No. 1 Northeastern and No. 2 Wisconsin Square Off for National Title

By Mike Puzzanghera and Jack Sinclair

WRBB is calling the NCAA Women’s Hockey National Championship Game tonight live from Erie, Pennsylvania. Jack Sinclair, George Barker, and Mike Puzzanghera will be on mic, with coverage beginning at 7:15 PM Eastern. CLICK HERE to listen.

ERIE, PA — A perennial national title contender vs. an 18-game winning streak. The two seed vs. the one seed. Anyone trying to draw up a national title game couldn’t have picked a better one than Wisconsin vs. Northeastern.

It’s Wisconsin’s ninth national championship appearance, and third in the last four tournaments. They are the reigning national champions, and flew to a 12–3–1 record in the toughest conference in the country, the Western College Hockey Association (WCHA). With two wins to snatch the conference title, and two more to get here, the Badgers are now 16–3–1. Two of those playoff wins came against No. 3 Ohio State, including a 4–2 win Thursday night. This is a scary, scary team.

“They’ve earned the right to be here,” Wisconsin head coach Mark Johnson said. “It’s been a challenging year for everybody in college sports, and to get to play in the national championship game this year is pretty special. Hopefully we can take advantage of it and look back on it with great memories.”

Speaking of scary, their opponent is Northeastern. The Huskies will play in their first national championship game Saturday after winning their first-ever Frozen Four game Thursday afternoon over Minnesota-Duluth, 3–2, in OT. They haven’t lost since December 13 and won their fourth-straight Hockey East title this year.

“I started at Northeastern in 2008, and this was one of my goals, to get the program back to national prominence and compete for a national championship,” head coach Dave Flint said. “A lot of hard work from our players, our staff, and our support staff got us to this point.”

This game features six All-Americans, five top-10 Patty Kaz finalists, two top-three Patty Kaz finalists, and the national goaltender of the year. With so many stars out on the ice, the Huskies are hoping that their depth, something they’ve relied on all year, will be a factor.

“If we can shut down their first line and a couple players here and there, I think that will lead to success offensively,” Northeastern senior Tessa Ward said. “If everybody’s going, then I think we’re going to do well.”

On the Wisconsin side, they’re hoping that their experience in tournament games will give them an extra boost and help them avoid any initial nerves.

“We have plenty of experience on our team with about half of our girls being in this game before,” senior defender Grace Bowlby said. “I think that that brings a calming presence towards the younger girls so it’s pretty valuable.”

Take a look at how each of these teams got here and what to expect from them.

Last two in Erie

Northeastern: The Huskies haven’t had to battle much this year. They stormed through Hockey East with ease and, in the first game of this tournament, fought off a physical Robert Morris team without too much trouble.

But Duluth tested them all Thursday afternoon. They peppered Aerin Frankel with shots in the first, swarmed her net to create problems in front all game, and took a 2–0 lead into the third period.

“It’s definitely different from what we see in Hockey East,” Ward said. “WCHA is a lot more physical, a lot faster every game than what we were initially expecting, but I think our team responded well to the physicality of the game, and we were able to keep our composure and make the plays that we needed to play to get things done.”

But Northeastern battled back. They got a Maureen Murphy power-play goal less than a minute into the third period and, a few minutes later, got the tying goal from Katy Knoll after relentless forechecking from Veronika Pettey.

“It was definitely good that [Duluth] were physical knowing that this next game is also going to be, but I think that just drives us to have more of a chip on our shoulder, making sure that we’re not taking any penalties or anything. It just allows us to kind of compete harder and win those battles,” Pettey said.

They bombarded the Duluth net with shots from the second period on, but goalie Emma Söderberg kept the Bulldogs in it. That didn’t last forever though, as Skylar Fontaine buried the winner in OT to send the Huskies to the final.

One of the biggest keys for Northeastern in that game was the defensive play from their forward group. That play from Pettey started with a poke check at Northeastern’s blue line, and ended with her chasing the puck down to win it off a Bulldog behind their net before feeding a pass to the slot.

