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.

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.

Women’s Hockey Catapults Catamounts, 3–1

By Jack Sinclair

The No. 2 Northeastern Huskies traveled up to Burlington, Vermont on Friday for the first of two games against the Catamounts. The Huskies entered Gutterson Fieldhouse riding a 15-game unbeaten streak, while the Catamounts were fresh off a hard-fought series split against Boston University. 

It was a rather inauspicious first period for the Huskies. The sharp edge of their play was dulled by the physical play of the Catamounts. Passes missed tape, and the puck was constantly ceded in the neutral zone.

However, when the Huskies did break into the Catamount zone, they looked threatening. The top trio of Alina Mueller, Maureen Murphy, and Chloé Aurard dominated the puck, cycling it crisply around the ice. But they couldn’t find the back of the net.

The action bounced up and down, with neither team establishing themselves in either zone. Megan Carter was shaken up on an ugly collision with Vermont’s Theresa Schafzahl that gave the Huskies their first power play. They dominated the ice and managed to slip the puck in after a chaotic scrum in front of the net, but the effort was waived off. After a review, the call stood, and the score remained 0–0.

The action continued to go back and forth, with Vermont’s physical play causing Northeastern some difficulty.

“We were a bit too perimeter,” Northeastern head coach Dave Flint said. “We weren’t getting pucks in deep. We needed to get bodies in front of the net.” 

The period ended with the Huskies’ penalty kill on the ice after Skylar Fontaine was called for checking with 20 seconds left. The kill unit allowed Vermont a few chances, but Aerin Frankel made herself look twice as big as she moved across the crease. As soon as the penalty was killed off, the Huskies found themselves on an odd-man rush. A swiftly moving Molly Griffin took the puck deep into the zone before sliding it across to Tessa Ward, who slotted it home to give the Huskies a one-goal lead. 

The momentum swung the Huskies’ way, and their attacking zone presence instantly increased. The Catamounts struggled to get the puck past their blue line, as the Husky forecheck applied unrelenting pressure. 

After about 10 minutes of domination, the Catamounts finally put pressure on the net. Frankel was firing on all cylinders, darting back and forth across the crease as shots came flying in from all directions.

The Catamounts’ efforts did not bear fruit, and the Huskies marched back down the ice. A thundering slapshot off Carter’s stick was tipped by Veronika Pettey, giving the Huskies their second goal of the period and Pettey her second on the year.

Vermont hit the ice for the third period with a reignited fury. They pursued the puck faster than Northeastern was ready for, and the Huskies found themselves on the back foot early. Frankel continued to stand strong against the UVM attack. The action bounced back and forth, with neither team holding the puck for much longer than thirty seconds. Five minutes into the period, the Catamounts finally beat Frankel when a spinning Corinne McCool cut the deficit to one. 

Vermont continued to challenge, forcing Frankel to make a number of difficult saves. The Catamounts fought with desperation, and pulled their goalie with two minutes to go. After a scrum in the neutral zone, Megan Carter batted the puck out, caught a lucky bounce off the boards, and slid the puck into the gaping net.

“They play a lot like us,” Flint said. “If you’re standing around staring at the puck, you’re going to get in trouble, and I feel like we did that a couple times . . . It was one of the toughest games we’ve had in a while.

The Huskies’ 3–1 win boosted them to 16–1–1 and cemented their position atop the Hockey East standings. They will look to extend their unbeaten streak to 17 tomorrow against Vermont (6–3–0) in their final regular-season game.

Huskies Top UNH to Win Tenth Straight

By Jordan Baron and Jack Sinclair

DURHAM, NH — “It’s easy to get complacent when things are going well.”

Northeastern head coach Dave Flint was adamant about his women’s hockey team’s need to stay vigilant. On the tail of a six-game shutout streak, his Huskies were absolutely rolling. And they kept rolling when they trekked up to New Hampshire for the first game of a home-and-home against the Wildcats. The Huskies fell short of a win the last time they played the Cats, coming away with only a 2–2 tie — the last time they didn’t win.

Revenge was on the menu, and it was ordered before the appetizers. It took only two and a half minutes for the Huskies to open the scoring. A quick one-two play through the offensive zone from Maureen Murphy to Alina Mueller was all it took to create an excellent scoring chance, which Mueller seized for her eighth goal of the season. Mueller would add another assist during the contest, bringing her season point total to a team-high 28.

