Men’s Hockey Swept by Vermont

By Jack Sinclair

BURLINGTON, VT — Every season, every team, no matter the sport, goes through ups and downs. The 2007 Patriots rode high for 18 games, then fell in the Super Bowl. The 73–9 Golden State Warriors’ high lasted until the last three games of the NBA finals.

The 2019–20 Northeastern men’s hockey team is no different. They began the season with five straight wins, then laid some eggs, like the 6–3 loss on home ice to UMass where the Huskies allowed six unanswered goals. The team went on to experience one of the highest highs possible in college hockey, with an epic comeback win in the Beanpot Final.

The Huskies entered tonight’s match in Burlington, Vermont riding the lowest of lows. A tough loss at home to Boston College, followed by the Huskies’ worst loss since 1992 — a 10-1 thrashing at the hands of BC — was the prelude for what would happen Friday in Burlington. A 4–2 loss to Vermont, the Catamounts’ first conference win this season, may be the most embarrassing loss of this unholy trinity. 

Despite this, the Huskies had an opportunity on Saturday. The mark of a truly great team is not how high their highest point is, but how well they bounce back from their lowest of lows.

The Huskies wasted no time in rebounding from their previous efforts, coming right out of the gates with an energy that had been missing as of late. With Grant Jozefek and Tyler Madden sitting out, forwards Neil Shea, John Picking, and Brendan Van Riemsdyk performed admirably, flying to every loose puck and putting loads of pressure on the forward and back check. Northeastern dominated the first 20 minutes, outshooting Vermont 12–7. Vermont netminder Stefano Lekkas was more than up to the task, as he stopped all 12 of the Huskies’ efforts.

The Huskies carried their first-period momentum into the second. Just under two minutes into the frame, a Riley Hughes pass down the boards found a surging Matt Filipe who, as he has several times, took his space behind Vermont goal and tucked away a lovely wraparound shot, giving the Huskies a much-needed lead.

Had the Huskies exorcised their second-period demons? Could we finally look away from the barn fire of the past three games to the greener pastures of victories to come?

No, they had not. And no, we couldn’t.

Less than a minute later, Vermont forgot they were a one-conference-win team playing the reigning Hockey East champions, and fought through the neutral zone into the Huskies’ end. The Catamounts forced Craig Pantano out of his crease to make a tough save and, in the defensive disarray, poked the puck into the empty net. Whether the failed puck clearance was due to poor sticks on Northeastern’s part or excellent ones by Vermont is almost beside the point. Gutterson Fieldhouse erupted, and Junior Bryce Misley skated away to celebrate. 

The goal took all the wind out of the Huskies’ sail, and Vermont took advantage by pressing up the ice. The Catamounts had a couple of dangerously close chances, but Pantano held fast, undeterred by the change of momentum. The Northeastern defense is known for extremely disciplined and steady sticks when defending five-on-five situations, but this time they were wild, allowing the Catamounts to carry the puck through the Northeastern defensive zone with little-to-no resistance.

As the second period continued, the Huskies struggled to pass the puck tape to tape, with overpassing and underpassing resulting in several neutral zone turnovers. A costly turnover only a few minutes after the first Vermont goal resulted in a loose puck in the slot. Once again, the Huskies couldn’t clear the puck away from danger, and Vermont snuck a point-blank shot between the legs of Pantano to take a 2–1 lead.

The Huskies’ play did not improve from there. The Huskies saw barely any offensive zone time, and when they did, they were quick to turn the puck over and give Vermont loads of space to skate. The period couldn’t have ended soon enough, and it ended with the opposite result that the end of the first period would have indicated. Northeastern was outshot 11–4. 

The final 20 minutes of the game were a complete shot in the dark. Which Huskies team would we see? The aggressive, fast-paced team that executed with precision in the first period, or the sluggish, uninspiring team from the second?

Northeastern captain Ryan Shea came out of the locker room and tried desperately to get something started. He skated around the Vermont goal three times, looking for any sort of opening. However, his teammates were not on the same page as him. The Huskies that weren’t handling the puck looked look statues. No one moved to create a shooting lane for Shea, or to get open and cycle the puck around. Shea eventually found someone to pass it to — no doubt he was dizzy from circling the net so much — and there were a few opportunities, but Lekkas stood on his head between the pipes and made several ridiculous saves.

When Vermont regained the puck, the most glaring flaw in the Huskies game became apparent: neutral zone defense. To call the it swiss cheese is an insult to the dairy product. Whether it was a single Catamount carrying the puck towards the Husky zone or an even-man rush after a lengthy buildup on the Vermont end, the Huskies couldn’t challenge.

As a result, Pantano would decide the game. Vermont had free passage into his zone, and shots resulting from the biblical parting of the Northeastern back check would need to be covered up to prevent an unlucky rebound from winding up in the back of the net. Pantano finished with 24 saves, and for most of the night he covered the puck or deflected it away.

But his luck ran out when a shot bounced off his pad and stayed in the crease. Vermont pounced on the gift like an excited kid on Christmas morning and potted their third goal of the game. From then on, Vermont stopped trying to score, opting to pin the puck on the boards and let the clock wind down. This strategy change gave Northeastern a few glimpses at Lekkas, but Hockey East’s all-time saves leader flashed his glove and prevented all of Northeastern’s efforts. 

