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.

Northeastern Sweeps Home-and-Home with UNH

Story by Jordan Baron and Jack Sinclair

Photos by Sarah Olender

BOSTON — The Northeastern women’s hockey team isn’t used to playing competitive games this season.

But on Sunday night they had to adjust, as a talented New Hampshire squadron kept them on their toes for most of the game. Still, three third-period goals rocketed the Huskies to a 4–1 victory. Skylar Fontaine, Tessa Ward, Chloé Aurard, and Miceala Sindoris lit the lamp, and Alina Mueller posted another multi-point performance. The win extended the Huskies’ unbeaten streak to 15 games and improved their record to 15–1–1. 

The Huskies started off the first period strong, pinning the Wildcats deep in their own end. New Hampshire had learned from the previous day’s affair, and were packing the center of the ice to keep the Huskies on the perimeter. Ava Boutillier rarely had to work for a save, as eight of Northeastern’s 15 shots were blocked by the skaters in front of her.

Northeastern, displaying their unrelenting perseverance, kept pressuring the Wildcats, but Boutilier and company were unwilling to concede. New Hampshire was no longer happy sitting back and trying to prevent the Huskies from scoring, and instead turned the tables by ratcheting up their forecheck. The Huskies suddenly found themselves backed into their own zone, something they didn’t face in previous matchups.

The action went up and down the ice. Both teams tried to create scoring chances off the rush, but each goaltender reached deep into their bag of tricks to keep the game scoreless.

Northeastern hit the ice for the second period frustrated with their lack of scoring, as they turned their pace up to 11 and outskated the Wildcats at every opportunity. New Hampshire couldn’t keep up.

“I told them just to simplify,” said Northeastern head coach Dave Flint. “We were trying to make big plays and stretch passes. We were feeding into what [UNH] was doing.”

And five minutes in, the Huskies took the lead. The Husky first line took the ice for a power play and moved the puck around the perimeter trying to create shooting space. Mueller received the puck from Brooke Hobson in the left faceoff circle, and reared back for an attempt at the back of the net. As Boutilier and the Wildcat blockers prepared for the shot, Mueller sniped a quick pass to Fontaine, who was patiently waiting on the right side of the net. Everyone in the arena was caught off guard as Fontaine easily slotted the puck home for a goal.

The Wildcats stayed persistent, however, and kept the Huskies off the board for the remainder of the period. The Wildcats killed three of four Husky power plays on the evening, including one later in the second. The Wildcats also had four power plays; the Huskies’ fearsome four killed all of them.

The third period is when things started to go wrong for the visiting squad. With just over 10 minutes remaining, Northeastern’s Ward found herself in a prime opportunity as she picked off an errant puck in the neutral zone and skated it across the blue line with minimal coverage between her and the net. She flicked the puck onto the far side of her stick and shoveled it towards the goal, above Boutilier’s left shoulder, and into the back of the net.

“When Tessa came up with that big goal, I think everyone was kind of like ‘Okay, here we go,’ It loosened things up a bit,” Flint said.

Just a minute later, the Huskies found themselves in the offensive zone again, as Mueller shot the puck from about 10 feet out. Boutilier saved it but couldn’t control the rebound, and that was all Aurard needed to get her 11th goal of the season.

Then, just when the Wildcats thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did. Sindoris received the puck in the left faceoff circle with just over seven minutes to play and sniped it home for the fourth Husky goal of the night, and the third of the final period.

The Wildcats attempted to get themselves back in the game in the final minutes, and they did so valiantly, limiting the Huskies’ zone time and even firing one past Frankel with 3:30 remaining to break the shutout. However, there wasn’t enough time left to mount a serious comeback.

“I thought [it was] a hard fought win,” Flint said. “We had to grind it out. They made us really work for it.”

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.”

Women’s Hockey Ties New Hampshire, Falls in Shootout

By Jack Sinclair

Durham, NH — After winning the first game of the series comfortably, 3–1, the Northeastern women’s hockey team made the trip up to Durham to face the New Hampshire Wildcats on their home ice.

Throughout this young season, the Huskies have struggled early in games. Saturday night was no different, as they looked sluggish compared to the much slower Wildcat skaters. Early penalties against Wildcats Maddie Truax and Kyla Bent did little to kickstart the slumbering Husky offense. Northeastern struggled with passing accurately and struggled even more with putting their shots on target.

Their defense struggled as well, allowing New Hampshire to put three clean shots on goal in the first 10 minutes. A stretch pass from the Wildcats’ Emily Rickwood to a surging Nicole Kelly yielded a one-on-one chance against Husky goalie Frankel. Frankel couldn’t stop the puck, and Kelly slid it five hole for a one-goal lead.

