ANDOVER, MA – Northeastern isn’t used to losing.
The Huskies have lost just 10 games in the past three seasons combined. And while rebounding from a two-game skid isn’t a task the Huskies are used to, Friday’s game at Hockey East bottom-feeder Merrimack provided a great opportunity for Northeastern to return to the win column after back-to-back hard fought losses against Vermont and Boston College.
“The [players] aren’t used to losing. When you lose a couple everyone is like ‘Oh the world is ending.’ So we just needed to go out, relax, have fun, and play,” said Northeastern head coach Dave Flint after the win.
And play, the Huskies did.
Northeastern’s offense exploded on Friday, scoring three third-period goals en route to a 5-0 drubbing of Merrimack at Lawler Rink.
Northeastern defenseman Skylar Fontaine put the Huskies on the board just 0:28 into the first period with a one-time snipe from the right circle. Northeastern has struggled to get off to fast starts in recent weeks, but Fontaine’s goal right out of the gate gave the Huskies the early momentum.
“We’ve been a little snakebit lately. So first shift, coming out and scoring, it was great,” Flint said.
Despite the hot start, Northeastern eased up and let Merrimack control the pace towards the end of the period, outshooting the Warriors just 10-7 in the first frame.
For an offensively-challenged Merrimack team with just 618 shots attempted this season (worst in Hockey East), and no skaters with above 12 points, the margin for error is slim defensively. The Warriors effectively forced Northeastern skaters to the exterior of the zone and denied them position in the low slot.
“In the second period, they did a great job on us, not giving us an inch. They defended us really well,” Flint said.
Though the Huskies offensive chances in the second period were few and far between, Maureen Murphy and Chloé Aurard’s odd-man rush through the middle of the Merrimack zone netted the Huskies second goal, 5:56 into the period.
“I would just credit Chloeé. She’s a great communicator. I don’t know she’s there unless she talks to me,” Murphy said after the game. “I know she’s notorious for passing too much, so I figured it was going to come back towards me.”
Though Northeastern’s two goal lead put them in firm control through two periods, it wasn’t until the third period that the offense began to click into high gear. The Huskies scored just 0:34 into the third period on Katy Knoll’s score, set up beautifully on a wrap-around feed from Aurard.
With 13:09 left in the third period, Maddie Mills’ persistence paid off on a rebound score during four-on-four action. Murphy tacked on her second goal of the game just 1:05 later, scoring on the power play and extending the Northeastern lead to five.
“I think it was just coach Flint’s emphasis on outworking them for the rest of the game,” Murphy said of the team’s third period adjustments. “They definitely outworked us at some points because they are a great team, and they’re competitive. So no matter what the score was, it was just competing hard.”
Murphy scored two goals on Friday and tallied assists on each of the Huskies other three scores. Her five-point effort vaults her to the team lead in points (35) and goals (17), and her offensive prowess and craftiness in the open ice have been crucial to the success of the Huskies all season.
Northeastern improves to 22-4-1 with Friday’s victory, furthering their dominant position atop Hockey East. They will return to Matthews Arena Tuesday for the Beanpot third-place contest against Boston University, hoping to build on Friday’s solid road victory. Catherine Morrison, Rae Deer, and Daisy Roberts will be on the call for WRBB at 4 p.m.