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.

Frankel Secures Shutout Record as Northeastern Annihilates Holy Cross

Story by Jordan Baron

Photos by Sarah Olender

BOSTON — You don’t often get the opportunity to see a hockey team beat their opponent by over ten goals, nor is it common to witness a player surpass a seemingly insurmountable record.

On Saturday afternoon at Matthews Arena, the No. 3 Northeastern women’s hockey team provided both, annihilating the Holy Cross Crusaders 12–0 on the back of Aerin Frankel’s fifth consecutive shutout and record-breaking 25th career Hockey East shutout.

“It’s obviously something that has taken a body of work over four years and credit to my teammates for helping me so much and being there for me when I need them,” Frankel said. “I think they knew that tonight could be the night, and they helped me a lot.”

Northeastern passed around the scoring plate, as 10 skaters launched pucks across the line into the Holy Cross net. Katie Cipra, who had two goals on the season coming into Saturday, doubled her total on two snipes from the slot. Skyler Fontaine notched one each in the second and third periods, and Chloé Aurard added to her marvelous weekend with her fourth goal in two days. Junior forward Alina Mueller added a five-point performance with a goal and four assists.

“I thought it was a great continuation from last night,” Northeastern head coach Dave Flint said. “We were firing on all cylinders, and it was good to see. We got production from everybody, rolled all the lines. It was a great, great game and obviously really happy for Aerin.”

The Huskies outshot the Crusaders 55 to 12, leaving Frankel with a pretty slow day on the job. Still, there were some interesting moments, as Holy Cross freshman forward Bryn Saarela fired some decent shots that were blocked. The Crusaders had a particularly good opportunity in the third period on a rebound that caught Frankel on the wrong side of the net, but a brilliant diving block by Carter preserved the shutout.

“It kind of happened quickly and behind me but I think the puck hit off me, bounced over to a Holy Cross player and she was about to stuff it home and [Carter] kind of dove out of nowhere and blocked it for me,” Frankel said. “I said ‘thank you’ to her of course, because that was probably the hugest save of the night. She always has my back tonight and every night, just always a sound defenseman for me.”

Carter did a wonderful job on the offensive end as well, defending the blue line well and keeping the puck in the Huskies’ offensive zone. She even added her own goal in the third off a rebound to put the Husky goal column in double digits.

The scoring didn’t start right away, but the penalties did. Just 74 seconds into the game, Crusader freshman forward Lily Feeney was called for tripping and journeyed into the box, putting the Huskies in a fantastic position to strike. The Crusaders did well to kill it though, and surprisingly held the fearsome five of the Husky power play to just two shots, one off the post and the other blocked by junior goaltender Jada Brenon. Brenon, who gave up all eight goals the night before, allowed eight more on Saturday before giving way to junior Sarah Street in the second.

After the Huskies killed a Holy Cross penalty, Cipra started the scoring, skating up the right side and firing a shot into the open left half of the net to put the Huskies on the board. Later on in the second, Cipra picked up the puck at the blue line after Fontaine kept it in the zone, skated into the slot, and fired a wrister into the top-right side for her second of the game.

“Those were some snipes, weren’t they?” Flint said. “This week in practice, she looked awesome. I was joking with her . . . I said ‘I don’t know what you have been eating this week, but you look awesome, and you’re playing great.’ We were trying to get to that third one to get her a hat trick, their goalie made a nice save in the second period to keep her from getting that.”

Mia Brown added the second goal of the first period off a brilliant pass from Veronika Pettey to get herself on the board. The Huskies entered the locker room ready to continue their onslaught. 

Pettey started the scoring in the second off a rebound close to the Crusader goal, assisted by Katy Knoll and Carter. After Cipra’s second goal, Mueller got herself on the board; a pass bounced to her stick, and we all know what happens when Mueller gets open space near the net. 

