ALLSTON — On a snowy Tuesday night, Northeastern and Harvard would face off in a game to determine who would have the chance to play in TD Garden and make women’s Beanpot history. Facing a three-win Harvard squad on their home ice, the Huskies secured a 1-0 victory over the Crimson in a matchup that was far more lopsided than the final score suggests.
Northeastern faced scoring struggles and inconsistent play through the first semester, but prior to their most recent series at Maine, things had begun to pick things up — they had won five in a row prior to their OT loss and tie in Orono. It was these new and improved Huskies that took to the ice of the Bright-Landry Hockey Center, and they went on to dominate the possession battle, only letting Harvard get nine total shots on goal throughout the 60 minutes of play.
“We were locked down and really stuck to our systems,” said senior defender and Northeastern captain Megan Carter. “That’s been an area of emphasis for us over the past few games, so to pull that together in this game was really important.”
The forecheck was Northeastern’s biggest asset throughout the game, making Harvard struggle to work the puck out of their defensive zone. The Crimson were unable to spend almost any time on offense, needing to focus all their energy on the Huskies’ unabating push toward the net. Even with a power play just over six minutes into the period, Northeastern handled it swiftly to swing the momentum even more into their hands.
They would have an opportunity of their own to show off the power play three and a half minutes later, when sophomore defender Kate Kasica headed into the penalty box on a hooking call. And with just three seconds remaining in the five-on-four for the Huskies, junior defender Tory Mariano sent in a howitzer from the blue line, with junior winger Taze Thompson awaiting at the edge of the crease to find the perfect angle to tip the puck into the back of the net. It was Thompson’s first time back on the ice at the Bright-Landry Hockey Center since transferring from Harvard to Northeastern ahead of her sophomore season last year.
Northeastern’s momentum only continued to grow after Thompson’s score, and they were consistently knocking on the door of junior netminder Alex Pellicci. Pellicci, however, handled the Huskies’ heavy pressure with ease, not allowing a single goal following Thompson’s on the power play.
“It could have been a four- or five-to-nothing game, I think, if their goalie wasn’t really good tonight,” said Northeastern head coach Dave Flint. “I said it a few times: ‘Let’s not start pressing, just keep doing what we’re doing. We’re getting good opportunities and that’s what we want. Just be strong on our sticks around the net, and get a chance to put it in.’”
That chance ultimately would not come for Northeastern, but regardless, they were able to put together a dominant performance and keep the Crimson off the board. The game marked an insurgence from the Huskies’ young third line, sophomores Mia Langlois and Lily Brazis and freshman Ella Blackmore, who had been steadily progressing over recent weeks. Blackmore in particular finished the game second on the team in shots on goal, tallying six throughout the game, with Brazis sitting in third with four. But it was their forecheck that really impressed, their relentlessness keeping Harvard on their toes in the defensive zone.
“They’ve been playing really well the last four games,” said Flint. “They’re just creating. I think they want to score some more goals, but those will come. They’re getting a lot of good chances and good looks, and I think the biggest part is that they’ve been better defensively. That’s why we’ve given them more responsibilities.”
With only one shot on goal allowed in the third period, Northeastern clearly made their mark in Allston. The atmosphere certainly lent itself to the Huskies — although the game was hosted by Harvard, the Huskies’ fans and Doghouse came to the Bright-Landry in style, drowning out the support of the few Harvard fans who came to cheer on the Crimson.
“Just having them in the stands is very special,” said Carter. “Making that feel like a home game is something that not a lot of schools can say. A lot of us went over and tapped the glass after just to show our appreciation. We just love having them, and they’re really an extension of our team.”
The Doghouse will certainly need to bring that same energy next Tuesday, with the women’s Beanpot making its first-ever finals appearance in TD Garden. The Huskies will be facing Boston University, a team with which they have been very evenly matched all season — though Northeastern holds a 3-0 record against them this year.
“Records don’t matter,” said Carter. “We may have beaten them three times, but it really doesn’t matter when we play them next week. Everyone is going to bring their ‘A’ game and we can see a totally different hockey team just in terms of the compete level. It’s going to be a lot of fun. The energy in the locker room after was very positive and we’re really looking forward to next week.”
Before they will have their chance to make history, though, Northeastern will need to take down familiar foe New Hampshire at home on Friday, a team that sits right on the Huskies’ tails in the Hockey East standings. Flint emphasized the next-game-up mentality for his team following the game.
“We’re still trying to find some consistency in our play, but I feel like it’s way better than it was at the beginning of the year,” said Flint. “I told the team after the game, the next game in front of us is the most important game of the year, and that’s going to be our mentality moving forward. We can’t look past Friday with the excitement of next Tuesday. We need to take care of Friday and then we’ll focus on Tuesday.”
WRBB’s Khalin Kapoor and Jackson Goodman will have live radio coverage of Northeastern’s matchup with UNH on Friday, Jan. 19 for puck drop at 7 p.m. For more Beanpot coverage, Emma Sullivan, Daisy Roberts, and Zeno Minotti will bring you the Beanpot finals against Boston University on Tuesday, Jan. 23.