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BOSTON – After a 4-1 win over Merrimack in the quarterfinals, Northeastern returned to Matthews Arena for the semifinals of the Hockey East tournament, where they would take down New Hampshire in another 4-1 battle.

It was the fourth matchup between the two teams this season, with the Huskies having come out on top in each of the first three, albeit by just a one-goal margin in each contest.

Unlike in Saturday’s quarterfinal, Northeastern came out of the gates flying against the Wildcats. Although neither side was able to find the net in the first period, it was the Huskies who had the best of the chances. Senior defender Lily Yovetich shot a gorgeous opportunity high of the net, and a few minutes later a shot from sophomore forward Lily Shannon went through freshman goaltender Sedona Blair’s legs but just wide of the net.

New Hampshire’s team defense was on full display through the opening frame, as they blocked 13 shots in the first period. With just 11 seconds left in the first period, Northeastern defender Megan Carter took a heavy hit from graduate student Tamara Thierus. This gave the Huskies a power play to start the second period, and caused concern for Huskies faithful as Carter went down the tunnel.

Carter returned for the second period, but Northeastern was unable to capitalize on their powerplay, and the Wildcats found their game in the middle period. It was a hectic frame with chances on both ends. New Hampshire did what they do best: slow down opponents through the neutral zone, and generate chances off of turnovers.

UNH defender Kyla Bent and Northeastern’s Peyton Anderson traded penalties in the middle of the second period, but nothing would come of it, and the two teams would enter the third period still knotted up at zero.

“They are a good team, and they play us hard,” said Anderson. “They know how to get in our head with how physical they are.”

The third period was an eventful one, and it all began just over a minute into the final frame. Anderson picked up the puck behind Blair’s net, made a phenomenal turn around defender Marina Alvarez, and then tucked the puck inside the post to break the deadlock. It was Anderson’s team-leading 15th goal of the season.

“I look at the older girls on our team the last few years, and try to take after them,” Anderson said postgame, referencing the many star players who have donned the Northeastern sweater over the last decade.

Just nine seconds after Northeastern took the lead junior Tory Mariano went to the penalty box for boarding. About two thirds of the way through the penalty kill, Carter laid out UNH forward Shea Verrier on a hard open ice hit off the puck. Wildcats head coach Hilary Witt, a finalist for Hockey East coach of the year this season, asked for a review, and after consideration the officials handed Carter a five minute major penalty for high sticking.

The Huskies penalty kill, which ranks third in the country, was able to come up with a massive kill with their captain, and mainstay penalty killer, in the box. 

“Your captain and best defenseman goes in the box for five minutes. That [penalty kill] shows the grit and character of our players,” said Northeastern head coach Dave Flint. “That was a big moment in the game.”

At 13:27 of the third period, it was senior Chavonne Truter who knotted things up for UNH. She took a long wrist shot from above the circle which deflected off the outstretched glove of Gwyneth Philips and into the back of the net. It was an uncharacteristic mistake from the Hockey East goaltender of the year. 

“Gwyn came over [to the bench] and said, ‘sorry guys that was my fault,’” Flint relayed postgame. “The team responded, ‘we got you.’”

Back-and-forth play continued until Alvarez took a hooking penalty for the Wildcats with just under four minutes remaining. The Huskies first powerplay unit was unsuccessful, and with time dwindling down on the player advantage, Flint sent out his second unit.

With the zone established, defender Jules Constantinople fed freshman forward Peyton Compton for a one-timer from below the face off dot. Her shot resulted in a rebound which popped out right in front of the net to Shannon, who was able to out-muscle defender and UNH captain Charli Kettyle and jam in the go ahead goal with just 1:45 on the clock.

“For a lot of years we relied on one line…now, its different players, [and] different times,” Flint said. “Lily Shannon was struggling midseason trying to find the back of the net, she got put on the fourth line, and now she’s finding her groove in the postseason.”

With 59 seconds to go, Skylar Irving wristed home an empty netter to seal the victory, and with 13 seconds remaining Shannon did the same for good measure. The two goals would earn Shannon first star of the game honors. As the clock hit zero, the Huskies clinched an opportunity to win the school’s seventh straight Hockey East championship.

“We gave up a bad bounce goal,” Flint said. “Some teams would have folded. It’s reassuring for me to see the confidence level on the bench.”

Kayla Shiao/WRBB Sports

The game wasn’t always pretty, but it was a testament to the growth of this Huskies team this season.

“Going into the year I knew we had the talent, but I knew we were going to have to win games in different ways,” Flint said.

Tonight, it was their stout defending, penalty killing, third line, and timely scoring that set them apart from the Wildcats.

“We were 8-8 going into Thanksgiving,” Flint noted. “The team could have doubted themselves and packed it in. We could’ve had a very average season, [but] they chose the path that they wanted to go, they came together, they worked hard, and they found their identity.”

Northeastern will face off against UConn for the Hockey East championship on Saturday as the other Huskies defeated Boston College in overtime in the second semifinal matchup. WRBB will have full coverage with puck drop scheduled for noon EST.