Northeastern’s appetite for destruction seemed insatiable, as they poured the pressure on the not-so-Wildcats. The puck rarely left New Hampshire’s side of the ice, as goaltender Ava Boutilier was the only thing preventing the Huskies from scoring again.

But it was impossible for her to repel the Huskies alone. Ten minutes after the first Husky goal, Chloé Aurard picked a corner of the net and sniped the puck home for a 2–0 lead. 

The Huskies kept the pressure on, but Boutilier stood on her head, keeping the Wildcats’ deficit at two as the period ended.

The teams switched sides, and New Hampshire hoped to tilt the ice in their favor. But Megan Carter, who netted two goals in the Huskies’ 12–0 domination of Holy Cross last weekend, scored a highlight goal after a coast-to-coast journey.

“She’s been great. She’s always had some offensive upside,” said Flint. “It’s started to click the last couple of games.”

The Huskies would hold their three-goal lead for the rest of the period, finishing another scoreless frame for senior goaltender Aerin Frankel. That all changed in the third period, as the resilient Wildcats attacked with multiple shots against Frankel’s pads, one of which rebounded to freshman forward Chavonne Truter’s stick. Truter took advantage and, with no Husky blockers home to assist Frankel, slotted the puck through an opening in Frankel’s seemingly impenetrable wall, lowering the deficit to two.

Frankel’s shutout streak was over at a preposterous 366 minutes. The Huskies unanswered goal streak was also snapped . . . at 43.

“We came out flat in the third period, and they were coming at us hard,” Flint said. “They didn’t think the game was over and I think we kind of thought it was. So they outworked us, they popped one in, and then all of a sudden we realized, ‘Oh wait, we’ve got a game here.’ We ramped it back up and did what we needed to do, but we can’t do that. Especially down the stretch when playing against good teams.”

After a timeout to discuss, the Huskies took the ice and didn’t look back, dominating the Wildcat D-zone. A penalty-filled game — 11 penalties and seven power plays in all — came to a fitting climax in the final minutes, as Mueller and Wildcat skater Nicole Kelly got into a bit of a scuffle; both were thrown into the sin bin for roughing.

With Mueller and Kelly on timeout, the Huskies prepared for four-on-four hockey, but the Wildcats had other plans. As the clock ran under the three-minute mark, the Wildcats removed Boutilier from the goal, hoping to gain an advantage by forcing the Huskies onto the shorthand. Unfortunately for them, Katy Knoll pounced on an errant pass near the blue line and earned herself the easiest goal in the history of college hockey.

“I was actually surprised,” Flint said. “I didn’t know they had pulled the goalie. I think they were just looking like, ‘Hey, we got nothing to lose here so let’s try to get the goalie out and see if we can pop a quick one in.’”

Just 40 seconds later, the Wildcats tried the strategy again, and again they were punished, as Carter picked off the puck near the Husky blue line, skated into the neutral zone, and rocketed a perfect 80-footer for her second goal of the afternoon. 

The Huskies were not done yet, as Aurard received a pass from Lauren MacInnis and drove it home for her second goal of the afternoon and her 11th of the season, pushing the score to 6–1. The remaining minute and a half passed in no time at all, as the Huskies took the win in dominant fashion.

Boutilier, despite allowing four goals, made 35 saves against Frankel’s 23, as the Huskies outshot the Wildcats 41–24. Still, even with all this positivity, Flint knows there are things to work on. 

“I think we were looking for the perfect play and the tap-in goal instead of simplifying a little bit, getting pucks to the net, outnumbering them down low, and banging in rebounds,” he said. “That’s what most of your power-play goals are going to come from, and I think we need to simplify that a little bit. We’re trying to get a little too cute on the power play.”

The Huskies will have a chance to improve on those power plays tomorrow, as the Wildcats will make the trip down I-95 to face Northeastern in Matthews Arena. George Barker, Jack Sinclair, and Jordan Baron will have the call when the puck drops at 5 PM Eastern.

“They’re going to come at us hard like they did today,” Flint said. “They battle, they’re aggressive, they hunt down pucks, and we need to be ready to play with the intensity that they do.”

Huskies Knock Out Crusaders with Series of Unholy Crosses

Story by Milton Posner

Photos by Jordan Baron

WORCESTER, MA — There’s plenty to be said for competitive sporting events, games where the outcome remains in doubt until the very end as the suspense ratchets ever higher. The moments forged in that pressure are the defining ones that teams and fan bases hold aloft in recalling the narrative arc of the season. They’re the ones that get remembered.

