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.