By Milton Posner and Rae Deer
BOSTON — Northeastern has dominated the entire season.
They’ve won 25 games, shut out their opponents for 315 consecutive minutes, and clinched the top spot in the Hockey East Standings in January.
But there’s one team in Hockey East that doesn’t seem scared of the Huskies, and on Friday night they stormed into Matthews Arena and emerged victorious. For the second time this season, the Providence Friars bested the Northeastern Huskies, as the Huskies followed their dramatic double-overtime Beanpot win with a 2–1 overtime loss.
Almost right away, it seemed like the game would follow a different story, that the momentum from Tuesday night’s victory would carry over. Less than a minute into the game, after an early Husky line change, freshman forward Katy Knoll received the puck in the neutral zone, crossed over, and carried the puck to the doorstep. After her first shot was deflected, Knoll slapped the rebound past Friar goaltender Sandra Abstreiter to kick off the scoring.
Nearly two full periods would pass before another puck found the back of the net. The intervening time saw both teams push the pace in an attempt to put pressure on the other’s defense, with a number of long-distance, rushed passes missing their targets. Both teams seemed to have trouble communicating, leading to frequent turnovers and preventing either squad from building momentum.
The turnovers and quick pace also decreased the quality of each team’s shots. Neither Abstreiter nor Husky goalie Aerin Frankel dealt with many dangerous shots in the first two periods. Other than Skylar Fontaine faking Hayley Lunny back to Providence, Northeastern’s offense didn’t get much going after Knoll’s score.
“We had some good looks, but they did a good job keeping us outside and they blocked a lot of shots and weren’t letting us get inside,” Northeastern head coach Dave Flint observed. “I think Alina [Mueller] got robbed twice in tight, but other than that we didn’t have a ton of good looks at the net. A lot of them were perimeter shots outside. It was the same thing when we lost 1–0 there earlier in the year.”
In the second period, the activity become aggression. After just one penalty in the opening frame, the teams drew four in the second. Though Avery Fransoo and Brooke Hobson’s offsetting roughing penalties fizzled without a goal, the Huskies wouldn’t be so lucky after Knoll’s hitting from behind penalty with about four minutes to play. Providence defender Lauren DeBlois waited all of four seconds to make Northeastern pay, curving toward the middle and slinging the puck by Frankel.
Once in the second period and once in third, the Huskies had goals ripped from their grasp. Mueller and Matti Hartman both scored to give the Huskies the lead, but each goal was snatched away after official reviews confirmed an offsides entry.
Catalyzed by another five penalties, both teams fired 14 shots on goal in the third, easily the most of any period. Abstreiter and Frankel withstood the test, and the Huskies headed to overtime for the second time this week.
But a Megan Carter holding penalty would soon spell doom for the Huskies. Halfway through the power play, assisted by the same two teammates who aided her first goal, DeBlois fired one past Frankel to end the night. Providence had punctured Northeastern’s elite penalty kill for the second time.
“Our PK has been great all year, but our complete level wasn’t where it needed to be,” Flint said. “We’ve got to stop taking penalties late in games. It finally came back and bit us in the butt.”
The win dropped Northeastern to 25–4–2 (21–3–0 HEAW). Though the standings mean little to them now that they’ve clinched, Flint admits that the game held another importance.
“This is a setback,” he admitted, “but a loss is OK because it brings them back down to reality a little bit like, ‘Hey, we can lose; anyone can beat us.’ So hopefully that’s a little wakeup call for us and we’ll be better down the stretch.”