BOSTON — The Huskies’ up-and-down first semester was marked by moments of growth, stagnation, frustration, and resilience — and their final game of 2023 was a microcosm of each.
After surviving some rocky moments throughout Friday’s contest against Boston University, Northeastern did just enough to put things together late: behind freshman Ella Blackmore’s game-tying goal in the closing minutes of regulation and an overtime winner by junior Skylar Irving, the Huskies escaped Walter Brown Arena with a 2-1 victory.
The effort was Northeastern’s third-straight win, and improved their overall record to 11-8 (7-6 Hockey East) before the team heads into a month-long winter break.
“It feels really good to get that win after having that period of time where we weren’t scoring and we were having a hard time finding the back of the net,” Irving said. “It’s good going into next semester, just being able to say, ‘we’re going to score, we have all the confidence and all the scoring we need.’”
Northeastern has won their past three games without two of their top defenders in the lineup, graduate captain Megan Carter and senior Lily Yovetich. Carter in particular is an enormous loss, given how much of the 5-on-5 offense runs through her, in addition to her steadying play to clean up mistakes on the backend. But even amid Carter’s absence, the defense continued to hold up over the past week — largely due to stellar play from sophomore Jules Constantinople.
“We knew she was an unbelievable player,” Carpentio said of Constantinople. “It’s something that Carter went through herself when she was behind [Brooke] Hobson and [Skylar] Fontaine — as soon as those two graduated, Carter had to step up. Obviously this isn’t a graduation situation, but Jules has stepped up and taken charge of the back end. She’s going to be a rock for us.”
Things have not come easily to Northeastern’s offense throughout the semester, and some of those troubles persisted again on Friday. BU is a big, physical team, but Northeastern was routinely pushed off the puck and kept out to the perimeter of their offensive zone for much of the game.
“BU did an unbelievable job keeping us to the outside today, and they did a really good job blocking shots,” Carpenito said. “But I didn’t think we moved too well laterally to create lanes for ourselves, especially up high.”
That stagnation included the top line of Katy Knoll, Taze Thompson, and Irving, who were hemmed into the defensive zone for multiple shifts in the second period — part of what led to the staff even mixing around lines in the game’s later stages. Some tweaks, along with some more assertiveness in the offensive zone, began yielding better looks.
“You see that pretty much every time when our offense has struggled,” Carpenito said. “We’re not going to the net. We’re not willing to pay the price to get into the house. We’re not deflecting pucks, and we’re not getting there for rebounds. I thought we did a better job of it in the third period, and then sometimes when we keep going to the net, something’s gonna work out.”
Northeastern finally broke through with 4:25 remaining in the third period, with Kristina Allard leading the rush and creating space to find Blackmore, the strong-side trailer, who walked in and wrapped it around the pads of BU goaltender Alexa Matses.
“We’re all yelling from the bench to Ella to shoot the puck,” Carpentio said. “And it seems like she had a plan going in the whole time. She’s just going to push, take passes, and move. And she got rewarded.”
After the Huskies have struggled time and time again this season to find the equalizing goal late in games — they have five one-goal losses, including three 1-0 losses — Blackmore’s game-tying score was an enormous boost for both herself and the team.
“That was awesome,” Irving said of the tying score. “After Ella’s goal, we definitely had a lot of confidence and momentum. We started battling more, and getting pucks to the net. … It was good seeing us do things that we normally would do, which is getting to the net and just playing hard around there.”
BU possessed the puck for the majority of the overtime frame, but Irving skated loose through the neutral zone to form a 2-on-1 with Peyton Anderson, with a give-and-go ending with Irving burying the puck with 48 seconds remaining in overtime.
“Once I started skating in and I saw Peyton, I moved the puck instantly once I got over the blue line,” Irving said of the final play. “And I was like, ‘Peyton’s either going to score this or she’s going to pass it,’ and she made a nice pass and I just luckily was able to get the goal there.”
Northeastern did not put forth their best effort against BU’s defensive zone pressure, and still has plenty to clean up in the next month. But with their scrappy victories to close the first half on a high note, they can now enter the break in third place in the Hockey East standings, and with their season-long goals still in front of them.
“It’s been a process for sure,” Carpentio said. “It’s finally starting to pay off for us.”
The Huskies return to action on Tuesday, Jan. 2, when they will take on Yale in a NCAA Tournament rematch. Until then, be sure to check out WRBB’s continued coverage of Northeastern’s men’s hockey, and men’s and women’s basketball.