Northeastern’s sloppy play did not stop, as the Huskies were called offsides as they tried to enter the offensive zone. Their defense improved, as they severely limited the Wildcats’ chances, but their offense didn’t respond. The Huskies concluded the opening period with only three shots on goal.

The story flipped on its head for the second, as the Huskies finally showed signs of offensive life. The game swung their way after three successive penalties against the Wildcats gave Northeastern several good looks on the man advantage. The third time was the charm, as Brooke Hobson netted Northeastern’s first power-play goal of the season to tie things up.

Northeastern finished the period strong, firing 14 shots to New Hampshire’s three.

“Our second period was awesome,” said Northeastern Associate Head Coach Nick Carpenito. “We were moving our feet, we were executing really well, we were making passes.”

The third period proved to be the most erratic. A quick penalty against Northeastern was quickly cancelled out by a Wildcat penalty, resulting in four-on-four play. It was then that Alina Mueller and Chloé Aurard used the extra space to generate a goal. Aurard found Mueller on the end of a give-and-go, and Mueller beat Ava Boutilier between the Wildcats’ goalposts. 

However, the strong play from the forwards would disappear, seemingly to never return. Things got sloppy again as the Huskies turned the puck on their way into the neutral zone, and the Wildcats used this to put pressure on Frankel. As per usual, Frankel was cool under pressure — until a freak bounce careened off the glass behind her and rebounded off her skate as she moved to seal off the goalpost. Wildcats goal. Tie game. The goal was credited to Chavonne Truter, but the replay revealed the true nature of the score. 

After 60 minutes, the game was tied 2–2. A thrilling overtime period yielded no scoring and the game went to a shootout. Both goaltenders stood strong, but it was New Hampshire’s extra skater, Paige Rynne, who became the hero of the night. Rynne stepped up in round five of the shootout, skated to Frankel’s left, and beat her with a confident, quick wrister to give New Hampshire a much-needed shootout win. Though the game counts as a tie for record purposes, New Hampshire (3–8–1) gets two points while Northeastern (4–1–1) gets one.

“We need to just be better,” Carpenito said. “A big part of it is the mental part of the game. This year is very very difficult, so I can understand how we would have some mental lapses. At the end of the day, with the talent we have, we need to find a way to be better.”

The Huskies struggled with communication for most of the night, missing passes and running into each other several times.

“The team that is mentally toughest is the one that rises to the top,” Carpenito said. “Right now we are not there, but I believe we are more than capable of getting there.”

The Huskies will battle Providence (7–1–1) this Tuesday at Matthews Arena. Mike Puzzanghera and Sarah Olender will call that game, with coverage beginning a few minutes before the 7 PM puck drop.

2020–21 Women’s Hockey East Preview: New Hampshire Wildcats

Last Season: 18–15–4 (12–12–3, sixth place conf.), lost to Maine in semifinal

Head Coach: Hilary Witt (seventh season)

Preseason Poll Finish: Sixth

Departures: D Lexie Revkin, D Tori Howran, F Hannah Touzos, F Nicole Dunbar, F Carlee Turner, F Abby Chapman, F Meghara McManus, F Taylor Wenczkowski, F Tori Palumbo

Additions: D Ciara Wall, D Kyla Bent, D Charli Kettyle, D Brianna Legros, F Avery Myers, F Nicole Kelly, F Chavonne Truter, F Brianna Brooks

By Sarah Olender

The slight drop in preseason expectations for the WIldcats is probably due to the losses of Tori Howran and Carlee Turner. After losing two defensemen and five forwards, New Hampshire replaced them with four defensemen and four forwards.  

The loss of defensemen Tori Howran, who was responsible for 22 points last year, is a major blow to the Wildcats. While she only scored two goals herself, she was responsible for 20 assists, more than anyone else on the team. Forward Carlee Turner’s seven goals and 13 assists will also be missed.

The Wildcats do return their excellent junior goaltender Ava Boutilier, who started 26 games last year and posted a .940 save percentage. She also won the conference’s Goaltender of the Month award in February, no small feat given that Northeastern’s Aerin Frankel was putting together one of the best seasons between the pipes in recent memory.

Bottom Line: New Hampshire has a strong core, but will miss a few key forwards and defensemen. They are adding four defensemen and four forwards to the roster this year, hoping to fill in the gaps from the graduating players, but will be hard-pressed to move out of the middle of the pack.