“We always talk about our performance in the D zone as the most important throughout the game, so I think we’ve just been emphasizing it a lot and as a forward, it still makes a huge difference,” Pettey said. “We’ve been talking about blocking shots and sealing off players from coming to the net so I think that, for me, focusing a lot on the D zone is really important.”

Northeastern’s third line, in particular, created many opportunities with their defensive work. Miceala Sindoris got a good snap shot on Söderberg in the third period before turning to set up Ward on a rush later in the frame after good work in the neutral zone. 

“Defensively, I’ve come a long way in the past couple of years since I started here my freshman year, and it’s something that I really take pride in,” Ward said. “I think our line yesterday played really well defensively and that’s something that on the bench we’re always talking about. Offense starts in the D zone, and if we can get those pucks out and get those pucks deep that makes a huge difference in the momentum of the game.”

Wisconsin: The Badgers had a tougher conference path than the Huskies, but the result was the same, as they claimed their ninth WCHA title. They were matched up against a familiar foe to open the tournament in the Providence Friars.

Wisconsin made quick work of the Hockey East runner-up, cruising to a 3–0 win. They continued their hot streak in the semifinals, jumping on the Ohio State Buckeyes just over a minute into the first period. Wisconsin’s third line of forwards produced that first goal, and they would produce the next two as well. 

“They’ve shown improvement the last six or eight games, they’ve really stepped their game up,” Johnson said of his third line. “I was very happy for them in [the semifinal] because they got rewarded on what they’ve been able to do the last several weekends for us and so hopefully that confidence that they came away from [the semifinal] springboards them into tomorrow night’s game.”

It took only two minutes of the second period for Wisconsin to strike again. Six minutes later, they made it 3–0. 

The Buckeyes weren’t done though, as they grabbed a goal of their own with six minutes on the clock in the second.

Ohio hit the ice for the third reenergized, and they cornered Wisconsin in their own zone. Eight minutes into the third, the Buckeyes got one back. They continued to pound the Wisconsin net, but the stingy Badger defense, as well as some stellar goaltending by Kennedy Blair, kept the Buckeyes down by one. Ohio opted for the empty net in the dying moments of the game and a turnover in the final seconds of the game gave the NCAA’s leading goal scorer Daryl Watts a clear path to the empty net, icing the game at 4–2. 

The Badgers shuffled their lines before the WCHA tournament, shifting Watts to the second line to play with Lacey Eden and Delaney Drake and, while they’ve struggled a bit to get going in this tournament, it creates a ridiculously effective second unit. They also rock a top line with Sophie Shirley, Britta Curl, and Brette Pettet that has combined for 59 points in 20 games.

In the back, Bowlby is an All-American defender with elite playmaking ability, and leads the Badgers with 17 assists. Nicole LaMantia is an All-WCHA Second-Team performer who operates on their second pair to give them defensive depth. Natalie Buchbinder is another big performer who offers senior leadership on the third pair. She missed time at the beginning of the year, but is back on the ice and making her impact. From front to back, the team is about as good as it gets.

“We just emphasize that everyone has each other’s back,” Bowlby said. “Hockey’s a game of mistakes and mistakes are going to happen, it’s how you handle them and bounce back from them.”

What to expect

This game will be FAST. Both teams play with speed in all zones. Wisconsin fits the traditional western mold of a fast, physical team, while Northeastern has shredded the idea that eastern teams can’t play with pace. As Skylar Fontaine said on Thursday, she loves to play with speed, since she does have speed herself.

“There’s gonna be a lot of talented players out there and it’ll just be a fun, fun game to be a part of,” Bowlby said.

Expect goaltending to be a factor as it was for Northeastern Thursday afternoon. Wisconsin’s Kennedy Blair is a very good goalie. Is she at Aerin Frankel’s level? No, no one is. But her 1.51 GAA and .933 save percentage while playing against WCHA opposition is impressive nonetheless.

More than anything else, expect a fantastic hockey game.

Sky’s the Limit: Fontaine sends NU to NCAA Title Game with OT Winner

Story by Mike Puzzanghera and Jack Sinclair

Photos by Sarah Olender

ERIE, PA — Skylar Fontaine has been the best defenseman in Hockey East — and maybe even the country — in each of the past two seasons. Since she joined Northeastern, she’s been an impact player.