As the clock neared triple zeroes and the reality of defeat set into the heavy Husky hearts, the extracurriculars began. Soon after Pantano gave way to an extra skater, Zach Solow got into a shoving match with a few Vermont defensemen. A gnarly cross check by Solow well after the whistle earned him a 10-minute game misconduct, and Alex Mella wound up in the box. This was an ugly end to an ugly 40 minutes of hockey, and in a way it felt fitting. The clock struck zero, and the Huskies had been swept. 

After the game, Jim Madigan praised the Huskies’ increased effort in comparison to their previous games. He chalked up the lack of execution to fatigue, saying that “running 10 forwards and going back to back caught up to us.” The fatigue was clear, as the offensive shifts were definitely shorter than usual without forwards Tyler Madden and Grant Jozefek in the lineup.

“We didn’t have quite enough in the tank, to be frank” said Madigan, adding that returning to Boston would provide an ample opportunity to “settle in, get a good week of practice in, and get ready for BU on Friday.”

When asked how the Huskies could return to their winning ways, Madigan expressed his confidence in his players’ ability to bounce back from the low point of their season, “knowing next weekend is the last weekend of the season if we don’t play well.”

“We have got enough guys who have played meaningful games and don’t want [the season] to end,” he continued, indicating that he expects the older players to step up and lead. The Huskies have a lot of experience on their roster, but they also have a lot of fresh faces. The guidance of veterans like Solow, Shea, Filipe, and Van Riemsdyk, many of whom have been on this Northeastern team for several years, will be essential in salvaging the season.

This loss, and a win by Providence over Maine, dropped the Huskies to eighth in Hockey East, the lowest playoff seed. New Hampshire is just one point behind Northeastern, so the Huskies need to hope for a BC sweep of the Wildcats or sweep Boston University themselves if they want to keep their tournament hopes alive. In the national pairwise rankings, the Huskies fell even further. They took the ice at 14th in the national polls, and left in 17th

The Huskies make a much-needed return to Matthews Arena this Friday for the first game of the season’s final home-and-home series. It is also the final regular-season game at Matthews Arena, and will include senior night celebrations honoring the team’s graduating seniors. Matt Neiser and Adam Doucette will call the game, with coverage beginning at 6:45 PM EST.

Women’s Hockey Sweeps Vermont, Advances to Hockey East Semifinal

By Matt Neiser

BOSTON — Fresh off a 5–1 win in game one, Northeastern looked to close out their Hockey East quarterfinal series against the Vermont Catamounts with a sweep on Friday at Matthews Arena. Early struggles plagued the Huskies once again, but a second-period goal from junior Skylar Fontaine gave them the spark they needed to finish the job as they pulled out a 3–1 victory.

“Usually a coach can go into a one–eight series and be like ‘ah, okay’, but I wasn’t at all confident that we were just gonna walk through this,” Northeastern head coach Dave Flint said. “Credit to Vermont, they made us work . . . neither game was easy.”

Much like the day before, the Catamounts came out of the gates with their signature forecheck and stymied the Huskies’ offense. Northeastern came close to escaping the first period unscathed, but a late mistake did them in. 

Fontaine was whistled for a tripping penalty with less than a minute to go in the period, sending the Huskies to the penalty kill for the first time on the night. Despite Northeastern boasting the third-best penalty kill in the nation (.924), a goal is bound to trickle in every now and again — especially against the third-best power play unit in Hockey East.

In this case, “now and again” meant “with 16 seconds left in the frame.” Senior co-captain Eve-Audrey Picard, desperate to extend her season and career, was in perfect position to tuck home a rebound after a saved shot from Ali O’Leary. 

Vermont built on that momentum in the second period, continuing to dictate the run of play. Both teams generated a couple of clean opportunities early in the frame, but none of them found paydirt. The period seemed destined to mirror Thursday’s second period, where the Catamounts dominated the Huskies and almost doubled their shot total.

Fontaine had other things in mind.

In signature fashion, the Northeastern blueliner picked up the puck behind her own net with one thing in mind: head 200 feet down the ice and make something happen. Accelerating out of the Husky zone, Fontaine left two Catamount skaters in her dust as she flew all the way to the opposing end line. Once there, she flung the puck out in front of the net and ricocheted it perfectly off of Vermont netminder Blanka Škodová to level the game at one goal apiece.

The goal wasn’t called at first, but Fontaine was adamant that the puck crossed the line. The officials proved her right when, after a lengthy review, they confirmed the goal. Because Fontaine’s coast-to-coast journey was initiated by an Aerin Frankel save, the Husky netminder notched her second career assist.

“My thought process, honestly, was just ‘get the puck to the net.’ We needed something to work out for us, and I saw an opening so I just threw it and it ended up going in,” Fontaine said with a laugh.

Just like the day before, a single goal jolted the Huskies back to their style of play. Their energy immediately picked up; they began swarming around the Catamount zone and seemed destined to score another goal soon.

Destiny became reality 59 seconds later, when freshman Peyton Anderson streaked into the slot and muscled home a rebound off a Fontaine shot from the right circle. The goal was Anderson’s second game-winner and seventh overall in her first collegiate campaign.

Firmly back in control, Northeastern wasn’t going to let the lead slip away. In the third period, they reminded everyone in attendance how dangerous they are when firing on all cylinders. They attacked relentlessly, racking up a whopping 19 shots on net. Vermont allows an average of 23 shots per game, and the Huskies nearly equaled that total in just 20 minutes.

One of those 19 shots found its way into the back of the net, courtesy of Alina Mueller. Following two quick Catamount penalties, Mueller and Co. found themselves on an extended five-on-three power play. Just before the first penalty expired, the Swiss sensation received a pass in the high slot and blasted a snipe into the top corner of Škodová’s net.

