By Matt Neiser
BOSTON — Boston College and Northeastern. Cross-town rivals. The top two teams in Women’s Hockey East. Any time these two squads face off, it’s must-watch action.
That said, there’s been a sizeable gap between the teams this season. Entering Sunday afternoon’s duel at Matthews Arena, the No. 3 Huskies had outscored the Eagles a combined 9–0 over two shutout wins on Boston College’s home turf. Northeastern already carried a five-point lead in the standings over BC — with two games in hand at that.
The Huskies’ dominance of the rivalry series continued into round three. The Eagles had no answer for the home team, falling 3–0 to Northeastern as the Huskies capped off a statement regular season sweep of Boston College.
“The goals didn’t come as easily as Friday,” head coach Dave Flint said. “It was a tough game. I like how we ground it out and battled for three periods.”
It took less than two minutes for Northeastern (17–3–1, 14–2–0 WHEA) to jump out in front. Matti Hartman took the puck into the slot on a counterattack and fired a wrister over the shoulder of Boston College (11–9–2, 10–7–1 WHEA) goaltender Kelly Pickreign for her fifth goal and 10th point of the season.
The Eagles had plenty of chances to respond in the first. The Huskies were called for three penalties, but stifled Boston College’s ensuing power plays. Shifting bodies in shooting lanes and constantly clearing pucks, they held the Eagles to three shots on net on those opportunities.
Northeastern killed off a fourth consecutive penalty halfway through the second frame before the whistles started blowing the other way. Boston College was called for four penalties over the final 11 minutes of the period, but Northeastern failed to convert. A defensive lapse even allowed the Eagles a clean shorthanded breakaway, but goaltender Aerin Frankel stonewalled Delaney Belinskas on the shot to bail out the Huskies.
The final penalty of the second period bled 17 seconds over to the third. Northeastern needed just 10 of those seconds to double their lead. Alina Mueller skated to the left side of the zone after winning the faceoff at center ice and received a pass from Skylar Fontaine. The Swiss sensation then did what she does best, threading the needle through three Boston College defensemen to find an open Katy Knoll on the weak side. The freshman tucked home her sixth goal of the season, extending the Huskies’ lead to 2–0.
After Boston College was called for yet another penalty three minutes later, Northeastern went on the power play again. Just like the one before it, this one ended with a puck in the back of the Eagles’ net. This time the culprit was Fontaine, who slotted home her ninth tally of the season off a feed from Chloe Aurard to put the game out of reach at 3–0. The Huskies held course the rest of the way, killing off one last penalty for good measure as time ran out.
The story of the game was the Northeastern penalty kill, which was a perfect five-for-five. The Huskies have allowed just five goals all season on the penalty kill in 64 opponent opportunities (7.8 percent).
Fontaine, a key part of the four-on-five, lit up when asked about the PK unit’s performance: “It makes us really proud. We put a lot of work in in practice for PKs, so it’s great to see it turn out on the ice.”
“Our PK forecheck is really good; they execute it to a tee every time,” said Flint. “We apply pressure when we need to apply pressure, and it’s tough for teams to get anything going against us. We’ve got kids out there willing to block shots, and your best penalty killer needs to be your goalie — and [Frankel’s] a pretty good penalty killer.”
Frankel added, “I can confidently say the entire year our penalty kill has been really strong, so that’s really nice to see and it’s helpful to our game.”
Frankel’s play against the Eagles this season has been historically dominant. No team has ever shut out BC three times in one season, and Frankel has blanked the Eagles more times this season than every other NCAA goalie in the last five years combined. She followed up her 26-save performance on Friday with 25 saves on Sunday, and recorded her sixth shutout of the season.
“I think it’s really big for the program in general,” Frankel said of the team’s dominance over BC. “Over the past decade it’s always been a really intense rivalry, but I think over the past couple years we’ve had the upper hand on them . . . I think it says a lot about how far this program’s come and I’m really proud of this team.”
Northeastern resumes play on Friday when Hockey East foe UConn visits Matthews Arena for a 6 PM matchup.