That impact may never have been as big as it was in Thursday’s intense game against Minnesota-Duluth, as the senior racked up 16 shots on goal, and, in a moment frozen in time, scored with 26 seconds left in overtime to send Northeastern to their first national title game in program history.

“I love playing fast games because, I mean, I do have speed myself, so it’s always a fun time when you’re playing other teams that are equally as fast and can push me and push my teammates,” Fontaine said.

The Huskies had to battle Thursday afternoon in the first game of the NCAA Frozen Four, but they were up to the task. After going down 2–0 in the second period, they scored a power-play goal early in the third before striking again a few minutes later. The third period and most of overtime featured the Huskies bombarding the Duluth net, but Emma Söderberg stopped 44 shots to keep the Bulldogs in the game before Fontaine broke the dam.

“They gave us everything we could handle,” Northeastern head coach Dave Flint said. “[I’m] obviously thrilled for the opportunity to play in our first ever national championship game, and just really proud of my team and their resiliency.”

It was an unusually quiet start for the Huskies. The high-flying top line of Alina Mueller, Maureen Murphy, and Chloé Aurard was shut down by the Bulldog defense. Duluth was flexible and responded well to the Northeastern pressure. They allowed the Huskies to get deep into their zone, then used their speed and size to create some strong transition offense.

The Huskies were more than capable of hanging around and keeping pace, but that was all they did for the first period, as Duluth bullied the Husky forwards away from the slot. Northeastern tried a season-low three shots on goal in the first period. Despite the difference in shot totals, Aerin Frankel kept the puck out of the back of the net, keeping the period scoreless. 

“We hadn’t seen that speed in a while, and they were doing a good job of taking away time and space, and then we weren’t making good decisions with the puck,” Flint said.

Bulldog forward Mannon McMahon finally broke the deadlock halfway through the second. With Aerin Frankel tangled up to the side of the Northeastern net, the goal was open for Duluth’s Kailee Skinner. Her shot missed wide, but the rebound bounced off the boards straight to McMahon, who backhanded it in for her first goal of the season, which stood after a review.

Duluth grabbed their second just over five minutes later, with Taylor Anderson slamming one in from the slot to beat Frankel. Anna Klein caused problems all game for Northeastern’s blueliners, and it was her effort down the wing and behind the goal that allowed the Bulldogs time to enter on the rush behind her. She fired in a shot that got blocked in front, but it squirted out to Anderson, who switched it to her forehand and beat Frankel high as she was trying to recover. After nothing between the two sides in the first, the Bulldogs had a 2–0 lead.

“We were peppering shots and [Frankel] happened to save a lot of them so props to her for that,” Anderson said. “We did a great job getting shots on net, and we were just focusing on going hard to the net and burying it.”

But that second goal hit the switch for Northeastern. They turned up their intensity and piled on 16 shots in the period, including five from Mueller and four from Fontaine. That energy put Duluth on their back foot and, after Tessa Ward took a penalty for slashing, the Bulldogs took two of their own: Anneke Linser sat for tripping and Gabbie Hughes hit the sin bin for interfering with Molly Griffin.

With 50 seconds to go in the period, Northeastern had a five-on-three chance and, though they didn’t strike before the end of the frame, they would keep the advantage — and their momentum — to start the third.

It took 40 seconds for the Huskies to get on the board, as a Skylar Fontaine seam pass to a wide-open Maureen Murphy on the backdoor was enough to beat Söderberg. Fontaine’s assist tied the Northeastern record for points by a defenseman, a record that has stood since the late 1980s.

The Huskies now had the momentum they needed. Söderberg’s net was peppered from all directions as Northeastern put her rebound management to the test. The Swedish netminder passed with flying colors until a rebound off an Andrea Renner wrister bounced right to Katy Knoll, who popped the puck into the back of the net to tie the game at two.

The goal was made possible by a huge effort from Veronika Pettey, who poked the puck away from the Bulldogs in the D zone, chased it all the way back, stole it on the forecheck, and played it to Renner.