With the goal, Mueller crossed the 60-point mark (25 goals, 35 assists) on her standout sophomore season. She becomes just the third player in program history to reach that milestone, following Vicky Sunohara (78 in 1988–89) and Kendall Coyne (68 in 2012–13 and 84 in 15–16).

That’s vaunted company right there. Coyne is one of two Huskies to win the Patty Kazmaier Award as the best player in college hockey. Both Coyne and Sunohara have won Olympic gold medals for their respective countries (United States, Canada), including two for the latter. Mueller, a top-10 Patty Kazmaier finalist in both of her seasons at Northeastern, seems more than capable of filling their shoes.

The insurance goal gave Northeastern a little breathing room and let them really open up their attack. For the last five minutes or so of the game, the puck rarely left the Vermont zone as the Huskies pressed on. The only thing keeping the contest from becoming a blowout was Škodová, who stood on her head down the stretch to throw her team a lifeline. Despite giving up three tallies, the sophomore blew away her previous career-high in saves (34) with 41 stops on the night. The Catamounts needed that number to be at least 43 though, as they couldn’t claw their way back from the 3–1 deficit.

Fontaine, one of Northeastern’s x-factors, had a hand in all three Husky goals, notching a goal and two assists.

“She brings so much to the table; offensively, defensively, [she] gives you that spark when you need it,” Flint said. “She’s the best defenseman in Hockey East and one of the best in the country, and she shows it every night.”

Frankel continued her stellar postseason play, making 25 saves as she improved her Hockey East playoff record to 10–0–0. While discussing other teams in playoff race, Flint remarked that a hot goalie is an essential part of a championship team.

“We’ve got one of the hottest goalies in the country right now, so that’s always reassuring going in. It can be scary for your opponents,” Flint said.

With the win, Northeastern advances to the semifinals of the Hockey East Championships next Saturday. With other series ongoing, their opponent has yet to be determined.

The victory is the Huskies’ 30th of the season, an impressive feat that no Northeastern team has reached before. They aren’t resting on their laurels, though; they’ve already got their eyes set on the next round.

“It’s very exciting. This week we’re gonna put in a lot of work to get to the weekend and hopefully do well,” said Fontaine.

Flint echoed that sentiment, emphasizing there’s still work to be done.

“I liked how we responded. Credit to the team, we’ve done that all year,” he said. “We get our backs against the wall, a little adversity, they crank it up.

“Moving forward, we can’t start slow the rest of the playoffs, because the teams are getting better, and we’re gonna be behind too much and it’s gonna be too late. So, hopefully they heard that message and next weekend we start a lot faster.”

Men’s Hockey Stumbles Against Vermont

By Milton Posner

It was a game Northeastern could hardly afford to lose, and they just might pay dearly for it.

The Huskies took the ice Friday night fully aware of the stakes that awaited them. They sat tied for seventh place in the tightest playoff race Hockey East has ever seen, with just four games left to ensure a top-eight finish and the resulting playoff berth. They looked to rebound from their worst beatdown since 1992, a 10–1 shellacking from Boston College in their last game.

They didn’t. If anything, Friday’s loss might have been more disappointing. Against the Vermont Catamounts, the only winless team in a Hockey East season of record parity, the Huskies faltered, dropping the contest 4–2.

The Catamounts didn’t even wait two minutes before recording the game’s first tally, with Alex Esposito beating Husky goalie Craig Pantano top shelf off a feed from Matt Alvaro.

The rest of the first period belonged to Stefanos Lekkas, Vermont’s senior goaltender. Alex Mella and Matt Thomson try to stuff shots home? Nope. Matt Filipe smoothly swerves from the neutral zone to the doorstep for a point-blank look? Nope. Zach Solow on a breakaway 10 seconds later? Stuffed.

Jordan Harris wrister? Point-blank push from John Picking? Numerous passes tossed into the slot and a pair of two-on-ones? No, no, no, and no.

Some chances were worse than others, but there were chances, and Lekkas erased them. After one momentum-killing save with 2:39 to go, he laid flat on his back on the goal line, hands by his head, as if to catch his breath. He saved 12 shots in the period to Pantano’s nine, and despite Northeastern leading by two in shots, they trailed 1–0 after the first period.

Lekkas entered the evening with 3,816 career saves, the most in Hockey East history. During Friday’s game he moved into eighth place on the NCAA’s all-time list. But he wasn’t invincible, and Huskies cracked him almost immediately after the first intermission.

A little more than a minute in, a scramble for the puck behind Lekkas drew five skaters below the goal line and de-congested the offensive zone. When Aidan McDonough won the scrum and forced the puck through to Matt DeMelis in the high slot, Lekkas went to his knees anticipating a DeMelis one-timer. But DeMelis had other ideas, sliding a pass to a wide open Biagio Lerario at the bottom of the right dot for the one-timer that evened the score.

Vermont, not content with a tie, upped its aggressiveness and pushed into the Huskies’ zone. After a Pantano save had the puck sitting loose in the crease for what seemed like an eternity, Vermont’s Andrew Lucas tried to stuff it home and thought he had, but the puck just barely stayed off the goal line.

No matter; a faceoff in the Catamounts’ offensive zone led to Esposito’s second goal of the night — and fifth of the season — just ten seconds later.

Two minutes later came another. Frequent turnovers by both teams in the neutral zone led to a Vermont rush before Northeastern could set its defense. William Lemay fielded the puck at the center of the left dot and rifled it to captain Derek Lodermeier, who launched a missile past Pantano to make it 3–1.

