ORONO, Maine — For a team as consistently successful and high-achieving as the Northeastern women’s hockey team, poor performances are exceedingly rare. But on Saturday, it was immediately obvious the Huskies just didn’t have their usual precision and dominant form. From the moment the puck was dropped for the first period to the final blow of the whistle after 60 minutes, the Huskies’ struggles were on full display against Maine, as they suffered a shocking 1-0 defeat for their first loss of the season.
From the get go, it was clear that the Huskies were not as sharp as they were the day prior, when they drubbed the Black Bears by a score of 6-1. Despite solid defending and an outstanding performance from junior goaltender Gwyneth Phillips, the Northeastern offense was stuck in the mud. The passing play from the Huskies was not up to their usual standards, with many passes taking players out of scoring areas and into non-threatening portions of the ice.
The Maine defense is certainly deserving of praise, with blueliners Kennedy Little and Emma Lange putting incredible effort into stifling each of the Huskies’ scoring chances. Little would also inspire her bench by putting her body on the line to block shots, leading her team in that category.
It took about eight minutes for the Black Bears to find cracks in the Northeastern defense. A sustained period in their offensive zone saw Phillips and the defenders in front of her come under increasing pressure. The Black Bears peppered shots in the direction of Phillips’ net, all while their skaters without the puck crowded the mouth of the goal.
Grace Heiting found herself with an open shooting lane, and a whole mess of bodies in front of Phillips. Taking advantage of the goaltender’s obstructed line of sight, Heiting fired a slapshot into the lower right of the goal. Phillips saw the shot, but it was too late. By the time she reacted, Heiting’s shot was already nestled in the back of the net.
“I thought we got out-worked, I thought we got out-executed. We weren’t willing to pay the price to go to the front of the net,” Associate Head Coach Nick Carpenito said after the game.
The Huskies trailed going into the first intermission for the first time all season. Certainly significant adjustments and a higher level of intensity were due for the second period, right?
Unfortunately, the opposite was the case. The Huskies began the second period even flatter than the first. Passes were highly inaccurate, off-the-puck movement was barely noticeable, and each Husky skater seemed to be more keen on taking on the entire Black Bear defense alone than working as a team.
The only positive from the Huskies perspective was the play of Phillips between the pipes. This game was her first true test as the Northeastern starter, and she kept the Huskies in it.
“She 100% kept us in it,” Carpenito said. “She’s always very calm and collected out of the back.”
The Huskies came out for the third period hanging onto hope that the ship would right itself. To their credit, it mostly did. The speed returned to their game, and they cleaned up a lot of the sloppy play in the neutral zone. But at that point, the Black Bears were in full preservation mode. They were defending with all of their energy for the duration of the third period. Maine goaltender Jordan Mattison was simply outstanding for the entire 60 minute matchup. Mattison was most tested in the third period, when the Huskies finally began to play with a level of desperation rarely seen by this group.
Phillips went to the bench with 90 seconds remaining, but despite having the extra attacker on the ice, the Huskies just couldn’t get past Mattison. The final horn would sound, and the Huskies would be defeated in regulation for the first time since this past February 1st.
As far as going forwards, Carpenito said that Northeastern “[needs] to figure out a way to focus. We know we can do it physically, but part of [hockey] is also mental. If you’re not into it mentally, you can’t execute those simple plays. We’re going to find a way to reset our mindset and make sure that we are ready in between the ears.”
Northeastern will take on the Providence Friars at Schneider Arena for the first game in a home-and-home series on Friday, October 28th at 6 p.m. Catherine Morrison, Daisy Roberts, and Emma Sullivan will have the call for WRBB Sports.