Just 40 seconds later the Fontaine show began, as she drove up the left side of the ice and fired towards the net from behind, looking for a teammates’ stick. It worked out even better, as Brenon didn’t press her leg tight enough against the left post. The puck skirted off her skate and into the goal to put the Huskies up by six. 

After goals from Aurard and Knoll — who scored off a beautiful feed from Andrea Renner — Fontaine picked up another goal on the power play, absolutely nuking the puck into the right side of the net for her second of the night.

Carter added her goal to start the third before Peyton Anderson decided she had gone too long without a major contribution. The sophomore notched a power play goal to put the Huskies up by 11 before assisting on the last goal of the game, a rebound shot from Tessa Ward off a blocked Anderson shot attempt.

“The thing I’ve been trying to instill in them for the last few years is ‘you don’t stop, you don’t lay off the gas,’” Flint said. “Just because you get up a couple goals, you don’t coast. Championship teams, they play hard all the time. They play at the same level, whether they’re up 10 or down 10. And I thought we got a great effort out of them today.”

The Huskies scored three of their 12 goals on the power play, and successfully killed one Crusader power play each period. Northeastern holds the nation’s longest unbeaten streak at 13 games, hasn’t allowed a goal in 380 minutes, and has scored 40 unanswered goals.

Frankel now has five straight shutouts and seven on the season. She added to her personal record of 320 straight scoreless minutes. Her 25th career shutout surpassed the previous Hockey East record of 24, set by Katie Burt of Boston College.

“I actually had no idea,” she said when asked if she’d thought about it. “Someone told me a few days ago before the first game. When I had the record for shutouts at Northeastern, I also didn’t know about that. So that was a pretty cool moment for me. But finding out about this one’s obviously an honor as well. There’s been a whole slew of amazing goaltenders that have come through Hockey East and it’s really awesome to have my name up there as well.”

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.

Huskies Fry Friars by Four

Story by Sarah Olender

Photos by Jordan Baron

BOSTON — Coming off a disappointing overtime shootout loss to New Hampshire, the #4 Northeastern women’s hockey team was looking for a rebound win against #7 Providence. 

The first period bored anyone who watched it. Northeastern botched two power-play chances, looked slow, and missed their passes, but both teams played a mediocre 20 minutes and spent time in both zones.

The second period started off at the same pace. Providence fended off Northeastern pretty well considering they were playing only 10 forwards and six defenders. But their skaters started getting noticeably tired, and if there’s one thing an opponent can’t do against Huskies, it’s show any sign of weakness. One drop of blood in the water and Northeastern will sense it and attack.

The Huskies first smelled out the weakness about 16 minutes into the second period when Providence’s Isabelle Hardy was whistled for interference. This power play was the final push the Huskies needed. Six seconds in, the Husky forwards tied up the Friar defense, giving Skylar Fontaine the time and space to find a gap in goalie Sandra Abstreiter’s guard and send a shot screaming into the back of the net. 

“I noticed that I had a ton of room to walk into the zone,” Fontaine explained. “So I looked up to notice there was a lot of traffic and . . . I saw there was like a little hole there.”

Twenty-five seconds later, the Huskies used the momentum Fontaine had given them to capitalize again. Peyton Anderson took a shot that Abstreiter saved, but the puck slipped free in front of her. Brooke Becker tried to clear the rebound, but Anderson got there first and doubled the lead.

With seven seconds left in the period, Chloé Aurard got a penalty for high sticking, putting the Huskies at a disadvantage going into the third. But as Providence went on the man advantage, it became evident that the whole team was losing steam. As the Friars got tired, they got sloppy, knocking Northeastern into the boards and tripping them. They couldn’t keep up with the Huskies’ passes and their defenders often failed to get back in time.

Northeastern associate head coach Nick Carpenito said that he wanted to use a cycle-heavy game to make the Friars chase them, a strategy that proved extremely effective.

“I think we did a really good job with that and a byproduct of that is when they chase us, they’re gonna get tired,” said Carpenito. “Towards the end of the game, it was pretty clear that we started to wear them down a little bit.”