Vermont’s passing was crisp, their movement smooth, their aggression apparent. When the Huskies turned up their aggression in the back half of the period, it backfired. A point-blank shot by Northeastern’s Tyler Spott was met by a full-body save from Lekkas, at which point most Husky skaters were deep toward the goal. The Catamounts sprung into transition; Ace Cowans moved largely unimpeded through the neutral zone to the left dot before slapping the puck into the top corner for Vermont’s fourth score.

About a minute later, what had been a strikingly calm, clean, penalty-free game took a sharp turn when a puck in close resulted in most of the players on the ice rushing the goal as Pantano threw his body on the puck. The pileup yielded a bit of extracurricular shoving, and McDonough and Vermont’s Max Kaufman headed to the penalty box with coincidental penalties for hitting after the whistle. Matt Alvaro also drew a roughing penalty, giving the Huskies the evening’s first power play with two minutes to go in the period.

Northeastern subbed in its top line for the man advantage but attempted just two shots, neither of which had much of a chance. The Huskies moved deliberately and struggled to open up passing angles. The Catamounts outshot the Huskies by just one in the second period, but the gigantic disparity in shot quality yielded a 3–1 scoring margin and a 4–1 lead.

The third period began on a strong foot for the Huskies, as McDonough chased down a loose puck in the corner and fed a cutting DeMelis for a nifty score.

The Huskies were aggressive in stretches during the third period but tried just eight shots and didn’t put any past Lekkas’ pads. Besides a couple of narrowly avoided Vermont empty-net goals, the third period passed without incident.

“Disappointing game for us. We didn’t have the consistent 60-minute game,” Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan observed. Madigan also spoke of the Huskies’ failure to execute their “identity plays.”

“Chipping pucks in below their goal line. We turned two pucks over at the blue line because we didn’t want to put it down low,” he said. “We blew a faceoff play assignment that we just went over at meal today. When you have those mental mistakes, and there was three of them . . . you’re going to come out on the short end.”

Pantano allowed four goals for the second straight game, and the 34–33 shot margin would seem to implicate him heavily in the loss. But he can hardly be blamed for letting in some of the uncontested rockets Vermont launched his way.

Northeastern’s third consecutive loss dropped them to 17–11–3 (10–10–1 HEA) and kept them tied for seventh place in Hockey East, albeit with one less game in hand. Vermont’s first conference win was their first of 2020 and their fourth of the season. The teams rematch Saturday at 7 PM EST, with the stakes still sky-high.

“We’re running out of runway here,” Madigan remarked. “We’ve got three games left and we’re in a playoff battle and I don’t know if the guys have understood the sense of urgency we’re at. They’ve heard it enough, but they’re not reacting and responding enough to the urgency of the situation we’re in.

“If I’m a player and I see where we are in the standings and I’m a senior and my career is winding down, there’s a sense of urgency. So they’ve got to take some stock in themselves and as a group we’ve got to come together tomorrow night.”

Women’s Hockey Wins Game One Quarterfinal Behind Explosive Third Period

By Matt Neiser

BOSTON — Finally, playoff hockey is upon us.

After a season of hard work to put themselves in pole position heading into the postseason, the first-seeded Northeastern Huskies have the chance to defend their Hockey East crown for the second consecutive season. The women kicked off their playoff campaign with game one of a best-of-three Hockey East quarterfinal series against the eight-seeded Vermont Catamounts at Matthews Arena. 

Despite being the lowest-seeded team in the tournament, the Catamounts put up quite the fight against the No. 4 nationally ranked Huskies. After two periods of deadlocked action, the Huskies used an early third period haymaker to put Vermont on their heels and followed up with a flurry of strikes to send the Catamounts crashing to the mat, pulling away to a 5–1 victory.

Northeastern (29–4–2) showed no sign of postseason nerves. Senior assistant captain Matti Hartman netted her eighth goal less than five minutes into the game, firing home a close-range shot off of a feed from sophomore Mia Brown.

Many may have thought the Huskies would quickly pull away after a start like that. Credit Vermont (10–17–8) for keeping their heads held high and refusing to kneel. The Catamounts used an aggressive, effective forecheck to disrupt Northeastern’s offense and keep them from cleanly carrying the puck forward.

“On their forecheck they were relentless; they were all over us. There were some things we talked about on our breakout that we weren’t really executing, and then the times that we did get out we were turning the puck over in the neutral zone,” said Husky head coach Dave Flint. “And then, all of a sudden, things aren’t going your way, everyone starts gripping their sticks a little tighter.”

Vermont capitalized on the Huskies’ disarray in the second period, using a Kristina Shanahan goal to even the game just over six minutes into the frame. The Catamounts pressed throughout the second, outshooting Northeastern nine to five. But their failure to tally a second score would soon come back to bite them.

Whatever Flint and his staff said in the locker room before the third period, it worked like a charm.

After an early penalty, the Huskies went on the power play for the third time on the afternoon. After a beautiful passing sequence led to a saved shot from Jess Schryver, sophomore Alina Mueller picked the puck up near the corner of the offensive zone. As she does so often, the Patty Kazmaier candidate picked out the perfect pass to her teammate, finding Brown in open space for a one-time rocket to give the Huskies the lead.

“We stress a lot dropping into the house, and I noticed that Vermont had all their players packed in almost below the hash marks,” said Brown. “So I just was coming right down the middle, and I saw Alina so I slowed up a bit, saw her pass it, and just shot it.”