“It was a great, great play, and she battled in the corner too to win the puck,” Flint said. “I was telling them all game, ‘Hey, we’ve got to get pucks to the net,’ and Katy Knoll got to the net and banged in the rebound there and it was just a nice goal. It was a huge goal for us, gave us a ton of momentum.”

The game was knotted up with 15 minutes left, and neither team was willing to concede another goal. The puck flew up and down the ice as both teams looked for an offensive foothold. Spectacular goaltending on both ends kept things even after 60 minutes.

In overtime, the pace didn’t change. The Huskies stayed on the gas pedal while the Bulldogs waited in the D zone to break out for transition chances. That style of play gave Duluth their best scoring chance of the extra frame, as Anna Klein broke through and held off pressure from Northeastern’s defense before switching the puck to her backhand. She waited for Frankel to drop before cutting around her, but she couldn’t control the puck and or put a shot on frame. If she had, it likely would have gone in with Frankel out of position.

Other than that chance, the Bulldogs didn’t force Frankel to do too much at the other end, and struggled to get out of their own zone at times.

“We had a little bit more of an easy time at the beginning where we were really spreading the D zone, using the width of the ice with the weak side and we were able to find pretty good passing lanes, and they definitely adjusted and made it a lot harder on us,” Duluth head coach Maura Crowell said. “I think we forced plays up the walls a little more than I would have liked and needed to find space in the middle.”

With 40 seconds to go in overtime, the Huskies won an offensive zone faceoff with the third line on the ice. After the Bulldogs collected the puck behind their own net, forecheck pressure from Ward and Mia Brown forced Clara van Wieren to try a seam pass up to Naomi Rogge. Fontaine jumped that pass, kept it in the zone, and skated across to the left circle. Her hard shot powered its way through Söderberg and into the back of the net.

“We talked about it all game that they look [weak side],” Fontaine said. “I decided to step into it, caught it and was trying to shoot [the] opposite way of the way I was going to throw the goalie off, and [it] ended up working out and going in.”

Through three periods, the game felt a lot like Northeastern’s last NCAA Tournament appearance, where they bowed out against Cornell, 3–2, in OT. In that game, the Huskies went down early before scoring twice in the third to tie it. But this time around, it was Northeastern who found the winner.

“It kind of did throw me back a little,” Fontaine said. “I definitely think this year we’re more disciplined, we lean on each other, we have great culture that we always know we believe in one another, and we have great communication. This year, we’re very deep, and there’s trust in every single person on this team.”

“This game just showed what every team is made of in this tournament and that every team is going to bring their best,” Fontaine continued. “This was a great opportunity for us to realize that games aren’t going to be 5–1 [or] 6–1. I think that this really pushed us, and it prepared us for what Saturday is going to be like.”

For Duluth, the game ended an impressive tournament run. The five seed beat fourth-seeded Colgate 1–0 in overtime in the first round before pushing Northeastern to the brink.

“It’s everything I’ve wanted to do since I’ve gotten to Minnesota-Duluth,” Crowell said. “I’ve wanted to add years to the banners around the rink. I’ve wanted to bring the ultimate trophy back. So fell a little short here but getting to the Frozen Four is really really difficult. I don’t care what year it is; it’s really hard. We have eight coveted spots in our tournament so getting in itself is really challenging, and then coming in, winning, pushing the number one team to overtime. It says a lot about our team and where we’re at.”

The Huskies will play in their first-ever national championship game Saturday night at 7:30 against the winner of Wisconsin–Ohio State. Jack Sinclair, George Barker, and Mike Puzzanghera will be on the call for WRBB, with coverage starting at 7:15 PM Eastern.

AUDIO: Fontaine Sends Northeastern to the National Championship

After two periods of Frozen Four action in Erie, Pennsylvania, the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs led the Northeastern Huskies 2–0. The Huskies were struggling to break through the Bulldogs’ fierce forecheck, and hadn’t generated a ton of great chances on net.

And then everything changed. Two Northeastern goals in the third period sent the game into overtime, where two-time Hockey East Defenseman of the Year Skylar Fontaine ended the night.