Ten minutes into the third, Andrea Renner became the first Husky to take advantage of the Friars’ tired legs. Renner bulleted into the offensive zone on a breakaway, Abstreiter aggressively came out in front of the crease to meet her, and Renner darted to Abstreiter’s right for a clear backhanded shot.

Six minutes later Aurard did the same thing, zipping by Providence’s defense on a breakaway and slotting the puck under Abstreiter’s right leg to bring the score to 4–0. 

Not only did Northeastern silence the best power-play unit in the country, they even effortlessly killed off a three-on-five in the game’s closing minutes after Tessa Ward was called for high sticking and Hobson was whistled for roughing. The Huskies played quick shifts, constantly cycling on new legs to keep their play competitive and energized. 

The game could easily have been closer if Aerin Frankel hadn’t halted all 32 of the shots that came her way. Frankel held down the fort by blocking multiple rebounds, angling herself correctly for shots, and seeing through the many bodies that Providence put in front of her. 

The win moved Northeastern (5–1–1) into third place in Hockey East with three games in hand over the teams ahead of them. Northeastern also further proved their adaptability, maintaining a constant attitude amid a schedule riddled with last-minute game cancellations and substitutions.

“We need to take every opportunity we have and give it our all,” Fontaine said. “Good things happen when we work hard.”

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

By Christian Skroce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.”

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.

Women’s Hockey Very Vehemently Vanquishes Vermont

By Catherine Morrison

Fifteen minutes into Saturday afternoon’s matchup with the Vermont Catamounts, Northeastern allowed a goal, the first in nearly three weeks. The team had played 315 consecutive minutes (more than five games) without letting their opponents on the board.

But in a reminder of the just how special this season has been, even a moment of disappointment was surrounded by overwhelming dominance. The Huskies thrashed Vermont, 10–2, for their sixth straight win.

They didn’t take long to get going, with Katy Knoll converting on a backhand just 36 seconds into the first period.

Five minutes later Chloe Aurard got in on the fun, taking advantage of a neat pass by Jess Schryver just in front of the goal to knock in the puck.

The Catamounts had an opportunity to shorten the Huskies’ lead when Tessa Ward went into the penalty box for cross checking. Although Vermont got a few good shots in, they couldn’t get past the indestructible Aerin Frankel.

With just 23 seconds left in the power play, Vermont was given a second chance when Skylar Fontaine was called for high sticking, making it five-on-three. Northeastern controlled the puck throughout the power play and much of the rest of the period. However, with five minutes to go, Vermont’s Val Caldwell shot from the right circle and ended the five-game shutout streak.

Northeastern rebounded four minutes into the second period when Lauren MacInnes put one home in from the right circle on a Veronika Pettey assist.

Vermont replaced goaltender Blanka Škodová with Natalie Ferenc in the hope of turning things around. The Catamounts were quickly given an opportunity to close the gap when Kristina Shanahan made a great shot at the goal, but Frankel turned her away.

Four minutes in, the Huskies capitalized on a Vermont penalty for too many players on the ice when Matti Hartman fired home a power-play goal from the left circle.

Apparently unsatisfied with one power-play goal, the Huskies made Vermont pay for a hooking penalty when Aurard notched her second goal of the game.

Vermont called a timeout, trying to regain control of a game that was quickly slipping away. The timeout appeared to do some good, as a few minutes later Shanahan’s ninth goal of the year cut the Husky lead to 5–2. But the Catamounts couldn’t celebrate for long, as Northeastern scored its third power play goal of the game when Schryver beat Ferenc for her third goal of the season.

With a little over eight minutes left in the second period, Aurard collected a rebound in front of the goal and netted her second hat trick of the season.

Clearly, the Huskies were not happy about the Catamounts taking away their shutout streak. With three minutes left, Peyton Anderson passed to Katie Cipra who knocked it in the back of the net, making the score 8–2 and ending an absolutely bonkers second period.