The floodgates opened after that. Mueller converted a goal of her own just 32 seconds later, and junior Tessa Ward and freshman Kate Holmes added scores over the next 15 minutes to put the contest out of reach and secure game one for Northeastern.

“Credit to Vermont for a hard-fought game,” Flint said. “They gave us all we could handle, especially in the first two periods.”

Northeastern’s depth has been a key factor for them this season — they’re one of just four Division I teams with at least five double-digit scorers, along with Wisconsin, Franklin Pierce, and Minnesota. That depth shone again on Thursday, with five goals by five different Huskies.

“That’s the way it’s gone all year,” Flint remarked. “That’s what we need if we’re gonna be successful down the stretch. We need players to step up in certain times, and that’s what we had tonight.”

Game two of the best-of-three series will commence tomorrow night at 7 PM EST, as the Huskies look to sweep the Catamounts in the quarterfinals for the second-straight year. WRBB will have full coverage of the game starting at 6:45 PM, with Matt Neiser and Dale DeSantis on the call.

“We need to be ready, “Flint said. “They’re gonna play desperate, because they have to win or their season’s done . . . we need to be ready from the drop of the puck.”

Women’s Hockey Honors Seniors, Sets Records, Sweeps Merrimack

Story and Photos by Sarah Olender

BOSTON — Coming off of a 3–0 win against the Merrimack Warriors Friday night, the Northeastern Huskies were still feeding off of that energy. 

Northeastern’s three seniors were honored before their last regular-season home game. Codie Cross, from Alberta, Canada, Paige Capistran, from Manchester, New Hampshire, and Matti Hartman, from Etna, New Hampshire, were all recognized for their contributions to the program.

Cross played a shift in the first period, but an ongoing lower-body injury kept her from playing heavy minutes. Capistran and Hartman both played their hearts out, as did many other Huskies.

“They’re great leaders on and off the ice and really nice people, and I think they’ve done a lot for this program,” junior goaltender Aerin Frankel said. “Our culture has grown a lot, and it started with them as freshman learning from their seniors and they’ve done a really good job carrying that out to this team.”

Even though the Huskies’ position in Hockey East was determined more than three weeks ago, head coach Dave Flint still wanted to finish the year strong.

“I get more passionate, I think, on senior weekend,” he said. “Even though it was a long time ago for me, I remember what it was like . . . so I always want the seniors to go out on a winning note.”

The energy that Flint wanted was evident throughout the first period and most of the game. The Huskies started strong, maintaining possession for most of the period.

With nine minutes remaining, Northeastern center Tessa Ward received a penalty for cross-checking. While most teams might be nervous when down a player, the Huskies seem to gain confidence. Only eight percent of the team’s penalty kills have ended in goals, compared with the Huskies’ 15 percent success rate on the power play.

This penalty kill was no different. Alina Mueller fired a shot into the back of the net for her third shorthanded goal this season. 

The Huskies notched a second goal when Miceala Sindoris’ slick puck handling and blocked wrister led to a loose puck in the slot. Brooke Hobson was trailing the play and positioned herself perfectly to slap it home.

In the second period Merrimack increased their intensity and energy. They had many attempts on goal, but none passed through Frankel. The Husky goalie fired her team up near the end of the second period when she made an initial save, saw the puck was open and vulnerable behind her, dove backward to make a second save, and perfectly cleared the puck to Katy Knoll. Knoll found Tessa Ward, who carried the puck up the ice, wrapped around the net, and perfectly fed Mia Brown for the third and final goal of the game.

The third period was a slow and scoreless one for the Huskies. While they maintained possession for most of the period, they did not get as many shots on goal as they would have liked.

Near the end of the game, a Tessa Ward checking penalty and a Chloe Aurard slashing call brought the fierce penalty kill squad back out onto the ice. It was fitting that the successful penalty kills would seal an illustrious defensive record — when the clock showed zeros, Aerin Frankel had recorded her 10th shutout of the year, breaking Erika Silva’s 20-year-old school record. Frankel also equaled Chanda Gunn’s 19-year-old record of 23 wins.

“It’s a cool thing to know, but it’s not super important to me personally,” Frankel said. “It’s more important to me that we keep winning.”

The Huskies (28–4–2, 24–3–0 WHEA) kick off the Hockey East Tournament this week with a best-of-three quarterfinal series against the Vermont Catamounts. Tune in for WRBB’s coverage from Matthews Arena, with the first game starting at 1 PM EST on Thursday.

“We need to be focused, we need to be ready,” Flint said. “It’s playoffs, anything can happen.”

Men’s Hockey Suffers Worst Loss in 27 Years

By Christian Skroce

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — It was one of the worst performances in recent memory.

After a hard-fought Thursday game between the Northeastern Huskies and the Boston College Eagles ended in a 3–2 BC victory, tonight’s matchup saw the Eagles demolish the Huskies 10–1, the worst margin of loss for Northeastern since a nine-goal loss to Maine . . . on December 5, 1992.

Northeastern grabbed some early momentum, beginning the contest with two early power plays. But despite some nice movement and a few chances, the momentum faded and the Huskies had nothing to show for the man advantages.

Grant McPhee got the scoring going for Boston College after finishing off a centering feed from teammate Marc McLaughlin. When Husky goalie Craig Pantano lost his stick behind the net, his defense momentarily fell asleep, leaving McPhee wide open in front of the net.

BC had a clear strategy to begin the game, as almost every offensive possession started with a centering feed from behind the Northeastern net. Despite the offensive onslaught, the Huskies found themselves down by only one heading into the first break.

And then BC decided to stop messing around.

