BOSTON — On the heels of a disappointing 3-0 loss to Providence College on Tuesday, Northeastern rallied back to pull off a much-needed win over visiting Holy Cross in Matthews Arena on Friday night.
With some of the Huskies’ top players out of the lineup, the game was an opportunity for the newer and younger players to step up to the plate and the lines reflected that.
Just 25 seconds into the game, Northeastern went on the power play when Holy Cross sophomore defender Mary Edmonds was sent to the box for high sticking. The Crusaders held strong on the penalty kill, keeping the Huskies circling the offensive zone, unable to sneak one into the net.
The Crusaders were back on the penalty kill less than a minute after their first expired, with a tripping minor awarded to junior forward Millie Sirum. The Huskies were unable to capitalize on their 5-on-4 advantage, and Holy Cross returned to full strength once again.
With shot after shot on the pads of Holy Cross junior goaltender Madison Beck, the Huskies played dominantly in the first period, controlling play for the vast majority of the period. However, both teams struggled to find connections, dumping the puck deep into the opposite zone time and time again.
Northeastern danced around the edges of the offensive zone, opting for long-range shots rather than closing in on the net, while the Crusaders sent the puck flying aimlessly across the ice nearly every time it came into their possession.
“We just didn’t want to get into the dirty areas; we didn’t want to drive to that heart. We’ve got to find a way to do that,” said Dave Flint, Northeastern’s head coach.
Although Northeastern outshot Holy Cross 17-9, none of either team’s attempts were able to make it past the two resilient goalies and they headed into the second period scoreless.
Again, the period was a demonstration of Husky dominance with little to show for it. Northeastern gained more traction on faceoffs, winning 12 of 17, a considerable improvement from the 11-11 split in the first.
At 3:40, Holy Cross got the power play advantage as Northeastern freshman forward Lily Brazis took a minor penalty for tripping. Proving their standing as a top penalty-killing unit in college hockey, the Huskies ran down the clock with ease.
As the battle to put a score on the board waged on, tensions rose between the two teams. Their play got progressively more physical and shoves were exchanged between players even after the whistle blew.
When the buzzer sounded to mark the end of the second period, the score still 0-0, the Huskies and the Crusaders clambered off the ice in a heat of frustration. Both teams had had plenty of opportunities to score, but had failed to swing the game in their favor.
“We just need more grit in front of the net — crash that net, drive that net, play the rebounds between the goalies,” said graduate student forward Chloe Aurard.
Heading into the third period, it was still anyone’s game and everyone was hungry to score.
Nearly three minutes in, Northeastern put themselves on the board. From the outskirts of the offensive zone, Aurard passed across the ice to graduate student defender Maude Poulin-Labelle, who fed the puck to senior forward Katy Knoll at net for a quick shot around Beck. The goal was Knoll’s 13th of the season.
With eight minutes to go in the game, graduate student forward Alina Mueller was sent to the box for interference and the Huskies were back on the penalty kill, up by just one point.
This wasn’t a problem for them, though, as Aurard grabbed the puck when Knoll poked it free from the Crusaders near the neutral zone and took control of the game. With Holy Cross senior forward Sofia Smithson on her heels, Aurard raced across the ice to put an unassisted short-handed goal in the net and the Huskies up by two.
“When we’re players down, we just think about the defense first because obviously we’re four people against five but it’s just jumping on that loose puck,” Aurard said.
With less than five minutes to go in the game, Northeastern freshman forward Holly Abela was ejected after a game misconduct call for contact to the head. The five-minute major left the Huskies with just four players for the remainder of the game.
Just 24 seconds into the extended power play, the Crusaders made the most of their opportunity. After toying with the puck for a few seconds near the blue line, freshman defenseman Casey Borgiel rocketed a shot through the center lane, tucking it in under the goalpost to narrow the gap back to a slim one-point margin. Sophomore defenseman Emilie Fortunato and Smithson are credited with the assists.
Despite Holy Cross having a two-man advantage over Northeastern after pulling the goalie with under two minutes to play, the Huskies yet again proved skillful on the penalty kill and the game ended 2-1.
Although Northeastern was favored to win — Holy Cross is currently in last place in the Hockey East standings — the narrow win was a little too close for comfort for the team.
“We just have to come together as a team,” Flint said. “They have to dig down and everybody’s going to have to step up their game a little bit and when you have players missing, that means everybody has to elevate.”
The Huskies travel to Hart Center Arena Saturday night to take on the Crusaders once again. The 7 p.m. matchup will be broadcast on WRBB+ with Emma Sullivan and Zach Lyons on the call.