NORTH ANDOVER — In just their second road game of the season, Northeastern walked into the opposing arena and shut down their competition completely. Both special teams contributed to the Huskies’ dominant 5-0 win, as they secured their third-straight Hockey East win to open the year.
From the first puck drop, the Huskies ran over their opponent across the ice. They dictated play and maintained control of the puck for the majority of the first 20 minutes of game action. Thanks to 10 faceoff wins of a possible 15, once Northeastern had the puck on their sticks it was hard to get it away from them.
The Huskies’ momentum shifted slightly after freshman forward Lily Shannon tripped up Merrimack junior defender Raice Szott in the offensive zone. Shannon headed to the box, putting Northeastern on their first penalty kill just 3:10 into the game.
Northeastern snuffed out the majority of Merrimack’s time on the advantage, first in part thanks to senior forward Katy Knoll’s faceoff win to start the kill. Graduate student forward Alina Müller generated an odd-man rush to get a short-handed shot on goal that bounced off the post and into the corner.
Soon after that attempt, senior defender Megan Carter cleared the puck deep out of the defensive zone and put it right onto the stick of Knoll at the opposite blue line. Knoll carried the puck in on her stick before dangling around freshman defender Payten Evans. From the bottom of the faceoff circle, Knoll backhanded the puck up and past Merrimack’s senior netminder Emma Gorski to give the Huskies the early 1-0 lead.
It was Northeastern’s second shorthanded goal of the season, and brought Knoll up to five goals on the year to lead the team.
Just over a minute after the penalty to Shannon expired, her linemate Molly Griffin drew the first power play for the Huskies with 14:28 remaining in the period. The junior was playing the puck along the boards when she got cross-checked by Szott in an attempt to steal the puck away.
Last season, the Northeastern power play seemingly scored every game, as they had a 30% conversion rate on the advantage. So far however, the power play has not looked as solid as fans are used to seeing, and the Huskies’ head coach is in agreement.
“They’re forcing pucks,” said Dave Flint. “They’re not doing really well right now. … There’s a ton of talent on the power play, but they’re forcing pucks, they’re not making good decisions. They’re not keeping things simple. So we’ve got to kind of tune that out.”
The remainder of the frame was similar to the start with Northeastern driving play and playing strong on the backcheck to keep Merrimack from gaining any offensive pressure. By the end of the first 20 minutes, the Huskies generated 17 shots on goal while the Warriors registered none.
A lot of the solid play on the blue line came from the youngest members of the Huskies’ defensive core. Freshmen Jules Constantinople and Kristina Allard saw substantial minutes throughout the game. Both had key plays to clear the puck out of the zone and jump on play to keep it from going back down the ice out of the Huskies offensive territory.
“They’ve done a really good job adjusting to our systems very quickly,” Carter said. “I think they’re fitting in perfectly, and they’re confident in their abilities, which is exactly what we need.”
Merrimack registered their first shot on goal of the game 6:18 into the second period, starting off with more jump than in the first frame of play. Senior defender Teghan Inglis was credited with the shot that was easily gloved down by Husky senior goaltender Gwyneth Philips.
Overall it was a quiet night for Philips, as that was one of only four Warrior shots that would be counted on goal over the full 60 minutes of play. In comparison, Northeastern registered over 101 shots, with 53 of them being on goal.
Soon after the first Merrimack shot on goal, the Huskies brought the puck back down the ice and started another offensive cycle. Junior defender Abbey Marohn skated into the top of the crease while stickhandling the puck to try and drive it home. Gorski originally was able to block the opportunity with her pads but ended up putting the puck right onto the stick of graduate student Mia Brown. The forward jammed the puck home with 12:30 remaining in the period for her first goal of the season. Senior forward Peyton Anderson also had an assist on the play.
The Huskies added another tally to their lead 1:13 later thanks to a rush generated by Allard down into the offensive zone. Griffin originally forced the turnover before getting the puck to Allard who carried it from one faceoff circle to the other in the opposite zone. She bounced a shot off Gorski’s pads that ended up right on the stick of Shannon who rifled the rebound home for her second goal of the season.
With the tally, Shannon is already up to five points in just five collegiate games so far. The freshman class has overall impressed so far, and Shannon especially has found ways to get herself on the scoresheet in a variety of ways even on the fourth line. Flint had nothing but praise for his youngest players and how they’ve shown up on the ice in their young careers.
“I can’t ask for more than what they’re doing right now,” he said. “They’re playing great. They’re scoring goals, creating chances. They’re playing like veterans, so it’s really promising.”
Northeastern carried their 3-0 lead into the final period but didn’t let the fact they were winning allow them to become complacent. Merrimack junior defender Natalie Nemes took a hooking penalty at 15:29 remaining in regulation. That put the Northeastern power play back on the ice, and they finally converted.
Once again, Carter cleared the puck out of the zone to the stick of a streaking forward, this time graduate student Maureen Murphy. Murphy drove hard to the net and opted to slice the pass across the crease to graduate student Chloé Aurard. While falling to the ice, the forward neatly tapped the puck home for the tally.
The final goal of the game came off a beautiful slap shot from Müller at the top of the zone. She originally knocked the puck away from senior forward Sam Lessick at the blue line who was trying to clear it completely. Murphy collected the puck along the boards and dropped it back to Müller who wasted no time letting it fly.
In the final 10 minutes of the game, both sides started to get a little chippy as sophomore forward Skylar Irving took a holding penalty with 8:44 remaining. The advantage for Merrimack was negated less than 30 seconds later after junior forward Emily Oosterveld caught Müller in the jaw with her stick. Müller stayed down on the ice for a few moments after getting hit, and Oosterveld got a five minute major penalty for the action.
Northeastern was unable to score on the major power play. A slashing call against graduate student forward Madison Oelkers with 40 seconds left put the Huskies back on the advantage where they were again unable to convert.
With the extracurriculars in the final 10 minutes of the game, Flint was asked what his message was to his team to keep that frustration out of their mind heading into the rematch.
“I told them before the game and during the game; we just play,” he said. “Keep your head. Something happens, just keep playing and no retaliation, no dirty stuff. That’s not how we operate. And so, going into tomorrow they know, ‘Hey we’re just going to play hockey.’”
The final score stood at 5-0 in favor of the road team, their second highest goal total of the year. It was Philips’ second shutout of the season, even with the low shot total. Post game, Gorski received a lot of praise from her opponents. The netminder turned away 48 shots, and the score could have been much higher if not for her efforts.
“She was good,” Flint said. “There was a couple where we had pucks that went through traffic ,and I’m like, ‘oh, that’s going in’ and all of a sudden I see her pad.”
Carter, who had five of the shots on goal herself, also was impressed by Gorski’s game.
“It’s a pretty outstanding performance,” Carter said. “We’ll look to do some video tomorrow morning and try to find some spots where we can shoot, but obviously, we’ll just keep doing what we’re doing and hopefully one goes in.”
Flint was generally pleased with the entire 60 minutes from his squad.
“I think that’s our most complete game we’ve played in a while, going back to last year,” he said. “It was 60 minutes. I’m just happy with the way we played, the effort everybody, all four lines, all the D. It was great to see.”
Northeastern and Merrimack’s second contest of the weekend is scheduled to start Saturday at 2 p.m. at Matthews Arena. WRBB will have coverage starting a few minutes before puck drop, with Daisy Roberts and Mike Puzzanghera on the call.