But unmitigated bludgeonings have their place too. These are the games that are decided before they begin, the ones that replace dramatic endings with a runaway train of dominance and give us a chance to see just how talented one side is.

Friday night’s game between the Northeastern and Holy Cross women’s hockey teams had the potential to be such a rout. The Huskies won all three of last season’s contests by a combined score of 24–0. The most lopsided showing, an 11–0 demolition on November 29, featured two five-point individual efforts and was the largest shutout margin the team had posted in the 21st century. And entering Friday, the Huskies had won more Hockey East games this season than Holy Cross had won in their two-and-a-half years in the conference.

But you know what? That doesn’t guarantee anything. These are two different teams. Holy Cross has some new freshmen. They’re on their home ice. And for all we know . . . 

Never mind. It took only 43 seconds for Chloé Aurard to slot home Northeastern’s first goal of the game. (The goal was awarded to Skylar Fontaine before scorers ascertained that Aurard had tipped the puck in.)

Holy Cross was overmatched from the start. Northeastern’s speed, quickness, strength, and skill advantages were obvious, and the Huskies leveraged them to control the pace and tenor of the action.

Nowhere was this more evident than in the performance of their vaunted all-conference top line of Aurard, Alina Mueller, and Maureen Murphy. Not only are they easily the best line in the conference, you arguably couldn’t construct a better one even if you raided the other nine Hockey East teams for parts. Before the first period ended, Murphy and Aurard had cashed in again.

“My philosophy has always been that if you can load up one line and make a really dangerous line, I like to do that,” Northeastern head coach Dave Flint, who returned to the bench after a month away due to personal reasons, said. “Every time they step on the ice, they make teams sweat. They work hard, they’re starting to get some chemistry now, Maureen’s getting more games with them, and they’re starting to click. It’s really nice to see.”

And Aurard wasn’t even done. When a Northeastern power-play rush sent Holy Cross netminder Jada Brenon sprawling on her back into the net, Aurard tossed one into the unobstructed top shelf to complete her hat trick halfway through the game. It was her first hatty of the season, second against Holy Cross, and third in a Husky uniform.

“I always harp on her to shoot the puck more, and she shot it tonight,” Flint said bluntly. “It’s a miracle; it’s weird how the puck goes in when you shoot. She did a great job tonight, she was opportunistic, and she’s got two pretty good linemates helping her out there.”

Tonight, more than ever, Flint was right. Though reigning Hockey East Player of the Year Alina Mueller tried just three shots all game, she notched four assists to lead the team, three of which came on her linemates’ goals. She played a fluid, controlled, precise brand of hockey, and even sent an overeager Lilly Feeney into a different area code with the slickest move of the night.

The Crusaders hung with the Huskies in stretches during the second period, even putting them on their heels a few times with a newfound forecheck aggression. But the Huskies weathered the storm each time, and consistently extended possessions by outhustling the Crusaders to loose pucks and errant passes.

“I liked how fast we were playing,” Flint observed. “We were quick in transition, quick moving the puck. They play a 1-2-2 and try to force you to dump the puck. So we were just looking to get pucks behind their D and establish the forecheck.”

Holy Cross could only evade fate for so long, and in the last few minutes of the period, Skylar Fontaine and Katy Knoll rang the bell to put the game far out of reach.

Fontaine’s goal was Northeastern’s third power-play tally on their fifth try, something Flint cited after the game as an example of an early-season deficiency his team had greatly improved upon. And if that wasn’t enough, the Huskies outscored the Crusaders on the Crusaders’ power plays.

Oh and sure, let’s throw in a Peyton Anderson capper for good measure.

The 8–0 final score represented the Huskies’ largest goal tally and margin since a 9–1 evisceration of Connecticut in last year’s Hockey East Championship. In one game, they raised Jada Brenon’s goals against average by four tenths — in February.

“They gave the full effort, which I’m proud of,” Flint said. “Some of the games this year, we get up a couple of goals, put it in cruise control, and coast to the finish line. Tonight we didn’t.”

And of course we’d be remiss to omit Aerin Frankel, the Northeastern goaltender whose play seems like that of someone who can read the minds of her opponents. Though Northeastern’s overwhelming forecheck meant that the puck spent relatively little time in Frankel’s neighborhood, she still had to ensure 17 shots — including some tricky ones — didn’t find their way into the back of the net.

