BOSTON — Friday featured a pivotal Hockey East matchup where the New Hampshire Wildcats visited Matthews Arena, battling for sole possession of third place in the conference. Despite the preseason polls that placed UNH at eighth in the conference, this group has exceeded expectations this season.
Though the game was expected to be low scoring and defensive centered, it started with a bang. Within 15 seconds, the Huskies found themselves on the board with a shot from Peyton Anderson sneaking under the glove of UNH freshman goaltender Sedona Blair. The early struggle continued for Blair when 36 seconds later freshman forward Allie Lalonde netted a wrister to put the Huskies up 2-0.
Blair, though only a freshman, has had a formidable season, allowing only 2.32 goals per game and saving over 91% of her shots faced. However, she has struggled when seeing lower shot counts and is a goaltender who gets more comfortable as the game progresses. This was clear against Northeastern, as she did not let in another goal in the shots she faced from that point on.
“I think the players maybe thought, ‘Hey, this is gonna be an easy game tonight,’” said Northeastern head coach Dave Flint. “Credit to UNH, they didn’t go away and gave us everything we could handle.”
The Wildcats split the deficit six minutes later when forward Annie Berry rebounded a shot to make the score 2-1. Berry, a veteran leader, was able to get production going from the bottom six for UNH, a theme for the night.
Though the scoring started out with a burst, the following 53 minutes and 20 seconds saw 50 shots from both teams and 50 saves for the standout goaltenders Blair and Phillips. Though the first seven minutes of the game featured the entirety of the scoring, it did paint a picture of how the game looked.
The second period was controlled by UNH, as they outshot Northeastern 11-8 and held the offensive zone with regularity. They also took command of the neutral zone and had the Huskies on their heels.
Though there was no scoring in the second, there was one close call when a rebound off of Blair ricocheted off of both Lily Shannon and a Wildcat defender. Though the goal was initially celebrated, it was overturned for goaltender interference. It was one of many situations where Northeastern had players in the right spots, but couldn’t capitalize.
“We created some good opportunities, but every pass was a little bit off or bounced over somebody’s stick or somebody fanned on it,” Flint said. “That’s focus. … We need to be more focused with that”
Northeastern flipped a switch entering the third period, opening the frame looking hungry. They played their game, generating a high volume of shots from the blue line and creating rebound opportunities. Sophomore defender Jules Constantinople sent in a few missiles, leading to rebounds which were handled well by Blair.
It would be unfair to not give credit to Gwyneth Philips, Northeasterns’ standout goaltender, as she only allowed one goal on 25 shots faced. She will have to continue her run of dominance when the Huskies visit TD Garden on Tuesday to face Boston University for the Beanpot finals.
“The team is really fired up, anytime you’re in the Beanpot Championship, but now it’s even more so with it being at [TD] Garden,” Flint said. “Our third period was much better today, we’ve got to play like that Tuesday.”
Though the Huskies have beaten the Terriers in their first two matchups, this one projects to be a goaltender showdown, as BU returns their starter Callie Shanahan from injury and Philips looks to defend the Huskies as reigning Beanpot Champions.
WRBB will have live coverage from TD Garden as Northeastern plays BU for the Beanpot Championship. Emma Sullivan, Daisy Roberts, and Zeno Minotti will have the call on 104.9 FM for an 8 p.m. puck drop.