Photos by Sarah Olender
Rust is expected in the first game of the year. It’s been a while since players and pucks were flying up and down the ice at top speed in a competitive environment. It can take a bit to get up to speed.
The Huskies didn’t miss a beat though.
In the first period Friday night, Northeastern looked every bit like the four-time defending Hockey East champion, putting four goals past Holy Cross and dominating the shot margins. They defended soundly and, with one more goal in the third period, they put away the Crusaders, 5-0, at the Hart Center in Worcester.
Megan Carter opened the scoring, and finished the night with three points. As did Chloe Aurard, who capped off the scoring with a shorthanded goal in the third. Freshman Skylar Irving made her presence felt as the first line center, scoring her first career goal in her first career period of action. Skylar Fontaine scored on a neat 3-on-1 rush for the Huskies after a nifty pass from Aurard. And Katy Knoll scored the Huskies’ fourth of the night with a power-play strike.
Carter got the Huskies on the board for the first time this season with a strong shot from the point that fooled Holy Cross netminder Jada Brenon. Throughout the game, Carter fired in shot after shot from the point, each with more steam behind it than the last. It marked an impressive start to the campaign for a skater who took a big offensive step forward last season.
“She’s just so big, strong, fast, powerful,” Northeastern head coach Dave Flint said about Carter. “Her decision-making is improving every day. She’s really stepped her game up, and it’s really great to see her playing the way she is.”
Just a few minutes later, Irving was the first on the scene to slam home a rebound from a Carter shot. After looking bright in Northeastern’s preseason game against Franklin Pierce last Saturday, Irving got her first career point, and the Huskies bench made sure to save the puck.
All night, the line of Maureen Murphy-Irving-Maddie Mills looked very sharp. Flint acknowledged that they were a bit snakebitten just to get the one goal, but he liked what he has seen from them so far and has no plans to break up that group.
“Lots of speed, lots of grit,” Flint said of the trio. “They compete, all ends of the ice … They’ll get their share of goals down the stretch here.”
Next up, Aurard broke free down the right wing on a 3-on-1 with Fontaine and Knoll to her left, and only Emilie Fortunato back in defense for the Crusaders. Aurard neatly dummied the pass, waited for Fortunato to drop to the ice to go for the block, and then calmly slipped the puck over to Fontaine. Northeastern’s all-time top-scoring defender made no mistake, calmly sliding the puck past Brenon in goal, to put the Huskies up 3-0.
After a penalty against Carlie Magier, Northeastern sent their power play to work. It got the job done on the first attempt, as Knoll buried a wrister from the right wing to push the lead to five.
Until the middle of the third, that was it for scoring. No doubt that the Huskies tried to bury a few past Brenon in the second period — they tried as hard as they could. But Brenon put on her best Aerin Frankel impression as she rose to the occasion. Notably, she denied Murphy after Mills slipped her through right in front of goal. Brenon played lights out until she got hurt in the third period. She couldn’t put pressure on her left leg, and had to be helped off the ice, exiting with 42 saves on 46 shots faced. An incredible goaltender throughout her years at Holy Cross, it was a tough sight to see her have to be helped off the ice. All of us here at WRBB wish her the best and a speedy recovery.
The Crusaders fed off the momentum of Brenon’s Superman-esque saves. They put some great chances on net in the third period, notably through sophomore star Bryn Saarela, who had an all-around impressive game. They even created some good looks on the power play against Northeastern’s kill unit, one of the best in the country last year.
“Credit to the whole Holy Cross team, they battled,” Flint said. “They went down 4-0 in the first and they could’ve packed it in but they didn’t, they competed for 60 minutes, their goaltending was good, they battled hard, and they played with energy.”
What momentum Holy Cross was able to put together early in the third period left the ice with Brenon. After a quiet second period scoring wise, Aurard notched her first short-handed goal of the season just over halfway through the period, and NU controlled the ice thereafter.
The win represents the Huskies’ seventh straight against the Crusaders, and in those past seven matchups, NU has dominated to the tune of a 52-0 goal differential. The Crusaders will get another chance to put one past Frankel tomorrow afternoon at 2 p.m., but if the season opener was any indication, that’ll be a tall order.