Northeastern Clinches Fourth Straight Hockey East Championship

Story by Rae Deer

Photos by Sarah Olender

BOSTON — Coming off of one of their best seasons — if not their best season — to date, Northeastern women’s hockey had set the stage for a historic achievement.

On Saturday night at Matthews Arena, they reached new heights after defeating Providence 6–2 to win their fourth straight Bertagna Trophy and cement themselves as the best team in the country.

Going into the championship game, Northeastern (20–1–1) knew they had to give it their all. They dominated from the drop of the puck, holding possession for long stretches in the first period. Providence (12–7–1) attempted to keep up by applying immense pressure, playing close man-to-man, and trying to deny Northeastern scoring chances. However, it was hard to stop the Huskies from making Providence goaltender Sandra Abstreiter work extra hard in her zone.

“I told them pregame ‘Let’s try to pop one in, first five minutes,’” Hockey East Coach of the Year Dave Flint said.

And just like that, Northeastern did. Katie Cipra skated a beautiful stretch from the blue line and backhanded the puck nicely over Abstreiter to open the scoring.

That seemed to flip a switch for the Friars, who upped the pressure for the second half of the period. Despite giving Northeastern a tougher time in the offensive zone, they still couldn’t establish a rhythm of their own.

Going into the second, both teams had dominating shifts, but a mistake by Abstreiter gave the Huskies their next goal. She allowed a Tessa Ward missile from the blue line to clang off the post, then found herself tangled up as the puck caromed off her and across the line. 

A goal like that can be hard on a team — especially in a game this important — so the Friars needed something quickly. They seemed to figure it out when first-line forward Caroline Peterson got them on the board midway through the period.

However, the Huskies answered with some sweet revenge. Providence had reportedly made things unnecessarily difficult when Maureen Murphy was transferring to Northeastern, and Murphy’s absence from the teams’ regular season tilts was suspect. Now, in her first game against her old squad, Murphy scored the third goal for Northeastern on the power play, prompting an eruption from her linemates and the bench. 

“She’s been one of my best friends all throughout high school and it was so exciting for me to hear that she made the decision to come to Northeastern.” tournament MVP Aerin Frankel said. “It’s amazing that we can have her, she’s just a huge piece to the puzzle . . . Just seeing her get that rewarding goal, especially against a team that she just came from and has played on before, just speaks measures to her and her work ethic, and she left it all out there.” 

The Huskies’ domination only amplified in the final period. Molly Griffin and Miceala Sindoris each notched a goal, bringing the game to 5–1 six minutes into the third. 

At this point the Friars were trapped. They managed to score once more, with senior Giana Savastano getting her first collegiate goal. 

“She’s been tremendous.” Providence coach Matt Kelly said. “She’s been a D up until a week ago, then she went up to forward. She’s a kid that just has a motor.”

But then Northeastern shut the door. In a last-ditch attempt to narrow the score, Providence pulled Abstreiter with about three minutes left. But all that did was give the Huskies another scoring chance, as two-time Hockey East Best Defenseman Skylar Fontaine showed off her stellar pokecheck, accelerated down the ice to beat Friar Ariane Julien, and hooked the puck into the empty net while sliding down the ice. 

That was all she wrote. Northeastern had their fourth straight championship. For the senior Huskies, this was an honorable moment. 

“Some people go through their whole career and never win one championship, so winning a championship is pretty remarkable, but to win four in a row is usually unheard of,” Flint noted. “For them to never have lost a Hockey East playoff game is a credit to them.”

Now all that’s left for the Huskies is the ultimate goal: a national championship. After being unable to take their talents all the way last season due to the pandemic, they’ll finally get their shot on the biggest stage.

“We’re all super motivated and fueled having that opportunity taken away from us,” Frankel said of the team’s cancelled NCAA Tournament game last season. “It’s something that a lot of teams had to go through, so I think everyone has that competitive edge on their shoulder this year.”

WRBB will cover those games when they’re announced. Stay tuned on our social media for updates.

Women’s Hockey Fries Friars Again

By Jack Sinclair

When two of the best goaltenders in Hockey East face off, the game is almost always going to be a low scoring, defensive battle.

But not when one of the two teams is the Northeastern women’s hockey team.

The Huskies hit the ice as if yesterday’s 4–1 win had never ended. They looked fresh despite the 20-hour turnaround. Providence didn’t. Northeastern was outskating the Friars to every loose puck and cycling the puck in the offensive zone like it was the middle of the third period.

The fiery start paid off, as Chloé Aurard found herself with a look at Providence goaltender Sandra Abstreiter’s cage. Abstreiter saved the initial wrister but couldn’t hold on to the puck, and Aurard tapped it in to open the scoring. 

Even after the goal, the ice was still slanted in the Huskies’ favor. Providence struggled to break out of their own zone; when they managed to clear the puck, they were shut down before they could reach the red line. Northeastern’s pressure was overwhelming, and Skylar Fontaine was quick to capitalize for her 100th collegiate point. She was assisted by Alina Mueller, who fired an insane cross-ice pass to find Fontaine open.