Jack Sinclair on play-by-play, Mike Puzzanghera on color:

Cover image by Sarah Olender

Frozen Four Fantasies Fulfilled: Top-Seeded Huskies Outrun RMU, 5–1

Story by Mike Puzzanghera and Jack Sinclair

Photos by Sarah Olender

ERIE, PA — With 1:10 left in the second period, Alina Mueller took a penalty with the Huskies up 2–0. Robert Morris’s Emily Curlett struck on the power play seconds later to make it a one-goal game. After a long stretch of possession and dominance in the second, Northeastern, for the first time all afternoon, looked to be on their back foot.

As Mueller skated onto the bench, she turned to head coach Dave Flint to complain about the questionable body-checking call that sent her to the sin bin.

“I said, ‘Hey, listen, it’s done now. If you’re upset about it, go score a goal,’” Flint recalled.

Mueller did just that, slamming home a rebound with 3.5 seconds to go in the period to swing the momentum right back and send the Huskies into the locker room up 3–1.

That momentum carried No. 1 Northeastern all the way Monday afternoon, as they advanced to their first Frozen Four in program history with a controlling 5–1 win over eighth-seeded Robert Morris in the first game of the NCAA Tournament.

“Since I’ve been a freshman, we’ve grown so much, we’ve come so far,” defenseman Skylar Fontaine said. “A lot of time and effort has been put in, especially this year with everything being so unpredictable. It’s just a great feeling to come out here and everyone playing with the biggest hearts and me as a senior, this is just a great experience, and I’m grateful for it.”

Northeastern started strong with quite a few quick chances — namely from Mueller and Katy Knoll — but Colonials netminder Raygan “Ray Gun” Kirk was equal to all of them. In fact, as with UConn in the Hockey East semifinal, it took a penalty kill to get Northeastern going.

Mueller kicked a loose puck clear in front of Aerin Frankel, collected it behind the Northeastern net, and started the breakout. At the blue line, she split Robert Morris’s two leading scorers, Lexi Templeman and Micheala Boyle, with a beautiful deke and shot clear through the neutral zone to create a three-on-one chance. She slid the puck to Chloé Aurard, who set up her shot and picked her spot, beating Kirk five-hole for the first goal.

Northeastern hit the ice for the second period with one aim: extend the lead. They held the Colonials deep in their own zone, but they were up to the task. Neither team got established for any considerable zone time, and the puck changed hands constantly. 

Robert Morris was more than happy to keep the Husky lead at one, as they used their physicality to slow the high-flying Northeastern offense. The Colonials weren’t truly challenging Frankel, taking shots from the blue line and giving the senior netminder loads of time to see the puck. 

The stalemate was finally broken by Northeastern’s star defenseman, Fontaine. 

“I passed it up to Chloé Aurard, and I saw that there was so much space,” Fontaine explained. “So I took it and she gave it right back to me, and I just kind of took off and was on a sort of a breakaway.”

Minutes later, Mueller took her penalty, and Curlett scored the Colonials’ first-ever NCAA Tournament goal. The senior defenseman hit such a scorching one-timer that Frankel didn’t react to the puck until it was already in the back of the net.

“You’re not going to get too many power plays at this level and at this type of game,” Robert Morris head coach Paul Colontino said. “So you really have to make the best of them. And, you know, I thought our PP unit came out great. And yeah, in particular, Emily Curlett did just an awesome job of doing what she does on the power play — finding loose pucks and hammering them home.”

It was a punch in the mouth, and the Huskies never take kindly to those. Mueller, incensed by the penalty, was playing at her best and made the Colonials look like traffic cones. She even beat Kirk twice. The only thing the Swiss Olympian couldn’t beat was the post. She rang it twice during the period, and neither shot ended up in the back of the net.

After her discussion with Flint, Mueller finally struck, giving her team a two-goal lead after two periods. 

Northeastern got nothing out of their power play early in the third, appearing to have slowed down a bit. But just as that tone looked to seep into the rest of the game, a menacing forecheck from the nation’s best fourth line hit Robert Morris with a dagger. Peyton Anderson knocked the puck away from Gillian Thompson, and it found the stick of Katie Cipra. The human highlight reel on skates switched the puck to her backhand and flipped it past Kirk.