“She had a couple of nice saves on our penalty kill,” Flint notes. “That’s why we’re successful. The team plays loose because they have confidence in their goaltending. They can play a little bit more wide open, take some chances . . . We had a couple breakdowns and Aerin was there to pick up the pieces.”

In doing so, she built on a number of season statistics that look as though they were conjured on a video game with the difficulty sliders dropped to the floor. She has a remarkable seven shutouts, a ridiculous .974 save percentage, and a preposterous 0.58 goals against average, all of which lead the nation. Her 24th career Hockey East shutout — which ties Katie Burt’s record — pushed her shutout streak to 260 minutes, one game shy of her 315-minute stretch from last season.

The team’s statistics are similarly cartoonish. In 320 consecutive minutes of shutout hockey, they’ve rattled off 28 unanswered goals. They’ve won their last eight and are unbeaten in their last 12, the latter being the nation’s current best. They are 12–1–1, the new standings overlords in Hockey East, and a profoundly, strikingly dangerous opponent. And they’ve reminded us of the joys of sports turning into a runaway train.

Holy Cross will step into the lion’s jaws again tomorrow. George Barker, Mike Puzzanghera, and Jordan Baron will have what promises to be an immensely entertaining call from Matthews Arena, with coverage commencing at 3:20 PM Eastern.

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.

Murphy Tips Her Hat in Win Over Merrimack

Story by Catherine Morrison

Photos by Mike Puzzanghera

BOSTON — Northeastern women’s hockey’s Friday afternoon game against the Merrimack Warriors was destined to be epic. The Warriors were sitting dead last in Hockey East; meanwhile the Huskies were riding high as the fourth-ranked team in the country. They were also within spitting distance of the conference’s top spot, despite having played fewer games than their neighbors.

Bucking their recent tradition of using the first period to feel out their opponents, the Huskies started strong, dominating the puck and staying in front of Merrimack’s net. Warrior netminder Emma Gorski was put to work early, and it was only a matter of time before the Huskies made one. Just under ten minutes in, Katie Holmes started the scoring, capitalizing off a rebound and slamming the puck in to put the score at 1–0.

Not even one minute later Chloé Aurard dished to Maureen Murphy, who notched her second goal of the season.

Gorski held it down for the rest of the period, making some great saves as the bright spot on an otherwise dismal team. Merrimack tried to put as many bodies as they could in front of the net to block the Huskies, who outshot the Warriors fifteen to three in the opening 20 minutes. 

Gorski held her own in the beginning of the second, making some great glove saves against Molly Griffin and Brooke Hobson. Veronika Pettey looked like she was going to get the scoring going again when she dove in front of the net and shot, but Gorski couldn’t be bested. 

Merrimack looked like they were going to get their first real shot at scoring when Hosbon was called for slashing, giving Merrimack their first power play. However, Northeastern’s elite penalty kill put the pressure on the Warriors, giving Murphy the chance she needed to breakaway and score her second goal of the game shorthanded and unassisted. 

The rest of the period continued much the same, with Northeastern controlling the puck only to come up short against Gorski. The only blip happened when Merrimack’s Hannah Corneliusen made a great shot, but was blocked by the indomitable Aerin Frankel. It was Frankel’s third consecutive shutout, her sixth of the season, and her 25th as a Husky. After posting a 315-minute shutout streak last year, she’s working on a 200-minute one now.

The third period started with Murphy on the lookout for a hat trick in only her third game with Northeastern. Four minutes in, it looked like she was going to get her chance when Merrimack’s Kiki Roust was called for cross checking. Northeastern played aggressively, but couldn’t capitalize. It looked like Murphy’s hat trick aspirations were slipping away, but one second after the power play ended, she grabbed a rebound and slid the puck in for the team’s first hat trick of the season.

The fun didn’t stop there, when only four minutes later Katy Knoll broke away and skated circles around Merrimack in order to shoot the fifth goal of the game unassisted. 

Although Northeastern seemed hungry for a sixth goal, Merrimack dug their heels in to support Gorski and avoid a complete blowout, holding Northeastern scoreless for the rest of the game. The 5–0 win, the Huskies’ sixth in a row, moved them to 10–1–1 and pushed them above Boston College for the top spot in Hockey East. The Warriors remain mired in last place.

The teams will rematch tomorrow in North Andover, with puck drop coming at 3 PM Eastern. Mike Puzzanghera and Sarah Olender will be on the call for WRBB, with coverage commencing a few minutes before gametime.

Women’s Hockey Bests Providence, 4–1

Story by Jack Sinclair

Photos by Sarah Olender

BOSTON — A tale as old as time. Two bitter rivals. One sheet of ice.