For the third period, coach Dave Flint replaced Frankel with freshman goaltender Gwyneth Philips, who hadn’t allowed a goal in 184 minutes of collegiate action. With a six-point lead, Flint must’ve felt comfortable giving Philips a little more playing time. Vermont also decided to change goalies, giving third-stringer Sierra Natzke her third career appearance.

Natzke faired about as well as expected, giving up a between-the-legs goal to Alina Mueller four minutes in.

Two minutes later, Northeastern captain Peyton Anderson snapped one home, producing the 10–2 final score.

The Huskies moved to 21–3–1 (18–2–0 HEAW), hold a nine-point lead atop the Hockey East standings, and will look to widen the margin on Tuesday against second-place BU. Christian Skroce, Matt Neiser, and Catherine Morrison will have the call, with coverage beginning at 6:45 PM EST.

Women’s Hockey Continues to Starve Opponents

By Jack Sinclair

The Soviet defense of Stalingrad was largely hailed as one of the greatest defenses in history. The valor demonstrated by the Soviet soldiers in the harshest of winters during their last-ditch effort to thwart the German surge became immortalized in history.

Speaking of steadfast defenses in frigid environments . . . the Northeastern women’s hockey team.

The Huskies began tonight’s contest against the Vermont Catamounts having played 240 consecutive minutes without allowing a goal. The efforts of Aerin Frankel and Gwyneth Phillips between the pipes led the Huskies to a 16–0 combined margin over a pair of home-and-homes against Boston College and UConn.

Friday night’s game would prove no different, as the Huskies sailed past the Catamounts 4–0 and extended the shutout streak to an even 300 minutes. Northeastern (20–3–1, 17–2–0 HEAW) now leads second-place BC by eight points while Vermont (9–11–6, 6–9–4 HEAW) is tied with Maine for seventh.

The Huskies dominated tonight’s match from start to finish. Skylar Fontaine opened the scoring early in the first period, netting her 11th goal of the season.

The remainder of the first period was marred by penalties for both sides, even seeing some four-on-four action. The Huskies held the puck on the offensive end of the ice for most of the period, spearheaded by a relentless forward check.

The second period started in a similar manner to the first, with the Huskies keeping the pressure and the puck on the Catamounts’ side of the neutral zone. Vermont goalie Natalie Ferenc held off several odd-man rushes from Northeastern’s top line of Jess Schryver, Alina Mueller, and Chloe Aurard that demonstrated the line’s ability to break out of the neutral zone and run a sequence. Four minutes into the second period, and Tessa Ward slipped one past Ferenc, giving the Huskies a two-goal lead.

The latter half of the period saw the Huskies’ third and fourth lines getting more time on the ice, resulting in some opportunities for the Catamounts. The stubborn defense led by Frankel, Fontaine, and Megan Carter held fast, preserving the Northeastern shutout.

The third period began with more four-on-four hockey, and upon resuming five-on-five play, Northeastern continued to dominate Vermont, keeping the puck in the offensive zone for minutes at a time. Just under five minutes into the period, Peyton Anderson surged from Northeastern’s blue line, carried the puck to the promised land, and put the Huskies up 3–0.

The middle portion of the third period saw the teams swap power plays, but neither side unleashed a threatening shot on goal. Eventually, the Huskies pressured the Catamounts with a few good looks on goal. With just under four minutes remaining, Katie Cipra took advantage of a rebounding puck and put the Huskies ahead by a comfortable four goals.

This game demonstrated Northeastern’s capability to play at their own pace, even when their opponent can’t match it. They never allowed Vermont to string together lengthy stints on their own end, and limited the Catamounts to only 16 shots for the entire game.

The Huskies continued their defensive dominance, notching their fifth consecutive shutout. That is to say, their fifth straight hour of goalless hockey. This run comes at a great time; the season is winding down, the Beanpot is approaching, and a third consecutive Hockey East championship banner seems closer than ever.