If it wasn’t a done deal after four goals, Fontaine made it five with her second of the night. She played the puck across to Katy Knoll on the rush and cut to the net like a goal-seeking missile. Knoll sent it right back to her, and Fontaine tipped it in with only one hand on her stick to seal the win.

“It’s like a test in school, you know if you prepared for it or not, and they’ve done a great job preparing for this,” Flint said. “There shouldn’t be any jitters or anything like that when we come to Thursday.”

Northeastern’s victory advanced them to their first-ever Frozen Four, setting a new high-water mark for the program. The Huskies will play the winner of the Colgate–Minnesota-Duluth Thursday at 2 PM for a spot in the national title game. WRBB will call the semifinal game, with Jack Sinclair, George Barker, and Mike Puzzanghera on the mic.

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.

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.

No. 1 Huskies Stamp Ticket to Fourth Straight Conference Championship

Story by Catherine Morrison

Photos by Mike Puzzanghera

BOSTON — A spot in the championship game was on the line for Northeastern as they faced the University of Connecticut on Wednesday afternoon at Matthews Arena. Northeastern, as the newly minted top-ranked team in the nation, was the favorite. UConn was the underdog after upsetting nationally ranked Boston College for their spot in the semifinals.

The match of the Huskies was bound to be tense, and neither team disappointed. UConn battled hard, but a late shorthanded goal gave the Huskies a dramatic 2–1 win.

UConn (9–10–1) came out strong in the first period with a great shot by Danika Pasqua that led to Husky goaltender Aerin Frankel flipping head over heels to make the save. Northeastern (19–1–1) battled UConn for control of the puck, but shot only twice in the first fifteen minutes.

Northeastern’s luck appeared to change after a timeout at the five-minute mark, as the first line came out firing at freshman goaltender Tia Chan. Chloé Aurard gained the puck, skated around the back of the net, and dished to Alina Mueller in front. With ten seconds left in the period, Mueller tapped it in for the first goal of the night.

Once Northeastern gets a goal, it’s often over for their opponent. The Huskies like to pile the goals on, as they did in their 7–0 quarterfinal win over New Hampshire. But the other Huskies weren’t about to give up so easily.

The opening of the second period resembled the opening of the first, with the puck not spending extended time in either offensive zone. Northeastern looked like they were about to get an insurance goal when Aurard appeared to shoot the puck past Chan, sending the red goal light flaring. But after a few seconds, the light turned off, signaling the puck hadn’t quite made it and keeping the score at 1–0.

A couple minutes later, UConn retaliated with one of their own when Coryn Tormala sent what looked like a pass to the net from the back corner that bounced off Aerin Frankel and tied the score 1–1.

“I think she wished she had that first one back, but when I look back at this year, that was that was the first goal that I say ‘Oh, you know, she should have had it.’”

Northeastern stayed in their offensive zone for much of the rest of the period but couldn’t get anything past Chan.

As the seconds trickled down in the third period, it began to seem like overtime was on the horizon. With five minutes left of regulation, Northeastern’s Brooke Hobson slammed Taylor Wabick into the boards, sending Wabick onto the ice and Northeastern head coach Dave Flint into apoplexy. Wabick left the ice of her own accord and Hobson earned a two-minute penalty for boarding.

If Northeastern were any other team, hope might have been lost. But Northeastern has an elite penalty kill unit and was prepared to fight until the end. Thirty seconds into the penalty kill, two-time-defending Hockey East Defenseman of the Year Skylar Fontaine dished to Aurard, who dumped it in for the win.

“They were lining up for the face off and I just had this feeling in the back of my head, we got a really good chance of scoring a goal here,” Flint recalled. “Anytime Alina, Chloé, and Skylar are on the penalty kill and all on the ice, I like our chances of scoring a goal if the other team turns a puck over.”

UConn pulled Chan with two minutes left, hoping to get something going with an extra forward. But they were stymied by the home Huskies and only narrowly avoided two empty-net goals by Mueller.

“It’s okay for us to have some of those games,” Flint said, “to grind out games and compete, battle and have some adversity and then come out on the winning end, because that makes us a better team.”

