BOSTON — On Friday night, the top two teams in Hockey East took the ice in Matthews Arena in a highly contested battle that left Northeastern victorious over Vermont with a final score of 3-1.
The Huskies returned to their home arena after winning last week’s Smashville Showcase in Nashville, defeating top-15 opponents Princeton and Cornell to come away with the trophy. In Vermont, Northeastern faced another squad with top-15 pedigree, and one of their closest competitors in Hockey East.
“The last three games have been tough games for us,” said Northeastern head coach Dave Flint, “I like how we’ve stepped up and got the job done so far.”
With the recent return of graduate student forward Maureen Murphy, after her stint with the U.S. Women’s National Team in the Rivalry Series against Canada, and senior defenseman Megan Carter, after an injury pulled her off the ice for eight games, Northeastern was finally back at full strength. But without a single off-week in the first semester, the Huskies as a whole are in need of rest, and will have a one-month break after Saturday’s game.
“The message to the team has been not even [to] get through this week, but we need to be our best this week,” Murphy said.
The Huskies started off the game strong, pushing hard into their offensive zone. They dominated the first few minutes of the period, putting shots on the net of UVM junior goaltender Jessie McPherson, before an interference call on Northeastern graduate student Maureen Murphy put the Huskies on the penalty kill.
With a power play percentage of 29.4%, Vermont has the best conversion rate in Hockey East, third in the nation, making the 5-on-4 deficit dangerous for the Huskies.
Star Catamount graduate student forward Theresa Scafzahl and junior forward Natálie Mlynková took the opportunity in stride, passing the puck back and forth along the perimeter of the offensive zone and tallying Vermont’s first shots of the night. Despite the advantage, the combined efforts of Northeastern’s penalty kill unit, the 8th most effective in the nation, and senior goaltender Gwyneth Philips stalled the Catamounts long enough to return to full strength.
The Huskies then got their chance on the power play with 9:32 left in the period, when UVM senior forward Hailey Burns was sent to the box for interference. After controlling the puck nearly the entire game thus far, a Huskies goal seemed inevitable. Just 35 seconds into the power play, Northeastern graduate student forward Chloé Aurard sent the puck deep into the crease, where it ricocheted off the skate of Mlynková and under the pads of McPherson to put the Huskies on the board 1-0. Murphy and graduate student forward Alina Mueller are credited with the assists.
The Catamounts got one last big break in the period when Northeastern freshman defenseman Jules Constantinople took a two-minute minor for roughing, but a long jam-up at the boards took away much of their opportunity. Each team tacked on a few more shots, but they were unable to find home, and the period wound down with a score of 1-0 Northeastern.
When the second period kicked off, there seemed to be a new energy to the Catamounts. Right out of the gate, they pushed the pace in the offensive zone, a strong contrast from the previous period which had seen them defending their net for the majority of play. Just 2:23 into the period, contact between Northeastern freshman forward Lily Shannon and UVM graduate student forward Corinne McCool sent both players down on the ice. After struggling to get off the ice, McCool headed into the locker room to recover. The referees reviewed the play and deemed it a five-minute major penalty for contact to the head. Shannon then left the ice as well, ejected from the game.
The major penalty was Northeastern’s fourth this season.
“We just need to be more disciplined,” Flint said, “You’ve got to play under control and you’ve got to know the situation.”
With five minutes to run down on the clock, Northeastern had to be on top of their penalty-killing game. Less than a minute into Vermont’s power play, the Huskies got a break when UVM senior forward Lily Humphrey was sent to the box for interference. The 4-on-4 play evened the field temporarily, but it quickly expired and Northeastern was back on the defense. They didn’t let the deficit faze them, however, only allowing Vermont four total shots in the entire five minutes of their power play.
Northeastern then returned to full strength, finally breaking free of their defensive zone to test the skills of McPherson.
For the remainder of the period, it was an even matchup between Huskies and Catamounts. Both teams managed to protect their net, get up ice and tally some shots. However, neither team was able to make a clean break in the period and they headed off the ice with the score still 1-0 in favor of the Huskies.
Despite Northeastern’s slight lead, with the offensive power the Catamounts began generating in the second period, it was still anyone’s game as the two teams headed into the third and final period of play.
4:06 into the period, Northeastern senior forward Peyton Anderson dragged UVM’s hopes a little further down by putting her team on the board for the second time that night. After a turnover in their own zone, UVM had control, but before the puck even touched the blue line, Anderson stole it off the stick of Humphrey and wrapped it around behind McPherson to double Northeastern’s lead to 2-0 in an unassisted goal.
The newly extended lead seemed to light a fire under the Huskies, bursting out of the neutral zone to put shot after shot towards UVM’s net. The Catamounts then picked up the pace as well, the clock ticking down with nothing they could show for it.
Contact close to Northeastern’s goal sent another Catamount down on the ice. Junior forward Tynka Pátková was able to get up on her own, but headed down into the locker room where she remained for the rest of the game.
With just 4:04 left in the game, the Catamounts managed to finally get on the board. In a quick series of touches, graduate student defenseman Ellice Murphy passed the puck over to graduate student defenseman Sini Karjalainen, who rocketed it in deep for McCool, back on the ice after her injury earlier in the game, to chip it into the net.
With a now-close score of 2-1 and their time ticking away, UVM pulled McPherson in favor of the extra skater with less than a minute to go.
Capitalizing on this opportunity, Murphy dribbled the puck up the ice and maneuvered it around graduate student forward Theresa Schafzahl towards the empty net to put the Huskies up 3-1. The goal marked Murphy’s 100th point at Northeastern, and 183rd career point, after playing her first three seasons with Providence.
“The ability to learn from everyone on this team has just allowed me the opportunity to advance as a person and a player,” Murphy said of the accomplishment.
Their fate sealed, UVM put McPherson back in goal and the Huskies ran down the final 31 seconds of the game to finish the night victorious.
The Catamounts will return to Matthews Arena Saturday at 4 p.m. for another showdown with the Huskies. Catherine Morrison and Daisy Roberts will have the call on WRBB Sports+.