Story by Matty Wasserman
Photos by Kayla Shiao
DURHAM, NH. — When the final script on the 2021-22 Huskies is written, Tuesday’s matchup at the Whittemore Center will be long forgotten. Northeastern’s 2-1 victory over New Hampshire, the Huskies’ 26th win of the season, was far from Northeastern’s flashiest, most dominant, or most impressive showing.
But on the Huskies’ national title quest, it’s performances like Tuesday night that separate merely good teams from the elite.
Northeastern was down two of its top forwards on Tuesday, Alina Müller and Chloé Aurard. The team was playing their seventh game in 18 days, and the entire top-end of the roster — and specifically top defensive pairing Skylar Fontaine and Brooke Hobson — have played huge minutes throughout this three-week stretch.
Northeastern had every excuse on Tuesday to lay down against a hungry Wildcats team fighting desperately for Hockey East postseason positioning. The Huskies were outshot 14-8 in the first period and quickly fell behind 1-0. The team could’ve coiled up and settled for a “schedule loss” against a motivated opponent.
But Northeastern didn’t give in. Instead, the Huskies scraped and clawed through the final 40 minutes, persevering through the tired legs and ravaged depth for a victory. And that — above the highlight-real goals, shattered individual records, and stunning final scores — is what makes this team so special.
“We’re tired. It’s been a lot of hockey. Third Tuesday in a row, coming here and playing on this huge sheet. I was thinking ‘I don’t know if we got enough gas in the tank,’” said Northeastern head coach Dave Flint. “But we came out, you saw the first period. We were sluggish, as sluggish as we’ve been in a while, but I liked that we found a way to win.”
Northeastern played a slow first period, letting the Wildcats dictate the pace and settling for a conservative dump-and-chase play style. New Hampshire struck first with 5:29 remaining in the first period on a Charli Kettyle rebound score. Northeastern goaltender Aerin Frankel struggled to control rebounds early in the game, but settled into a groove as the game wore on.
“It hurts having Chloé out, and obviously Alina is not here. They make our offense go,” Flint said. “But we had other kids step up, and I thought we really played a much better game in the second and third periods.”
Northeastern gained momentum in the second period with two power plays, but was unable to convert on the advantage. Northeastern registered 27 total shots in the second period, but just 10 on goal. Wildcat goaltender Ava Boutilier played a brilliant second period, but it was New Hampshire’s defense that shined, constantly getting their bodies and sticks in the Huskies’ shooting lanes. The Wildcats finished Tuesday’s game with 19 blocks.
Northeastern, after a bounty of golden chances, finally found the back of the net with 0:52 seconds to play in the second period. Forward Maureen Murphy sent in a bouncing shot on the ice, which linemate Maddie Mills deflected in. Murphy was initially credited with the score, but Mills was awarded the goal via a postgame stat correction.
After Mills’ equalizer at the tail end of the second period, the Huskies took the lead off a wicked one-timer from Fontaine in the slot with 13:37 remaining. Forward Peyton Anderson weaved through traffic to set up the open look for the fifth-year senior, who delivered her seventh goal of the season.
Northeastern clawed and grinded through the remainder of play, holding on for the narrow 2-1 road victory. Northeastern put 27 shots on goal while New Hampshire had 24.
Though the Huskies have already clinched the Hockey East regular season crown, Flint needs to ensure his team remains focused over the final week of the regular season before the postseason begins.
“I told [the players], ‘We might not be playing for anything in the league right now, but we’re playing for home ice in the NCAA [tournament], so we better play with the same urgency [our opponents] are playing with,’” Flint said.
Flint said he hopes to have Aurard back in the lineup against UConn this weekend. Müller should return soon after that, as her Olympic run with Team Switzerland comes to a close this week.
Northeastern will surely be healthier, sharper, and better-rested in the coming weeks. The Hockey East Tournament and NCAA Tournament are on the horizon, and this team has national championship aspirations — and rightfully so.
But on a seemingly unremarkable Tuesday night, the overworked and undermanned Huskies found a way.
“We grinded it out, but that’s what good teams do,” Flint said. “They find a way to win.”
The Huskies will take the ice again on Friday against UConn. Matty Wasserman, Mike Puzzanghera, and Rae Deer will have the call with coverage from Mark Edwards Freitas Ice Forum beginning at 5:30 p.m. on Mixlr.