals, and more goals. That theme propelled the Northeastern Huskies to an unforgettable 9–1 victory over UConn and their third consecutive Hockey East Championship.

Northeastern began the day with 149 goals on the season, and they decided to add to that in a big way. The Northeastern Huskies played the Huskies of UConn, a team they had beaten three times during the regular season by a combined score of 10–2. By the time Sunday’s game wrapped up, Northeastern had doubled that margin.

Northeastern came out firing early and often, applying heavy pressure on the UConn defense and tallying several opportunities in the first five minutes. Junior defenseman Skylar Fontaine gave Northeastern its first goal of the day as she finished off a brilliant feed from forward Alina Mueller. Including the two quarterfinal games against Vermont, the semifinal against Maine, and her goal on Sunday, Fontaine had scored or assisted on the Huskies’ last eight goals.

Northeastern doubled its lead soon after, as Jess Schryver finished off an excellent pass from Chloé Aurard for a 2–0 lead. The goal was initially called back for interference, but replay confirmed the score.

UConn’s lone goal came just two minutes later, as an awkward bounce off the boards put goalie Aerin Frankel in a difficult position and allowed UConn forward Catherine Crawley to put the puck in the back of the net.

That’s when Northeastern really decided to take things seriously.

The Huskies stayed aggressive for the rest of the game, tallying minutes upon minutes of offensive zone time with exquisite puck movement that made it seem like they had eyes in the back of their heads. Mueller triggered the avalanche with a minute to play in the first period, fielding a pass in the high slot and firing an impeccably placed rocket into the bottom left corner.

The second period was easily the lowest-scoring, but its lone goal was easily the most impressive of the night. Just one minute in, Matti Hartman was skating away from the goal near the right dot when a quick pass flew behind her. Without looking at the goal, Hartman subtly flipped her stick behind her back and poked it through traffic for the Huskies’ fourth score. It’s difficult to tell from looking at her reaction whether or not she was trying to score, but the result was gorgeous either way.

Hartman’s fellow captains Capistran and Brooke Hobson logged assists on the play. After the game, Hartman remarked that three had been waiting for a such a goal for some time, and that they finally got their chance.

The third period was a nonstop Northeastern tidal wave, with goals from Chloé Aurard and Katie Cipra coming in the first 40 seconds.

By the end of the period Jess Schryver, Codie Cross, and Peyton Anderson had joined the party, yielding the 9–1 final score that set records for goals and scoring margin in a Hockey East Championship. Eight different Northeastern skaters punched home a goal, with Schryver the only double-dipper among them.

“I had confidence in the team, seeing how relaxed they were before the game,” coach Dave Flint said. “I felt good about them going out and taking care of business.”

Hartman spoke on the team’s recent results, noting “with the recent success, it’s important to remember where you came from. Freshman year was tough and so was sophomore year. We were about .500 that year, and we’ve tried to remember that struggle going into games like this.”

Mueller took home Tournament MVP for her efforts throughout the Hockey East Tournament, including a one-goal, three-assist performance in the championship. Mueller now has 66 points on the year as the leader one of the most formidable attacks in college hockey. Aurard matched Mueller’s performance with four points of her own in the championship game.

Head coach Dave Flint praised the entire first line, noting that they played like a “buzz saw” for the entirety of the contest. Flint also reflected on his time at Northeastern after the game, explaining that he has learned to focus on the players in the locker room rather just look ahead to victories and bring in recruits. Flint emphasized the impact former Husky Kendall Coyne had on the locker room during her junior year and says that competitive mindset has been maintained during the past several years.

Aerin Frankel took home goalie of the tournament, although she didn’t have much to do in this game. Northeastern’s defense stepped up on the biggest stage, forcing UConn into several turnovers throughout the game and preventing the bad Huskies from having significant offensive zone time.

Flint briefly discussed the future after the game, stating, “You can get up there and you can achieve excellence, but how are you gonna sustain it? That’s the challenge for us now looking ahead to the [NCAA] tournament.”

Northeastern will likely play Princeton in the first round of the NCAA Tournament next weekend, though specific details will be announced later. WRBB will have the call for that quarterfinal matchup.