Northeastern’s defensive luck ran out quickly in the second frame, as BC doubled their lead just one minute into the period off a breakaway goal by Alex Newhook. The NU defense seemingly lost the freshman first-round pick, who found himself one-on-one with Pantano off of a great pass from teammate David Cotton.

The defensive lapses continued for Northeastern as Marc McLaughlin made the score 3–0 after a poor clearance by Pantano, who found himself on the bench after letting in a fourth goal, this one from long range by Logan Hutsko.

But freshman goaltender Connor Murphy fared no better than Pantano. The Eagles didn’t let up in the second period, as their first-round forward Matt Boldy got on the scoresheet with a power play goal that looked eerily similar to Hutsko’s.

The Huskies could do nothing to stop the bleeding, as forwards Mike Hardman and Marc McLaughlin scored a goal each to give the Eagles six goals in the period and a 7–0 lead.

Northeastern finally got something going at the end of the period, as forward Matt Thomson finished off a fantastic breakaway effort to score his first career goal and foil BC’s shutout bid. The goal was a small consolation prize in the end, though.

Boston College poured more salt in the Huskies’ wounds in the third period, as Boldy, defensemen Ben Finkelstein, and forward Aapeli Räsänen each added a goal in the final frame to put BC into double digits. Northeastern could only watch with dropped jaws as the final seconds ticked down and BC celebrated their best performance of the season.

The Huskies showed a total lack of composure, with nearly every player failing to make a positive impact. While Northeastern’s defensive miscues did them no favors, Boston College’s dominant performance began on their own defensive end, as the Eagles barely allowed Northeastern forwards to get anywhere near goalie Spencer Knight. The physical BC defensemen were in full force, and the Huskies had minimal offensive zone presence.

“I don’t know what to say. They were the better team tonight,” Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan said. “They sensed blood in the water and those kids on BC are sharks. They just kept coming as soon as they saw us struggling. I could talk a lot about a lot of things, but bottom line is they beat us up.”

When asked about where Northeastern goes from here, Madigan took a more positive tone, noting, “Well, we’re gonna reset. We’re gonna reset and get back to work tomorrow in preparation for the rest of the way.”

The absolute drubbing by Boston College gives the Eagles a weekend sweep and puts Northeastern in a precarious position. With several Hockey East games still to be played this weekend, the Huskies find themselves in seventh place after Providence’s helpful loss to Merrimack.

Northeastern will end their season with two crucial series against Vermont and Boston University. While most of the Hockey East seeds remain up in the air, the weekend performance certainly does not help the Huskies’ outlook. Northeastern probably needs to win all four remaining games to have a chance at a home first-round playoff series. Anything less than eight points during their final two weekends will likely see Northeastern traveling for the first round, while completely missing the tournament remains a possibility.

Women’s Hockey Masters Merrimack

By Jack Sinclair

As the regular season winds down, Northeastern’s eyes are set on the playoffs. The Hockey East playoffs begin with a best-of-three at home against the Vermont Catamounts on Thursday. Before that, however, the team had one more job to do.

Merrimack and Northeastern sit at opposite ends of the Hockey East standings. The Huskies, with 44 points, tower above the rest, while the Warriors, with nine, are in the cellar. Northeastern looked to bounce back from a split home-and-home against Providence by sweeping Merrimack to close the regular season. Of additional note, Alina Mueller and Aerin Frankel saw a renewed spotlight, as both are top 10 finalists for women’s college hockey’s most prestigious honor — the Patty Kazmaier Award.

Tonight’s match began with engaging action, as both teams exchanged early scoring opportunities. Eventually, things settled down, and about halfway through the first period, Northeastern saw their first power play. The man advantage did not yield a goal, but it allowed Northeastern to firmly plant themselves in the offensive zone, and their lethal puck cycling began.

Minutes after going to full-strength, the Huskies caught the Warriors in a defensive change, and Alina Mueller found herself on a breakaway with only Merrimack netminder Léa-Kristine Demers between her and the goal. The nation’s fourth-leading scorer wasted no time, putting a move on Demers and netting her 22nd goal of the season.

The remainder of the period saw a few more Husky chances, but Demers held fast and kept the score at 1–0.

Second period action saw an energized Merrimack team establish themselves in the Northeastern zone, aided by an early Northeastern penalty. Northeastern killed off the penalty, but Merrimack put some pressure on Aerin Frankel between the pipes. Frankel was forced to make some impressive saves as Merrimack found themselves on a breakaway midway through the period. 

Both teams exchanged penalties, but an impressive effort from both netminders meant the second period would conclude with the same score as the first.

The third period saw a reenergized Northeastern team occupy the offensive zone. An early penalty against the Huskies was negated by another penalty from the man-up Warriors, resulting in a four-on-four that allowed the Huskies to maintain their momentum. Midway through the third the Huskies finally found their breakthrough. Peyton Anderson powered past several Merrimack players and promptly placed the puck off the post and past the Warriors’ pipe protector to put the Huskies ahead 2–0.

Whatever battle cries the Warriors used to rally themselves were silenced at this point, as the celebration of their seniors’ last home game took hold and their game lost some of its intensity. The Huskies, however, said “screw that” and continued to put pressure on the Warriors. With just under four minutes to go, sophomore forward Miceala Sindoris found herself one-on-one with Demers off of a great feed from linemate Tessa Ward. A simple snipe beat the blocker side of the goalie, and Sindoris’ second goal of the season iced the Huskies’ 3–0 victory. The clock wound down to zero, and Northeastern goalie Aerin Frankel had secured her ninth shutout of the season.

