NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Northeastern’s trip down to the Music City was, in short, a smash hit.
After beating Princeton Friday afternoon, the Huskies finished off an Ivy League sweep by defeating No. 9 Cornell, 5-1, Saturday afternoon behind two goals apiece from Alina Müller and Skylar Irving to win the Smashville Showcase.
For the Huskies, who entered the weekend on the back of an underwhelming stretch of conference games, the two dominant victories over ranked out-of-conference opponents served as a reminder of the talent they have. It was a matter of execution, and they executed in Nashville.
“Ten out of 10,” Irving said of the weekend experience. “It was awesome coming down here. Different scenery, playing against different teams. It was a good confidence booster, too, heading out of Hockey East. We have good competition there, but it was good to see that we did really well against other teams.”
Despite a convincing 4-1 win over Princeton on Friday, associate head coach Nick Carpenito said the team wasn’t happy with their slow start. It was something they were hoping would change going forward. But with their legs fully underneath them to start the second game in Nashville, the Huskies jumped on Cornell early.
Müller scored twice in the first, on a redirect in front and on an odd-man rush, before Irving added her first goal of the day by cashing in a rebound after an initial shot from freshman forward Lily Shannon. Irving dove after the puck and buried it while careening into the net in the process.
“It was a great play on Lily’s behalf,” Irving said. “She had a nice shot from the breakout. Coach and I had talked about just crashing the net and good things are going to happen. So I crashed the net, the puck and myself went in so that was nice.”
After conceding three goals from nine shots in the first, Cornell goaltender Deanna Fraser made way for sophomore Belle Mende. With Mende playing strong in the middle frame, the Big Red applied pressure throughout the period and eventually cashed in with senior defender Kaitlyn Isaac potting her first collegiate goal to cut the deficit to two.
But Northeastern responded in the third with insurance. Sophomore forward Taze Thompson forced a turnover behind the Cornell net and set up her freshman linemate Holly Abela in the slot to push the Huskies’ lead back to three just under six minutes into the period. It was Abela’s first goal since the opening weekend of the season when she buried three in two games.
Irving added her second of the game with four minutes remaining, cashing in on a rebound on the power play after her classmate Tory Mariano sent a shot in from the point.
“We jumped on them early, and [we] stayed the course,” said head coach Dave Flint. “Even when it got to 3-1, [we] didn’t panic at all. We started to fatigue a little bit there in the end [of the second] but we cranked it back up in the third.”
For the Huskies, who got to raise the Smashville Showcase championship guitar postgame, the win not only marked a return to form after a rough stretch, but also two big victories that could pay dividends when postseason seeds are announced.
“I told them before the game: this is a PairWise implications game,” Flint said. “Those are the games you’ve got to win. If you want to be in the discussion at the end of the year, you’ve got to come up with some big wins against some good teams, and we beat two good teams this weekend.”
Northeastern returns home next weekend to face Vermont in a two-game set at Matthews Arena. WRBB will have Matty Wasserman, Jack Sinclair, and Amelia Balingall on the call Friday night and Catherine Morrison and Daisy Roberts on the call for Saturday’s matinee.