The No. 7 Northeastern Huskies took on the No. 4 Providence Friars this afternoon in the first game of a home-and-home. The last time they met, Northeastern shut out Providence, 4–0, at Matthews Arena. The Huskies boasted a larger winning percentage coming in, but Providence sat atop the Hockey East standings by virtue of having several games in hand.

The game began slowly, with both teams feeling each other out and the pace far below what both they were capable of. But Chloé Aurard did not get the memo. After Lauren MacInnis went to the box for tripping, Aurard broke out of the zone on the penalty kill and scorched through the Friars’ defense. She almost lost control of the puck, held on with some slick stick work, and slid a backhand shot past Providence goalie Sandra Abstreiter. 

The awkward “getting to know you” phase continued after the goal, with neither team committing too far up the ice. After about 10 minutes, they finally picked up the pace. Each team’s strategy became apparent; Providence was going to test Frankel, opting to shoot when a pass was equally viable. Northeastern was going to rely on their speed to get in behind the Friars’ slower defenders and create scoring opportunities. Both Abstreiter and Aerin Frankel stood strong in net, though, and the period ended with no additional scoring. 

Northeastern started the second off on the back foot, with a penalty bleeding over from the first. After killing it off, the Huskies quickly resumed their stranglehold over the game. They immediately rooted themselves deep in the Providence zone, then Katy Knoll tapped in the puck after an incredible seam pass from Andrea Renner for her fourth goal of the season, and Northeastern’s second of the evening. 

“[Veronika Pettey] does a phenomenal job distributing the puck. Katy and Renner do a great job getting pucks to her. On top of the fact that they [shoot] pucks so well,” Northeastern associate head coach Nick Carpenito said. “If our first line isn’t producing as much as they normally would, we’ve got three other lines that are more than capable of doing it.”

Providence wouldn’t just lie down and die, though. With the memory of the 4–0 shutout just a few short weeks earlier fresh in their minds, the Friars turned up their game. They stopped trying to outskate the Huskies and instead focused on possession.

After 15 minutes of back-and-forth action, Providence went on the power play after Alina Mueller, Northeastern’s best penalty killer, was whistled for cross-checking. Providence pounced on the opportunity, and in the dying moments of the period, scored. It was Claire Tyo who fired a scorching wrist shot from the faceoff circle to beat Frankel blocker side, halving the Friars’ deficit. 

The Huskies did not take kindly to Providence’s audacity to score against them. Northeastern would keep the puck in Providence’s zone for almost two minutes at a time. The shorthanded Friars were gasping at air like a fish out of water, and it showed. The Huskies were relentless, and even though Abstreiter did her best to keep her team in the game, Veronika Pettey beat her for the Huskies’ third goal of the affair. 

The Friars were on the ropes. Down 3–1, they threw everything but the kitchen sink at the Huskies. They tried mixing up their lines to get something going. They tried cherry-picking at Northeastern’s blue line to create breakways. They even tried to outskate the Huskies with some dump-and-chase action. But nothing got past Frankel, as she made everything look exceedingly easy, as per usual.

With about three minutes left to go, Providence head coach Matt Kelly decided to throw the kitchen sink out there too. He pulled Abstreiter, gambling on his team’s ability with the additional skater. It didn’t work out; Northeastern immediately broke out of the zone, Miceala Sindoris found Molly Griffin open in the slot, and Griffin potted the puck for her first collegiate goal. 

After their fourth goal, and with only a couple minutes left to play, the Friars knew the game was over. The Huskies, again, missed the memo. Coach Carpenito rolled out his fourth line of forwards, and they immediately put the pressure back on Abstreiter, forcing her to make a couple of saves before the final whistle. 

The Huskies played without forward Maureen Murphy, who transferred from Providence after last season. Murphy started on the top line in the Huskies’ last game and did not appear to sustain an injury, and although Carpenito declined to offer specifics, at least one report indicated that Murphy’s former team was giving a hard time in granting the release. Murphy played her first game after the last NU–Providence team, and Carpenito confirmed that she would not play in either game against Providence this weekend.

The Huskies also lost forward Ani FitzGerald, who collided with teammate Skylar Fontaine, hit the ice hard, and was helped off the ice unable to put weight on her right leg.

Northeastern (7–1–1) will make the trip down to Providence (9–3–1) tomorrow for the second game of the home and home series. Jack Sinclair will have the review.