Northeastern (27–4–2, 23–3–0 WHEA) will conclude the home-and-home, and their season, on Saturday. Matt Neiser, Sarah Olender, and George Barker will be on the call, with coverage beginning at 1:45 PM EST. We’ll post the Listen Live link on our Twitter before game time.

Men’s Hockey Falls to Boston College

By Matt Neiser

BOSTON — Coming off a hard-fought weekend sweep of UMass Lowell, No. 10 Northeastern hoped to carry their momentum against another top Hockey East team Thursday night at Matthews Arena. This time it was the No. 5/6 Boston College Eagles, holders of the top spot in the conference.

Despite encouraging play in the first and third periods, a rough second frame doomed the Huskies as they dropped the game — and crucial points in the Hockey East playoff race — by a 3–2 score.

“I thought Boston College was a better team than us tonight,” said Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan after the game. “They’re a very well-balanced team with a great goaltender . . . If we’re gonna get wins against very good teams like them, we’re gonna need a much better effort for a full 60 minutes. Disappointing to have that inconsistent effort.”

Unlike some of their recent games, the Huskies (17–9–3, 10–8–1 HEA) got off to a great start. They established the forecheck early, which led directly to their first goal. Julian Kislin held up the puck as the Eagles (20–8–1, 13–6–0 HEA) tried to clear the zone, shuffling the puck to Riley Hughes. The freshman threw the puck into empty space in the Boston College zone, allowing Matt Filipe to run onto it. Filipe, fresh back from an injury that held him out for four games, picked up the puck and wrapped around the opposing net, playing a shot in front that appeared to bounce off a skate and into the net.

Despite Northeastern being arguably the better team for most of the frame, the Eagles struck back late in the period when Julius Mattila fired home a shot after a slick drop pass from David Cotton to open him up. The goal allowed Boston College to enter the break none worse for wear after a lackluster first period.

It also served as a springboard for the Eagles, who thoroughly dominated the Huskies for much of the second frame. After peppering Northeastern netminder Craig Pantano with countless shots, one finally leaked through at the 10:45 mark of the period. After making the initial save on Alex Newhook’s redirect from the slot, Pantano couldn’t scramble back into position to stop Marshall Warren’s follow-up.

Mattila added his second of the night on a two-on-one breakaway six minutes later to make it 3–1.

Northeastern turned the intensity back up in the third period, competing at a much higher level. Just under seven minutes in, their hard work paid off when Biagio Lerario got the tip of his stick on a Jordan Harris shot from the slot. The tip did just enough to throw off Eagles goaltender Spencer Knight, who slowed the puck down under his pad but couldn’t fully stop it.

Madigan praised his team’s third-period turnaround, saying, “I thought our compete level was better; I thought we had a good first period as well. We had our backs against the wall and we had to respond, but we just didn’t respond enough.”

The Huskies continued their push for an equalizer and generated some quality opportunities, but the final product just wasn’t there as they failed to net a third tally and succumbed to the Eagles. Madigan emphasized that despite midseason trophies like the Belpot and Beanpot, the team has much bigger goals this year.

“I’m hoping it’s a wakeup call for our guys. We need to play better or else we won’t get the result we need tomorrow night,” Madigan said. “We’re in a playoff hunt, you know? We haven’t won anything yet. Our goals are measured by what we do at the end of the season. I think they need to understand in our locker room that we haven’t won anything yet. Some of these guys might have won something in the past couple years, but this team hasn’t won anything yet.”

These two teams will face off again on Friday night, this time in Chestnut Hill. Christian Skroce and Matt Neiser will be on the call, with pregame coverage starting at 6:45 PM EST.

Men’s Hockey Sweeps UMass Lowell

By Matt Neiser

BOSTON — Hockey East is the closest it’s ever been this late in the season. Coming into Saturday night, three points separated second and ninth place. Northeastern sat at the low end of that range, in a three-way tie for seventh with 19 points. UMass Lowell, with 22, was atop the scrum — tied with Boston College for second place. With the top eight teams making the playoffs in Hockey East, every point is essential for making the playoffs and earning a higher seed.

“My tenure with this league goes back to the first year,” said Husky head coach Jim Madigan. “I was a senior in that first year of Hockey East in 84–85. I’ve got a lot of history with this league and I’ve never seen it this bunched up . . . It’s going to be a dogfight all the way to the end.”

Northeastern clearly understood the importance of this series. Despite missing key players, the Huskies scrapped their way to a 2–1 win over Lowell on Saturday night at Matthews Arena, completing the season sweep of the Riverhawks after defeating them in Lowell the night before.

Northeastern (17–8–3, 10–7–1 HEA) was missing a few major pieces. Jayden Struble is out for the season after sustaining a lower-body injury against Maine on February 7. Matt Filipe missed his third-straight game and is currently day-to-day. Tyler Madden, the Huskies’ star forward and Hobey Baker hopeful, picked up an injury late in Friday’s game. 

Madigan said after tonight’s game that Madden would be evaluated on Monday and the team would have a return timeline after that. However, Jeff Cox of New England Hockey Journal reported that Madden could miss 4–6 weeks with a fractured finger. That’s just a rumor, of course, but it’s worth noting until the team gives more info.

The game itself was much less intriguing than its circumstances. Full of sloppy passes and neutral zone battles, it seemed like neither team wanted to snag the points up for grabs. The Huskies came out of the gates looking disheveled, misplacing passes and struggling to clear their zone.