While Northeastern maintained their hold over the game, Abstreiter stood strong, keeping the deficit at two. 

The Friars upped the tempo, controlled the puck in their offensive zone, and even started testing Northeastern goaltender Aerin Frankel. The Huskies didn’t slow down either, and possession swung rapidly as neither team established itself anywhere. Both goaltenders were solid, but Abstreiter stood out, making multiple acrobatic saves.

But alas, all good things must come to an end. Aurard and Mueller barreled into the zone and a simple one-pass play gave Mueller a great look. It was all she needed, as she roofed the puck past Abstreiter for the Huskies third goal and her third point of the game. The period ended with the Huskies leading three goals to zero.

The Huskies continued to have their way with the Friars in the third period, then an early penalty gave Northeastern another power-play chance. Less than thirty seconds later, Tessa Ward collected and converted a juicy rebound after Abstreiter couldn’t control a missile from Veronika Pettey.

Providence tried to generate some offense, and even forced Frankel to make a couple of tough saves. But every time Providence tried, the Huskies pushed the puck right back up the ice with equal intensity.

“I never have any issue with our effort on the ice,” Northeastern associate head coach Nick Carpenito said. “But it’s the execution, making sure we’re working smart. We always work hard, but making sure we are working smart from the first drop of the puck. We have progressed in that area for sure.”

A few minutes later, the Huskies struck again to move into blowout territory. Mueller scored her second goal of the game on a clever wraparound shot from behind Abstreiter’s net.

“[Mueller and Aurard] have been moving their feet a lot more,” Carpenito explained. “The first couple games we played were in January. It’s going to take every player a few games to turn themselves into midseason form.”

The Friars, already reeling from yesterday’s tough loss in Matthews Arena, were well and truly beaten. The remainder of the game was a formality, with Carpenito rolling out his bottom six forwards for longer shifts. However, as is so common with these Huskies, they didn’t get the memo that the game was decided. The fourth line generated lots of great offense, though Abstreiter refused to concede another goal.

The game ended with a 5–0 Huskies win, their third in three tries against Providence this season. The Huskies improved to 8–1–1 on the year while Providence fell to 9–4–1, meaning the third-place Huskies trail the second-place Friars by just four points despite having four games in hand. (Northeastern trails first-place Boston College by five points with three games in hand.)

“Today might have been our most complete game of the year,” Carpenito said. “We were moving our feet, we were getting pucks to the net, I thought we matched Providence’s intensity and their physical play as well.”

Women’s Hockey Bests Providence, 4–1

Story by Jack Sinclair

Photos by Sarah Olender

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.”

2020–21 Women’s Hockey East Preview: Providence Friars

Last Year: 18-14-4 (15–10–2, third in conf.), swept by New Hampshire in quarterfinals

Head Coach: Matt Kelly (third season)

Preseason Poll Finish: Fourth

Losses: G Clare Minnerath, F Sonja Bjornson, F Kathleen Mchugh, F Maureen Murphy, F Neve Van Pelt, F Meaghan Rickard, D Whitney Dove, D Avery Fransoo

Additions: G Mireille Kingsley, F Maddy Coene, F Lindsay Bochna, F Chloe McNeil, D Brooke Becker, D KC Brooks, D Claire Tyo

By Jack Sinclair

Providence was unexpectedly strong last season. The early loss of forward Maureen Murphy to injury was a huge blow to what could have been a strong contender. Nonetheless, the Friars continued on, achieving several upset wins against eventual Hockey East Champion Northeastern and second-place Boston University.

This year will not be the same for the Friars. Losing three of their top five offensive producers to graduation will be a great challenge for Providence. Perhaps hindering them even more is the transfer of Murphy to Northeastern, throwing another wrench in the Friars’ plans. The loss of goaltender Clare Minnerath means more pressure on redshirt sophomore Sandra Arbstreider, who struggled at times last year. 

Providence has brought in reinforcements to replace the huge losses in talent. Forwards Maddy Coene and Lindsay Bochna will be looking to fill the void left by Murphy and Sonja Bjornson.

Returning players such as defender Lauren DeBlois and forward Sara Hjalmarsson will also be key, as they had success last season and will feature in larger roles now. Hjalmarsson in particular will be looking to build on her 17 goals and 11 assists from last season. DeBlois, despite being a defender, also managed to score 23 points last season, so a degree of offensive production can be expected from her in order to help fill the void. 

Head Coach Matt Kelly filled significant gaps in the lineup last season, and brought the team to a decent third place in Hockey East. But his team couldn’t get things done in the tournament and was upset by a red-hot New Hampshire squad in the quarterfinals. Nonetheless, Kelly proved his ability to get the best out of his players.

Bottom Line: The Friars lost a lot of production to graduation, so any chance at competing for hardware this season will depend on the production of their younger players. Luckily, they have plenty of freshman talent. Only the development of those freshmen will tell whether they can remain a thorn in the side of Hockey East’s best.