Northeastern will play for their fourth consecutive Hockey East Championship on Saturday night. Their foe is No. 9 Providence, who the Huskies swept in three regular-season matches. WRBB will call that game live from Matthews Arena, with coverage beginning at 6:50 PM Eastern.

AUDIO: Shorthanded goal sends Huskies to Hockey East Championship Game

Toward the end of a hard-fought game, the Northeastern and UConn women’s hockey squads were deadlocked at one. When a two-minute boarding minor sent Northeastern to the penalty kill, it appeared the momentum had swung UConn’s way. But off a UConn turnover, Skylar Fontaine and Chloé Aurard rewrote the script.

Jack Sinclair and Catherine Morrison on the call:

Cover image by Mike Puzzanghera. Read our full written coverage here.

Huskies Chase Wildcats Out of the Doghouse

Story by Rae Deer and Milton Posner

Photos by Jordan Baron

BOSTON — The forecast for Sunday night’s women’s hockey game was straightforward.

New Hampshire was one of the few teams to meaningfully challenge the No. 2 Northeastern Huskies this season. They’re strong. They’re physical. They have a great goaltender. And they’ll make the Huskies work hard for everything. And after one gritty, aggressive, competitive period, that’s what it looked like was in store.

But the Huskies have a Hockey East Championship to defend, and a five-goal onslaught in the second period proved just how hard they’d fight to keep it. They flattened the Wildcats 7–0 and will face UConn in the semifinals on Wednesday night.

“We played fast from the drop of the puck and were relentless for the full 60 minutes,” head coach Dave Flint said.

Both squads were quick on their feet from the beginning and favored using their bodies and sticks to get on the puck. After an aggressive last meeting between the teams, Sunday brought a new level of animosity and extracurricular hits. Players seemingly got into it after every other whistle, either jawing at each other or letting loose a few shoves.

“We talked about everybody keeping their composure,” Flint said. “They’re a physical team and they’re trying to get us off our game. I told them, ‘Don’t let them do it. Don’t fall into the trap. If they make you mad, do it on the scoreboard.’ I think they were a little pissed off at some of the plays, but they kept their heads, played hard, and took care of it on the scoreboard.”

Six minutes in, Veronika Pettey tried a backhand flip pass from behind the net to Katy Knoll out front. The connection might not have happened if not for a Wildcat skater’s deflection, and Knoll redirected the loose puck to get the scoring going.

The Huskies didn’t let up, and generated several near-chances in the offensive zone. But Wildcat netminder Ava Boutilier kept Northeastern at bay for the rest of the period.

“If you don’t get in there and bang in rebounds and make things difficult for her, if you’re perimeter, she’s going to stop pucks all night.” Flint said.

Thus, going into the second, the issue was finding ways to best Boutilier. It took seven minutes for the Huskies to figure it out, and when they did, the floodgates opened. Goals from Katie Cipra, Veronika Pettey, Skylar Fontaine, and Kate Holmes within a six-minute span effectively ended the game.

“We got stuck out there on an icing before that second goal,” New Hampshire head coach Hilary Witt explained. “We didn’t do a good enough job getting the puck deep to get a good change opportunity. We got a little fatigued and that’s how things broke down on that second goal. After that, probably not a great decision on our pinch, giving them another odd-man situation. They’re so talented that if you’re going to give them opportunities like that, they’re going to hurt you.”

And with the clock ticking down at the end of the period, Mia Brown stole New Hampshire’s cookies and ate them all by herself.

“We were like sharks around the net tonight and that’s why we were successful,” Flint remarked of the second-period run. “We were hunting pucks on the forecheck like I haven’t seen us do this year. We were all over UNH. One went in and they got hungry for a second. The confidence built up and we just kept going and going.”

Then the Wildcats got desperate. They were a lot more physical and took more penalties as they tried to keep up with the Huskies’ offensive acceleration. Northeastern rebuffed the increased sticks and shoving by breaking up the Wildcats’ setups in their offensive zone with ease. They denied any and every Wildcat scoring chance while setting up chances of their own. One such chance allowed Patty Kaz nominee, Hockey East all-star, and phenom first-liner Alina Mueller to get her piece and nail the coffin shut. 