The River Hawks’ (15–9–5, 9–6–4 HEA) opening goal was borne out of a defensive miscommunication as the Huskies scrambled to find their footing. Carl Berglund made his way into the Husky zone, dropping it off for the trailing Reid Stefanson. Having just lost his stick in a collision at center ice, Jordan Harris was out of his normal defensive position. Stefanson took advantage, finding acres of space on the left side of the zone to step in close and beat Husky goaltender Craig Pantano. 

Much like in their Beanpot victory against Boston University on Monday, the Huskies changed their tune in a big way in the second frame. Whatever was said in the locker room during the break worked, as Northeastern played with more energy, finishing checks and moving the puck around much more cleanly.

That clean, beautiful puck movement paved the way for the Huskies’ second-period equalizer. Starting with Matt Thomson, the puck touched all five skaters’ tapes on its trip around the Lowell zone. The fifth skater was freshman Mike Kesselring, who blasted a one-timer at the opposing net off a feed from Jordan Harris to beat a screened Tyler Wall.

The two sides battled into the third period; neither team found paydirt for the first half of the frame. Finally, with 10:34 remaining, Northeastern broke the deadlock. Remember how their first goal involved crisp passing and a clear shot? Their second was about as far in the other direction as you can go. Instead of trying to describe what happened, we’ll just let you watch the replay:

Not nearly as pretty as the first, but they all count for one point in the end.

As the clock ticked down, the game became more and more frenetic. At one point, a loose puck in front of the Husky net squirted out to an open Lowell skater on the left side of the crease. Pantano, out of position on the right side, flung his leg out at the last second to make an incredible kick save and keep the Huskies on top.

Pantano, when asked about his great play as of late (40 saves in the Beanpot and a shutout win the night before), said, “I think it has to do with the play in front of me right now. They’ve been letting me see shots, and they’ve been giving me the easy plays. I think we’ve been dialing in our defensive game, and that’s helped me too.”

“Other than adjusting our lines, we didn’t change our game plan,” Madigan said of the injured players. “We didn’t really talk much about Tyler [Madden] not being in the lineup tonight . . . Guys stepped up, which is what you need and expect.

“The lines are going to be shuffled. We might as [well] not even put out a lineup chart,” he said to laughter from himself and the gathered media. “The lines are going to be shuffled for the rest of the year. I think you guys got a lineup chart; there’s 11 forwards and 11 doesn’t go equally, at least in my math. It’s going to be that way for the rest of the year.”

The Huskies will look to build off these wins heading into a huge matchup next weekend against Boston College. The home-and-home will kick off on Thursday at Matthews Arena, with Christian Skroce and Matt Neiser on the call for WRBB. Pregame coverage will commence at 6:45 PM EST.

Women’s Hockey Bests Providence, 4–1

By Jack Sinclair

The Huskies have planted themselves atop the Hockey East standings and brought the Beanpot home, but their goals hardly end there. As the third-ranked team in the nation with one of the best defenses in the nation, the best goalie in the nation, and one of the best forwards in the nation, the Huskies’ aspirations extend beyond the Beanpot and beyond Hockey East. Their campaign to an NCAA Frozen Four continued today, as the Huskies rematched the Providence Friars a day after the Friars handed the Huskies their first loss in 11 games.

Providence Forward Sara Hjalmarsson struck first, weaving her way through the Northeastern defense and slipping the puck past freshman goaltender Gwyn Phillips after a nifty move to get her out of position. 

The remainder of the first period saw Northeastern gain their footing on defense, and the beginning of their onslaught of shots on Providence goalie Sandra Abstreiter. Before the period ended, they fired nine shots on net to swing the momentum their way.

The start of the second period saw the puck spend a considerable amount of time on the Providence end of the ice. The Friars generated a couple of transition chances through the neutral zone, but the Huskies made sure that they couldn’t establish themselves on their end. Four minutes into the period, Skylar Fontaine slipped the puck to Alina Mueller on the edge of the crease and the nation’s second-leading scorer wasted no time, deking out the Friar netminder and scoring her 21st goal of the season.

Six minutes and one Husky power play later, Katy Knoll forced a turnover on the Providence end, took advantage of poor positioning on the part of the Providence pipe protector, and broke the tie.

The second period saw some good looks on goal for Providence, as the Huskies struggled to stop their transition offense through the neutral zone. But Phillips, along with the defenders in front of her, held fast, preserving the 2–1 lead.

The third period saw Providence dig deeper into their bag of tricks, as they worked into some three-on-two and two-on-one situations on offense, but Phillips made some huge stops to avoid a tie.

By this point, the NU offense was really rolling. The puck snapped from stick to stick and cycled up and down the rink, and the Friars could not get the puck out of their end. Five minutes into the period, Lauren MacInnis, the double-overtime hero from the Huskies’ Beanpot win, found herself with a good look at the Providence goal. Mia Brown screened the Providence netminder well, blocking her view of the puck, and MacInnis sniped the top right corner from the edge of the left circle, putting Northeastern up, 3–1. 

The third period rolled on, with Providence getting a few more chances to score — mainly because Northeastern head coach Dave Flint gave ice time to some younger players — but the Huskies held their lead. Providence pulled their goalie with just over three minutes to go in the period, desperate to spark their offense. Unlike the last time the Huskies defended a six-on-five, they did not allow a goal, and Katy Knoll broke through the neutral zone for her easiest goal of the season. 

Northeastern’s 4–1 win is their first against Providence this season after two losses. The Huskies will close their regular season with a home-and-home against Merrimack College before the Hockey East tournament the following week.