Northeastern faced both a familiar and unfamiliar opponent on Friday in its first Hockey East matchup of the season: Connecticut. A rematch of last year’s Hockey East championship, this game posed to be a competitive one, with both teams looking to secure their first conference victory of the season. Ultimately, Northeastern took home the win, a final score of 3-0 further solidifying the team’s high expectations for this year and continuing their dominance from the previous season.
The first period of play started out very evenly, with both teams’ defenses starting out strong, neither side managing to get much consistent offensive possession. Northeastern had the first real opportunity to strike first, as an interference penalty called on freshman defender Meghane Duchesne-Chalifoux gave the home team their first power play of the game. However, the normally consistently successful power-play unit for Northeastern seemed a bit disconnected on the ice. Associate head coach Nick Carpenito commented on the team’s lack of success on the power play.
“UConn did a great job shutting down some of the patterns that we like to run,” Carpenito said. “We usually create a lot of our offense by creating lanes up top. We tried to make the adjustment to go down low, but I didn’t think our passing was especially crisp today. It’s really tough to execute a power play without being able to make consistent tape-to-tape passes.”
Northeastern was able to get their offense clicking in the second period. Just under four minutes into the period, a poke check in the offensive zone by graduate student Maureen Murphy sent the puck perfectly into the pathway of graduate student Alina Müller, who slapped the puck past the body of UConn sophomore goaltender Tia Chan.
“It’s definitely different once you get the first goal,” Müller said. “We sometimes struggle to score early, the whole team, and whenever we get that first out of the way, we play so much looser and [more] relaxed. It definitely helped.”
Müller’s goal broke the record for the most game-winning goals by a single player in program history at 21, as well as put her at 199 career points. Carpenito discussed the importance of Müller’s presence on the ice to this Northeastern team.
“In the past, when Alina went, our offense went,” he said. “She’s been able to pile up quite a bit of production over the past few years. We’ve got a little more scoring depth this year, which takes the pressure off her, which allows her to play more freely. It won’t be the last record that she breaks this year, she’s the heart and soul of our team, and a well-deserved accolade.”
Once Müller got the scoring going, the floodgates opened and Northeastern kept rolling. They peppered the net with shots, got more consistency in the offensive zone, and swung the momentum in their favor. After a scrum on the boards along the right side of the rink, senior forward Katy Knoll found herself with the puck. Knoll skated along the blue line, cut in central, and once she saw an open shooting lane, flicked the puck into the top right corner of the net, doubling Northeastern’s lead.
The Huskies continued their offensive pressure, as the UConn defense began to make more and more mistakes. A central pass from sophomore forward Skylar Irving deflected off the knee of current Hockey East defender of the week Claire Peterson. Chan was unprepared for the bounce off her teammate, and the puck snuck right past her and into the net, putting Northeastern up 3-0 with 12 minutes to go in the second period.
Irving’s goal ended up being the dagger, as neither team scored again for the remainder of the game. The third period was highlighted by some fantastic saves by senior netminder Gwyneth Philips. The Northeastern goalie proved herself to be more than capable in net all game, staying level-headed in the midst of the chaos UConn attempted to create in front of her.
“I don’t think [Philips] is a big surprise to us,” Carpenito said. “We knew the talent that we had behind Aerin [Frankel] last year, so I think for a lot of people outside this program, that was the question mark, but we were as confident as ever. Great goalie, very efficient, when she needs to make the athletic save, she can make the athletic save, and she had a great showing today.”
Müller also added, “[Philips is] awesome, since day one. She plays great, she steps up, and we all had no doubt that Gwyneth could be even better than [Frankel]. She has seen [Frankel] play the last three years, learned from her, and she’s doing a phenomenal job.”
Müller’s record and Philips’ shutout highlighted what proved to be a fantastic showing for the reigning Hockey East Champions. Their first conference victory of the season seems to prove that the sky is indeed the limit for the Huskies, and they look to improve upon their performance for future matchups.
Northeastern will play the second game of this series Saturday at 3 p.m. in Storrs. Daisy Roberts and Khalin Kapoor will be on the call.