The Northeastern Women’s hockey team took on the Wisconsin Badgers for the National Championship tonight in Erie, PA. The game pitted the top 2 seeds of the NCAA tournament and the Hockey East vs. the WCHA champs. Wisconsin was looking for their 6th title in school history and Northeastern was looking for their first (in any sport). It took extra time, but Wisconsin prevailed 2-1 and sent the Huskies home just short of their goal with only their second loss of the season.
The game started out with both teams playing cautiously and you could see the mutual respect the clubs had for each other’s games. The jitters that NU showed to open against UMD were not present, as the Huskies were defensively responsible from the opening draw. The play was more physical than in the games leading up to the final, but both teams stayed out of the box and off the scoresheet for the opening period. The shots were even at 9 apiece with Wisconsin having the edge in zonetime but the Huskies holding the advantage at the dot with a 9-2 edge. Aerin Frankel was solid early while her Wisconsin counterpart Kennedy Blair was giving up some rebounds early on. Maureen Murphy was putting on a back-checking clinic for the first 20, negating numerous Wisconsin bids.
To open the 2nd, NU was getting more looks and starting to dictate the play, but they had no net front presence. The Badgers’ goalie was getting clear looks at perimeter shots and the Huskies were having trouble getting their signature cycle game going. NU got the first PP opportunity of the game at the 4:00 mark and had some good looks, but couldn’t cash in. A bad holding call on Alina Mueller led to a WIS PP but they were held without a shot on net with the extra skater. During the PK, Murphy again flashed her defensive prowess, breaking up the Badgers’ entry into the NU zone and ragging time off the clock with some heads up hockey. During the WIS PP a cross checking call on the Badgers sent the teams to 4 on 4 play and things started to open up. After another NU PP (this time for too many men) expired, Casey O’Brien walked in alone coming out of the penalty box, but Frankel was patient and waited her out on the bid and then shut down the follow up to keep both teams knotted at zero heading into the final frame.
Frankel was tested 30 seconds into the 3rd off a turnover deep in the NU zone, but the all world goalie shut the door again. There was a noticeable change in the tempo of the game as both teams opened it up and started to trade chances. Up and down the ice with multiple flurries on both ends, this felt like it could easily be a 1-0 final score. Wisconsin got on the board first at the 11:00 mark when Makenna Webster put home a Casey O’Brien rebound to put the Badgers up by a goal. Abbey Marohn lost the puck in coverage and Webster was all alone at the top of the crease. It wasn’t looking good for the Huskies ….. for about 40 seconds. Mueller with the no look pass from down low on the left wing finds Chloe Aurard in stride at the dot and she goes far side corner over the glove : tie game. Watching these 2 skate together is sublime. The edge work and the way the use their bodies to gain space to make plays is fantastic. If you have a young skater, have them watch either of these 2 put on a clinic shift after shift.
This game had the feel of overtime from about midway through the 2nd period and sure enough, that’s where this game was going to be decided. About a minute into the OT period, Tessa Ward lays it on the line with some big shot blocks that left her doubled over on the ice. This beauty (of course!) finished her shift and made sure the puck was out of the zone before going for a change. Play like a girl indeed! Frankel turned aside a 3 shot flurry before what always happens in these type of games. A broken play – a bad bounce – and it’s all over. From behind the net Daryl Watts put the puck off NU defender Megan Carter’s hip and then off Frankel and into the net for the game winner. 999 times out of 1000 Carter makes that play and blocks the puck to the corner or sweeps it back behind the net. Puck luck was with the Badgers for that moment and the Huskies see their title dreams slip away.
What this team has accomplished is historic and each member of the roster should hold their head high. While this loss may sting, it will fade and the teams’ accomplishments and legacy will stand. This program, this team, these players and staff have built something to be proud of and that will carry on for the foreseeable future. Wayne Gretzky has often said that one of the most important lessons that his Oiler’s team learned was losing to the great Islanders dynasty the year before the Oilers went on their own run.
Sometimes you have to lose in order to learn how to win. The Huskies will be back.
Congratulations on a terrific season and a great tourney run. #HowlinHuskies