The Huskies will remain in Burlington for the second game with Vermont, which begins Saturday at 4 PM EST.

Women’s Hockey Smashes Holy Cross for Third Straight Time, Moves into First Place in Hockey East

By Catherine Morrison

Photo by Sarah Olender

Wednesday night’s tilt was one of extremes. Northeastern looked to grab the top spot in Hockey East, while Holy Cross was just barely holding off Merrimack to stay out of last place. The contest came a week after the teams’ last meeting, when Northeastern notched their biggest win in 20 years.

Tonight’s first period looked very different from the last game, with Holy Cross staving off Northeastern’s superior offense for the first 15 minutes. But it could only last so long before Northeastern seized control. Codie Cross skated around the goal, knocked the puck off a defender’s stick, and watched her first goal of the season skid in. It was Northeastern’s 24th first-period goal on the year.

The Huskies kept their momentum going, and a minute later Tessa Ward fired at Crusader goalie Julia Pelletier. Pelletier blocked the attempt, but Northeastern’s Peyton Anderson was there to clean up the rebound shot that became Northeastern’s second goal. The play was reviewed to determine whether Anderson had kicked the goal in, but the footage confirmed that the puck hit her leg, so the call stood.

With thirty seconds left in the period, Northeastern got another rebound goal when Anderson shot from just in front of the blue line. Again Pelletier rejected the shot, but Chloe Aurard knocked it in for her 12th goal of the season and Northeastern’s third in four minutes. On the play, Cross logged the first of her four assists on the night.

Holy Cross made a last-ditch attempt to get on the board with Bailey Bennet shot, but Aerin Frankel made a midair block. When Bennet skated away she was knocked down by Megan Carter, starting a Holy Cross power play that would continue into the second period.

Holy Cross couldn’t convert on the power play, and when Frankel leg-blocked another Bennet shot a few minutes later, any momentum the Crusaders has built on the power play finally evaporated. It didn’t take long for Northeastern to continue their goalfest, and Pro Ambitions Rookie of the Week Katy Knoll got her chance when Pelletier blocked a shot by Matti Hartman. The puck went careening towards Knoll, who quickly slammed the puck in off the rebound.

Pelletier made a great save against Alina Mueller, but was stymied by Hartman, who received the puck from Jess Schryver, faked Pelletier out, and easily knocked the puck in for the fifth goal of the game. Northeastern dominated the second period, with 21 shots on goal to Holy Cross’s nine.

Five minutes into the third, it looked like yet another Husky was going to add a goal when Skylar Fontaine made a great shot at the goal, but it was slightly off and caromed off the pipe. Kate Holmes — who would have received an assist had Fontaine’s shot found the back of the net — decided that assisting Mia Brown was just as good. The resulting goal looked effortless.

With just under eight minutes left and the game comfortably in hand, Northeastern head coach Dave Flint pulled Frankel in favor of freshman Alexa Matses. It was Matses’ first collegiate appearance and, although she looked green, she held down the fort. With just seconds left to play, Mueller sped towards the goal and slid the puck in behind Pelletier, with Cross earning her fourth assist and fifth point. The game ended with a 7–0 Husky win.

Holy Cross looked a bit tighter on defense compared with last week’s 11–0 drubbing at Northeastern’s hands. Pelletier made some great saves, but without sufficient backup from her teammates she didn’t stand a chance against the onslaught of Husky rebound goals. Northeastern scored multiple goals in every period, with seven total goals from seven different players.

The win earned Northeastern a season sweep over Holy Cross. This was to be expected given Northeastern’s unanimous first-place finish — and Holy Cross’s last-place finish — in the Hockey East preseason poll. But the 24–0 combined scoring margin was impressive even for this matchup.

Northeastern improved to 14–2 (11–2 HEAW) and leapfrogged Boston College for first place in the Hockey East standings. On the cusp of the season’s halfway point, they are ranked third in the nation.

The Huskies have a whopping 25 days off before their next tilt against Vermont on December 30th.