BOSTON — The first semester of play came to a close on Saturday, as Northeastern took on Vermont for the second game of the weekend series. The Huskies ended up sweeping the two contests with the 13th-ranked team in the nation, capping off their strong first half of the season with a 5-1 victory.
In Friday’s game, Northeastern’s first goal came off the stick of graduate student forward Chloé Aurard thanks to an early power play. So as UVM’s junior defender Bella Parento headed to the box for a tripping penalty just over one minute into the game, all eyes were on the top power play unit to see if they could recreate yesterday’s magic. And recreate it they did.
Twenty seconds into the power play, Aurard received a pass from fellow graduate student Alina Müller in the neutral zone. She took it all the way down the ice herself and sent a laser toward junior netminder Jessie McPherson. McPherson, unable to get her glove up high enough, could only watch as the puck dinked off the inside of the goalpost and into the back of the net for the Huskies’ first of the day.
Just ten minutes later, the Huskies found themselves up five-on-four again after a boarding penalty on sophomore forward Evelyne Blais-Savoie. With thirty seconds left with the advantage, senior forward Katy Knoll staked through the center of the offensive zone to create her own lane. Once she saw she had one, she powered the puck through the five-hole of McPherson, notching the Huskies’ second power-play goal in as many tries.
“I think we’re starting to really gel,” Knoll said of the power play unit. “It’s a little out of the norm, having five forwards, but I think we’re doing very well. We put an emphasis on using our speed, especially on teams that go down and block a lot of shots. If we can use our speed to get around them and create lanes for ourselves, we can have pretty good success.”
Northeastern led by two goals heading into the second period, with no signs of slowing down. They ended the first frame with 13 shots on goal, compared to the Catamounts’ four. However, Vermont was determined to get the game back within reach.
Junior forward Natálie Mlynková had been the best player on the ice for the Catamounts all game. She, alongside her linemates, graduate students Theresa Schafzahl and Corrine McCool, went on an odd-player rush against the Northeastern defense, who were caught off guard by the sudden pressure from the Catamounts’ top line.
Schafzahl picked up the errant puck on the edge of the offensive zone and sent a pass to McCool, who took a quick shot. It forced senior goaltender Gwyneth Philips to make a sprawling save and left the back side of the net completely open. The rebound spilled away from Philips, and Mlynková was waiting right there to tap it in to put Vermont on the board with 11:39 left in the period.
If anyone thought allowing a goal would take the wind out of the Huskies’ sails, they were sorely mistaken. Just over two minutes later, Müller stole the puck on the edge of the neutral zone and skated down the center of the ice. She laid off a pass to graduate student Maureen Murphy. The forward, although pressured by two Catamounts, kept a level head. She easily skated past the defense and performed a tricky deke around McPherson, returning the two-goal lead to Northeastern, and granting Müller her third assist of the game.
When asked about the top line of Aurard, Murphy, and Müller, head coach Dave Flint commented on the strength of his top offensive performers and his appreciation of their consistent dominance.
“They’re scary every time they’re on the ice,” Flint said. “It’s not a secret how good they are. For us to be successful, we need them to step up in big games like this and perform, and they did that.”
The Huskies faced a challenge when sophomore forward Taze Thompson got sent to the box on a slashing call, but Northeastern’s ever-commanding penalty kill ensured that the Catamounts would be held stagnant.
As the penalty came to a close, junior defender Lily Yovetich sent a cross-ice pass to a waiting Knoll. Knoll tried to make a centering feed to Murphy, but it was blocked by the skate of Blais-Savoie. Knoll was unrelenting on her pressure as she stole back possession, snuck around behind the back of the goal, and shoveled the puck into the rear corner of the net past an unsuspecting McPherson. It was Knoll’s second of the game, and the second assist of the afternoon for Yovetich, who had the first multi-point performance of her career.
“The beginning of the season, we actually sat [Yovetich] a game because she wasn’t playing well, wasn’t playing to her potential,” Flint said. “When she came back in, all of a sudden she just started playing with confidence and just started to get better and better. … She just plays hard, she plays aggressively, it was nice to get two assists out of her today.”
With the Huskies up 4-1, the clock ticked down for the final seconds of the game, and all seemed to be over on both sides of the puck. But graduate student forward Mia Brown found an opportunity to truly seal the game shut, as a missed pass from graduate student Lilly Holmes skittered its way to the center of the offensive zone. Brown picked up the puck and slapped it into the top corner of the net with 0.4 seconds remaining on the game clock, emphatically capping off a dominant win for Northeastern.
High praise came from coach and teammates alike for Philips’ performance in net, especially as the win capped off four consecutive against ranked opponents.
“[Philips] has been rock solid,” Flint said. “She’s had a lot of work, 21 games this semester, that’s a lot. Especially when we went through a stretch where we were missing Carter, a couple of other key players, she’s stepped up. These last four games have all been against ranked opponents, and she’s stepped up, only one goal each game. … like I’ve always said, we have the best goaltender in the country, and here’s proof.”
Knoll agreed with this sentiment, calling Philips the “backbone of the team.”
“It does allow us to play with such a confidence, where even if you do have a lapse in the D-zone, we know that she’ll have our backs,” she said. “We owe it to her to score goals on the other end.”
Northeastern finishes the semester with a record of 18-2-1, ending the first part of their season on a six-game win streak. They will take a much-needed winter break from competitive play, before they return to action Jan. 8, 2023, against Boston University.
Until then, they’ll need to rest up. At the halfway mark of the season, the ceiling looks bright for the Huskies, and if they want to achieve the success they all hope for, they’ll need to return stronger than ever.
WRBB will return to coverage of Northeastern women’s hockey when the Huskies resume play in January. Keep an eye out for more programming notes after the new year.