BOSTON — After three weeks of waiting, the No. 3 Northeastern women’s hockey team finally hit the ice for a Hockey East matchup against the Maine Black Bears Sunday evening.
Entering the contest, the Huskies’ only action of the season was a split home-and-home against No. 9 Boston College. The Black Bears had played six games, losing only two, and came into Matthews Arena two weeks after a split series against Providence.
Northeastern started the game playing, well, like a team that hadn’t played in three weeks. They were rusty, missed passes, and overskated the puck. The sloppy play gave Maine a few looks at the net, but Aerin Frankel fought off the Black Bears attempts with ease. She would eventually save 16 shots en route to her 20th career shutout, tying Erika Silva for the Northeastern record.
After a rough first stretch, the Huskies turned the tide in their favor. They dominated at both ends, holding Maine on their own half of the ice for the rest of the period.
“We went into the locker room, and just had to hit that reset button,” Northeastern Head Coach Dave Flint said. “We reminded everybody of what we needed to do to be successful.”
Flint’s words clearly resonated, as the Huskies came out of intermission on fire. Just under 30 seconds into the second period, Husky stars Alina Mueller and Skylar Fontaine connected on a give-and-go which Fontaine slotted past Maine goaltender Loryn Porter to break the scoreless tie.
“Sky’s best asset is her speed,” Flint said. “It allows her to be more offensive than a lot of defensemen because she has that ability to get back. Our philosophy as a team is we don’t have three forwards and two defensemen — it’s to attack with five and defend with five. When we have someone like Skylar, or [Brooke] Hobson too, they can get up during the rush and get back to defend.”
The lead didn’t deter the Huskies from applying more pressure. Forward Andrea Renner was a constant thorn in Maine’s side, as her forechecking gave the Black Bear defenders nightmares. Renner pursued the puck all around the Huskies’ offensive zone and fired many quick wristers toward the cage. Porter held fast, and fought off a flurry of Northeastern shots on goal.
Porter played like she was possessed by the spirit of Patrick Roy, making over 19 saves in the second period to keep the score at 1–0.
The Huskies entered the third period with a burst of energy similar to the beginning of the second. Relentless offensive pressure was the name of the game, as they threw in shots on goal from all over. Hobson eventually found the back of the net for her first point of the season and the second goal by a Husky defender on the evening.
A couple minutes later, freshman forward Ani FitzGerald picked the pocket of Maine’s Ali Beltz in the neutral zone and carried the puck home for her first college goal, Northeastern’s third of the game.
“[They’re] big shoes to fill,” Flint said of FitzGerald taking Jess Schryver’s spot on the Huskies’ vaunted top line. “Any time you put a younger player in a position like that, you’re realistically putting them on a line with two of the best players in the world. She just needed to go to the net when they have the puck, but she’s also dynamic enough to create her own play.”
Flint adjusted his strategy after the third goal, going with his third and fourth lines of forwards. The lower lines didn’t take their feet off the gas, and continued to test Porter. The game ended with the Huskies still controlling the tempo, even though they couldn’t beat Porter a fourth time. Porter ended the game with an impressive 44 saves; she’s posted a .943 save percentage on the year.
The Huskies will rematch Maine tomorrow at Matthews Arena. Mike Puzzanghera, Jack Sinclair, and Sarah Olender will call that game, with coverage beginning at 3:45 PM Eastern.