With seven goals by seven different skaters, this game, like many this season, showed just how deep the Huskies are.

“We run four lines, we play our extra skater too. That, for me, is reassuring knowing that we can run any of those lines out there.” Coach Flint said about his skaters. “We’ve put our third and fourth lines against teams’ first lines to get mismatches for our first line. It’s nice to have that luxury.”

This is a team that has new tricks up their sleeve every time you play them, a team where each player contributes. They’re exciting, cohesive, and clearly worthy of the accolades they’ve already received. They’ll continue to chase another Wednesday night against UConn; WRBB will call that game live from Matthews Arena.

Women’s Hockey Catapults Catamounts, 3–1

By Jack Sinclair

The No. 2 Northeastern Huskies traveled up to Burlington, Vermont on Friday for the first of two games against the Catamounts. The Huskies entered Gutterson Fieldhouse riding a 15-game unbeaten streak, while the Catamounts were fresh off a hard-fought series split against Boston University. 

It was a rather inauspicious first period for the Huskies. The sharp edge of their play was dulled by the physical play of the Catamounts. Passes missed tape, and the puck was constantly ceded in the neutral zone.

However, when the Huskies did break into the Catamount zone, they looked threatening. The top trio of Alina Mueller, Maureen Murphy, and Chloé Aurard dominated the puck, cycling it crisply around the ice. But they couldn’t find the back of the net.

The action bounced up and down, with neither team establishing themselves in either zone. Megan Carter was shaken up on an ugly collision with Vermont’s Theresa Schafzahl that gave the Huskies their first power play. They dominated the ice and managed to slip the puck in after a chaotic scrum in front of the net, but the effort was waived off. After a review, the call stood, and the score remained 0–0.

The action continued to go back and forth, with Vermont’s physical play causing Northeastern some difficulty.

“We were a bit too perimeter,” Northeastern head coach Dave Flint said. “We weren’t getting pucks in deep. We needed to get bodies in front of the net.” 

The period ended with the Huskies’ penalty kill on the ice after Skylar Fontaine was called for checking with 20 seconds left. The kill unit allowed Vermont a few chances, but Aerin Frankel made herself look twice as big as she moved across the crease. As soon as the penalty was killed off, the Huskies found themselves on an odd-man rush. A swiftly moving Molly Griffin took the puck deep into the zone before sliding it across to Tessa Ward, who slotted it home to give the Huskies a one-goal lead. 

The momentum swung the Huskies’ way, and their attacking zone presence instantly increased. The Catamounts struggled to get the puck past their blue line, as the Husky forecheck applied unrelenting pressure. 

After about 10 minutes of domination, the Catamounts finally put pressure on the net. Frankel was firing on all cylinders, darting back and forth across the crease as shots came flying in from all directions.

The Catamounts’ efforts did not bear fruit, and the Huskies marched back down the ice. A thundering slapshot off Carter’s stick was tipped by Veronika Pettey, giving the Huskies their second goal of the period and Pettey her second on the year.

Vermont hit the ice for the third period with a reignited fury. They pursued the puck faster than Northeastern was ready for, and the Huskies found themselves on the back foot early. Frankel continued to stand strong against the UVM attack. The action bounced back and forth, with neither team holding the puck for much longer than thirty seconds. Five minutes into the period, the Catamounts finally beat Frankel when a spinning Corinne McCool cut the deficit to one. 

Vermont continued to challenge, forcing Frankel to make a number of difficult saves. The Catamounts fought with desperation, and pulled their goalie with two minutes to go. After a scrum in the neutral zone, Megan Carter batted the puck out, caught a lucky bounce off the boards, and slid the puck into the gaping net.

“They play a lot like us,” Flint said. “If you’re standing around staring at the puck, you’re going to get in trouble, and I feel like we did that a couple times . . . It was one of the toughest games we’ve had in a while.

The Huskies’ 3–1 win boosted them to 16–1–1 and cemented their position atop the Hockey East standings. They will look to extend their unbeaten streak to 17 tomorrow against Vermont (6–3–0) in their final regular-season game.