CHESTNUT HILL — Well that was a lot better than last year.
After losing to Boston College in the Beanpot semifinals in 2022, Northeastern was looking to get back in the title game in the 44th Annual Beanpot, and back into the title game they’ll go, thanks to a 4-1 victory over Boston University at Conte Forum.
Headed into the first round matchup, the two teams could not have been more oddly matched — the Huskies secured a first place finish in Hockey East last Thursday, while the Terriers have struggled to climb out of the bottom half of the conference all season despite not losing in regulation for almost a month.
BU started the game putting pressure on senior netminder Gwyneth Philips net early. Northeastern had their chances as well, although BU kept them mainly to the perimeter when they could.
It changed rapidly coming out of the first media timeout, as both teams had rush opportunities on the other’s net that were ultimately turned away. The second Northeastern rush on graduate student goaltender Andrea Brändli’s net however, was not.
The Terriers, off a faceoff win, turned the puck over at the blueline to two of Northeastern’s lethal weapons; graduate students Maureen Murphy and Chloé Aurard.
Using their speed, the two forwards were able to break out past all but one BU skater, carrying the puck through the neutral zone on Aurard’s stick. With Murphy cutting to the net, Aurard opted to hold on to it until getting to the left faceoff circle where she passed it to her linemate. Murphy left all alone in front, put it easily onto her backhand and roofed it into the net past a sliding Brändli for the 1-0 lead.
“Chloé’s probably the fastest player in college hockey,” Murphy said on her goal. “I saw her on the 2-on-1, and we practiced a lot of 2-on-1s together yesterday ironically. I saw the goalie slide, so I put it on my backhand.”
The Murphy goal with 12:28 remaining in the first knocked the Terrier’s back, as they gave up the next four shots on goal and were hemmed in their defensive zone for an ensuing two minutes. After finally being able to break out, play became more of a back and forth between the two sides.
Aided by 11 faceoff wins to Northeastern’s eight — the Terrier’s win on average 45% of all faceoffs compared to Northeastern’s 55% mark — the Terriers tried to get on the board late to avoid heading into intermission down by a goal. That did not however stop the Huskies from starting their offensive onslaught once again before time expired. By the end of the first 20 minutes, Northeastern was up in shots 14-9.
Coming out of intermission it was BU who had a stronger opening. The Terriers peppered Philips with shots, putting four on her net under a minute. The chaos that resulted in the constant firing of shots on goal allowed for freshman Brooke Disher to be in the right place at the right time to find the back of the cage.
The defender reached the top of the blue paint after skating in from the left faceoff dot, as senior forward Julia Nearis bounced the puck off Philip’s pads. Disher nabbed the rebound and while falling to the ice shot the puck past a screened goaltender for her fifth goal of the season.
Northeastern did not wait long before their response to the tying goal. Less than two minutes later, once again the top line of Murphy, Aurard, and graduate student forward Alina Müller went to work.
Müller, after forcing a turnover at the blue line, entered the offensive zone by herself and carried the puck along the near boards while waiting for the rest of the unit to join her. She maintained control just long enough to find Aurard who was skating through the center of the zone. Aurard proceeded to make a move around freshman defender Maeve Kelly before backhanding it to Murphy who was positioned at the top of the crease. With Brändli caught by the opposite post, it was an easy tap-in for Murphy’s second goal of the game.
The rest of the period was all Northeastern, as Philips only had to make three more saves to Brändli’s 15. The skaters in front of the Terrier crease also got into the play, blocking eight more attempts that the Huskies attempted.
Thanks to graduate student defender Alex Allan being sent off for cross-checking, the Huskies got their only power play of the night with 3:12 left in the period. On that powerplay, senior forward Katy Knoll also went down hard causing her to miss a shift. Also missing out on the power play was Murphy, who had previously been taken down next to the net and was hurting on the bench.
Both skaters were able to return to the game afterwards, however the discombobulated special teams switches caused Northeastern to scramble to get anything going with their advantage.
“We got kind of a little messed up because Murph wasn’t ready to go,” said Northeastern head coach Dave Flint. “So we had to put another player out there, and we couldn’t really get anything going on that.”
