NORTH ANDOVER — For the first time this semester, Northeastern hit the road, taking a short trip up to Merrimack in the first leg of their double-travel weekend. With Northeastern already defeating the Warriors twice this season — and only falling to them once in program history — the Huskies were heavily favored to win. Although they left Lawler Rink victorious, the score was a bit too close for comfort. After a long, hard-fought battle from both sides, and an astonishing 40 saves from Merrimack freshman goaltender Calli Hogarth, Northeastern came out on top 3-1.
The Huskies got on the board earlyfrom the quick work of graduate student forward Chloé Aurard. In the defensive zone, senior defender Megan Carter passed the puck up to graduate student forward Maureen Murphy. Merrimack senior defender Teghan Inglis forced Murphy’s pass to Aurard at the center line with a check, drawing the delayed penalty as Aurard hustled down the ice, taking on all six Warriors, including Hogarth, single-handedly. After weaving through Merrimack’s defensive line, Aurard took a shot from the left faceoff circle towards the far post, tucking the puck into the back corner of the net to put her team in the lead only 2:50 into the game.
From there, Northeastern was on the power play. After winding down nearly the entire two minutes, the Warriors seemed to be in the clear. However, with Murphy’s rebound loose in the crease, the play was anything but done. Through the sticks of the Warriors, senior forward Peyton Anderson nudged the puck over to her linemate, fellow senior forward Katy Knoll, who flipped it over the pad of Hogarth, doubling the Huskies’ lead.
Just a few minutes later, the Warriors came roaring back with a score of their own. Off a pass from sophomore forward Tara Blackburn, junior defender Bree Bergeron shot the puck towards the net. It ricocheted off the pad of Northeastern senior goaltender Gwyneth Philips, brought off center by the attempt. Freshman forward Sophie Melsness dragged the puck in front, slapping it into the net before Philips could slide over to defend. The goal was the first of Melsness’s NCAA career.
The remaining 13 minutes of the period drew two more Merrimack penalties, but none the Huskies were able to capitalize on. The latter, a roughing call on junior forward Emily Oosterveld, carried over into the second period, leaving Northeastern to the player advantage when the teams headed back to the ice.
From the faceoff, Northeastern was on the offense. Even when their power play ran out, the Huskies made their way deep into Merrimack’s defensive zone, forcing them to clear the puck time and time again. The Huskies tallied 29 shots in the second period, 13 of them on goal, making the Warriors’ blue line work hard to protect their net.
The chippiness continued into the frame, trickling over to the Huskies’ bench. Each team took two penalties in those 20 minutes, including a stint of 4-on-4 play that negated the majority of the Huskies’ penalty kill.
Regardless of the opportunities for both sides, the teams left the period scoreless, the one-goal difference glaring on the scoreboard.
“I wish we had taken advantage of more of the power plays, but I thought the power players were looking pretty good,” said Northeastern head coach Dave Flint.
When the puck dropped to start the third period, it was still anyone’s game. Northeastern was again dominant on the rush, but the Warriors got a couple strong chances of their own to counteract the visitors’ momentum. Merrimack kept pressure at the blue line of their defensive zone, as they had all game long, but it was not enough to get the drive they needed to even the tally.
Each team recorded another two penalties, the tension and frustration of over 40 scoreless minutes boiling over; however, Northeastern put that to rest by making it a two-goal game once again.
With two minutes left on the clock, the Warriors pulled Hogarth in favor of the extra skater. Northeastern made a quick turnover, and graduate student defender Maude Poulin-Labelle, assisted by Aurard, broke into the offensive zone. Poulin-Labelle danced around the Merrimack defenders, slowing down in front of the goal to backhand the puck into the empty net to seal the game.
Hogarth returned to the goal after the third Husky tally, but in a last-minute attempt to gain some traction, she was pulled yet again. While the Warriors were successful in protecting their net this time, so were the Huskies, and the score remained 3-1 as the game-ending horn sounded.
Although a total of 11 penalties were called throughout the game, many more struggles between opponents were left uncalled, including some separate occasions of jostling that left freshman forwards Lily Shannon and Lily Brazis, and Carter splayed out on the ice.
“Merrimack takes a lot of penalties — they’re one of the most penalized teams in the country and that’s for a reason,” Flint said.
Northeastern ended the game with 73 shots, 43 of them on goal, putting to the test both the skills of Hogarth and the defenders in front of her. While Merrimack’s blue line maintained decent pressure against the Huskies, protecting Hogarth from some dangerous plays, it was the freshman netminder whose steadfast efforts kept the game close. In only her ninth game, she already boasts a higher save percentage than the Warriors’ senior goaltender Emma Gorski. Hogarth will be a force to be reckoned with as her collegiate career continues.
From North Andover, the Huskies will head north to take on Vermont Saturday afternoon. In a weekend series in December, Northeastern defeated the Catamounts in back-to-back games. The two teams take the ice at the Gutterson Fieldhouse for a 4 p.m. puck drop.