The Northeastern women’s hockey team took on the 5th seeded University of Minnesota/Duluth in the first of the NCAA Frozen Four games today in Erie, PA. The Huskies needed almost 4 periods to complete their come from behind win, dropping the Bulldogs by a 3-2 final score. The win today propels NU to their first ever National Championship game where they will take on the winner of Ohio State/Wisconsin.
The Bulldogs came out in the first period with a definitive game plan: establish a strong forecheck to limit the Huskies speed and stymie their breakouts. The strategy proved effective as UMD outshot NU 13-4 in the opening period and they had a clear advantage in offensive zone time. Aerin Frankel kept the Huskies in the game early with a big helping hand from Brooke Hobson as a shot at the 9:00 mark leaked through the all-universe goalie but Hobson was there to stop the puck from trickling in, keeping it a scoreless game. Between periods NU Head Coach Dave Flint talked about cleaning up their play and getting over any jitters; when you come in as the #1 seed, it comes with expectations and additional pressure.
Whatever the coaching staff/leadership group said in the room seemed to work as NU came out in the 2nd with a noticeable change in energy and pace. However, UMD was not going to roll over and got on the board first with a goal that had to go to review to be upheld. A broken play off a redirected puck went off the endboards and came to Mannon McMahon all alone at the left post for a tap in. Frankel was tied up at the other post with her skate and stick and the goal went to review for goaltender interference. The review was quick and the goal was upheld, but I would have liked to see a few more replays on that decision. On the PP later in the period, NU’s best look was a Skylar Fontaine feed to Alina Mueller in the slot for a one timer but goalie Emma Soderberg denied the chance. In the “vunerable minute” after the PP, Taylor Anderson was left all alone in front of the NU net as 3 Husky defenders were below the goal line and just like that it was 2-0 Bulldogs. Honey Badger Tessa Ward was whistled for slashing, and NU killed off an abbreviated PP without allowing a shot to reach the net. The teams played 4 on 4 and it looked like the game was opening up.
This was a pivotal moment for the Huskies: they have not faced a 2-goal deficit this year and they have only trailed heading into the 3rd one other time. Would they rise to the challenge or was this the curtain call for our heroines? Molly Griffin said “let me show you how we roll” and may have singlehandedly saved the NU season with her play. Defending in her own zone, this beauty cleared the puck with a sweet sweep-check and then worked her way through a UMD player to get the puck to the neutral zone. In frustration the UMD player stood up Griffin with a bodycheck to give NU a 2 man advantage that would carry over into the third period. That play won’t show up on any score sheets, it won’t be mentioned in the 3 stars or featured in any highlight packages, but it was THE momentum change.
The Huskies set up for the PP to start the 3rd and they looked noticeably calmer and relaxed on offense. Hobson carried across the zone and went back against the grain to Fontaine on the right side. Fontaine took a few strides into the slot and found Maureen Murphy at the post for the tuck in: 2-1 and the Huskies were on the comeback. You could see the change in the way they were hunting the puck that they weren’t done, this game was far from over. Veronika Pettey with the effort and the angle stole the puck on the forecheck and while pinned to the end boards she managed a backhand to Andrea Renner streaking down the left wing. Renner unloaded a clapper on net that was turned aside, but the rebound came right back to her. With her head up in one motion she corralled the rebound and found Katy Knoll driving the net. Knoll put it home to tie up the game. All 3 NU players displayed their high hockey IQ on the play: A smart forecheck with purpose, heads up for puck distribution and a strong drive to the net. Beautiful play all the way around. The Huskies seemed to settle back into their style of play once they were tied up. Even with sustained time in the UMD end and using speed through the neutral zone they just couldn’t solve Soderberg.
To paraphrase noted Baltimore philosopher Omar Little: “If you come at the Queen, you best not miss”. The UMD Bulldogs came into the game with a plan to eliminate the Huskies from the tourney. They had the opportunity and they had their chances, but what makes a good team great is the ability to adapt and find their way past any such obstacles and the Huskies did that this afternoon. They came out choppy in the first and UMD had the upper hand. Outshot, more scoring chances, and longer zone time: it was all going UMD’s way. They score 2 and the Huskies are looking at an offseason of “what just happened”? Then the Huskies got back to their game: Holding UMD to 5 shots per period including OT, doubling up on the scoring chances, sustained offensive zone time; it speaks to the UMD goalie that this game even went to OT. In the extra period Frankel was huge again with a save on a glove poke? (I honestly don’t know what else to call it since I’ve never seen it before) at the 12:00 mark to deny Anna Klein the game winner.
You’ve heard of Patty LaFontaine, and you’ve maybe heard of Steve Prefontaine, but by now, you should all know Skylar Fontaine. Of course the all time leading scorer for defense at NU would get the GWG. She was sniffing the net all night, it was only a matter of time. With 00:26 on the clock, Ward pressured the puck carrier behind the UMD net which forced an errant pass in the D Zone. All night Fontaine was reading the play and picking off passes and she did it again, gathering up the puck at the UMD blue line. From there she walked a defender in the high slot and put a wrister on net that broke off the goalie and in.
Game over – see you on Saturday for the National Championship #HowlinHuskies
- Both Frankel and Fontaine were invited to tryout for Team USA
- Knoll had another big day at the dot winning 14 out of 20 draws
- Alina Mueller is filthy. Her edge-work and the way she can find all the seams and soft spots is flat out brilliant. What a joy to watch her play.