This season the Northeastern power play can’t stay consistent. While their hot portions are red hot, their colds are easily recognizable, something Flint noted but didn’t seem too concerned over
“We’re going to need to be better on our power play moving forward here,” he said. “It’s been good in stretches this year, and then we’ve had some lulls. Right now I think we’re in a little bit of a lull, but I’m confident that they’ll figure it out.”
The final period of play started in a very similar fashion to the end of the previous one, with the Huskies dominating offensively. While Brändli was able to stand strong through the worst of it to start, her Swiss teammate Müller put an end to her dominant stretch.
While BU was originally able to clear the puck out of the zone thanks to senior forward Haylee Blinkhorn, she couldn’t quite connect with junior forward Lacey Martin. This allowed Murphy to swoop the puck up right in front of the Terrier bench and turn the rush the other way. She quickly passed to Müller, who fired it up and over the blocker of Brändli for the 3-1 lead.
The goaltender was good natured about her friend and teammate scoring on her, even joking about it post game.
“I really hoped she wouldn’t score today but it didn’t work out,” the netminder said.
With the goal, her team-leading 18th of the season, Müller is now at 43 points this season, and just 12 points behind Kendall Coyne Schofield’s program record in scoring of 249. Thanks to the electric play of the top line for Northeastern, that milestone might just be in reach for the current captain. As their coach said, it seems like every time they step on the ice, the top trio is poised to create something good.
“Every time they’re out there you’re kind of on the edge of your seat,” Flint said. “Like ‘alright what are they going to do’ and they usually don’t disappoint. You get used to it. It’s like when Kendall Coyne was here, every time she stepped on the ice you’re like ‘what’s going to happen, what big play is going to happen next.’”
Those on the line were also not shy to speak on how well they have been clicking, especially on their last stretch of time together as teammates in Huskies uniforms.
“It’s so much fun to play with two of the best players in college hockey,” Müller said. “We just share the puck really well and we have a lot of speed. Murph is a great scorer, great shooter. Whenever I can I try to give her the puck, because she’s better at scoring than I am.”
Even with a two-goal lead, Northeastern did not make it easy for themselves in the remaining 14 minutes of play. Sophomore forward Skylar Irving, who had been buzzing all over the ice throughout the game, took a slashing penalty with 10:07 left to play. The Terriers used their power play to build momentum, trying to close the gap with their cross town foes even slightly.
Philips and the Northeastern defense had other plans.
The netminder, who hasn’t given up more than a single goal in a game over the last two and a half months of the season, turned away the remaining shots she saw including a wild sequence in the final two minutes of play.
BU head coach Brian Durocher opted to pull Brändli with 2:12 to go, allowing his team to bring on the extra skater which was the driving factor in the Terriers keeping play in their offensive zone. Every time Northeastern seemed to have the puck on their stick to clear it into the open cage, a BU stick or body came in the way and forced the turnover.
A combined seven shots were either saved by Philips or blocked in front by a tired skater for the Huskies, including three thanks to forward Lily Shannon. The freshman sprawled herself out on the ice more than once in order to stop the puck from going on goal.
“I love how they all battled,” Flint said of the group caught out on the ice. “I don’t know how many blocks we had, maybe four or five in that series, and Gwyn made some big saves too. It was just a great thing to see. We don’t get put in that situation a lot so it was good to see them step up.”
It was finally sophomore defender Tory Mariano winning a puck battle in the corner that allowed Northeastern to end BU’s possession time and skate it the other way. Mariano pushed it up ice to sophomore forward Taze Thompson, who then skated it out herself. Thompson passed it back to Shannon who then gave it back, allowing Thompson to find the empty net for her fifth of the season and the 4-1 final score.
So after a disappointing defeat on home ice in last year’s Beanpot, the Huskies will return to the title game next week. Their opponent will be none other than this year’s host, the BC Eagles. For Northeastern, even after winning countless trophies over the last few years, they know just how important next week will be.
“The Beanpot has a huge history,” Müller said. “We want to be the top in Boston for sure. We want to win the title.”
Before their turn in the title game, Northeastern will head to Toscano Family Ice Forum on Friday for a matchup with the Huskies of Connecticut. Daisy Roberts and Emma Sullivan will have full coverage on WRBB Sports+ from Storrs when the puck drops at 6 p.m.