Your Northeastern Huskies braved an early February icy rain storm as they headed up 93 to take on the Merrimack Warriors this afternoon in North Andover. Both teams were coming into this matchup on losing streaks, so something had to give. At the final horn, it was the Huskies that righted their ship, handing the Warriors their 12th loss in a row with a 5-0 W at Lawler Rink.
Skylar Fontaine got the GWG 28 seconds after puck drop when she beat Emma Gorski over the shoulder to put the Huskies on the board. Maureen Murphy drove down the LW and laid the puck back to Chloé Aurard who was trailing the play. Aurard gathered the puck in the high slot and with a no look pass, put it right on Fontaine’s tape at the RW circle. Fontaine (who had opened up for the pass and was skating backwards) was looking for the pass the whole way and let go a wicked wrister over Gorski’s shoulder. On the replay you can see Fontaine pointing out Aurard to Murphy: play chess, not checkers.
The first period was a skating clinic by the Huskies as they dominated zone time and puck possession. When Merrimack did gain the zone they were kept to the perimeter and didn’t land their first shot on net until the 10 min mark. A giveaway by NU generated Merrimack’s only chance in the opening 16 mins when Emily Oosterveld walked in alone on the left wing. All Galaxy Goalie Aerin Frankel exploded off her line to come out and challenge the angle and made the right shoulder save to keep Merrimack off the board. They don’t just give away Patty Kazmaier awards you know.
Frankel was tested again late in the period as Merrimack finally generated some pressure on the power play. She had great side to side lateral movement and was tracking the puck well. They say your goalie has to be your best penalty killer, and Frankel certainly was. Not to be outdone on the PK was Katy Knoll who generated multiple chances in the first period while shorthanded.
With just under 6 minutes played in the 2nd period, Maureen Murphy got her first of the day when she beat Gorski on the backhand. Knoll with a great back check freed the puck up for Murphy in the neutral zone. Murphy gained the Merrimack zone and found Aurard in the high slot. Aurard drove the net and once Gorski committed, Aurard slid the puck back to Murphy who was coming in from the RW circle. Forehand – backhand – back of the net and the Huskies were up by a pair.
Once down by 2, Merrimack upped their pace and were challenging for loose pucks. They also were the benefit of some questionable calls. Before I go any further, let me say that officiating at any level is a thankless job, kudos to all the men and women who put on the stripes. That being said, what every player in any sport at any level wants from officials is consistency. When you don’t have that consistency, then chaos ensues. Stripes let a lot go in the opening period and the non-calls seemed (in my opinion from my couch) to favor Merrimack. When NU started to hold their lines and play an equally aggressive game, the hands started going up. I mean if this was the NHL the first question to the Merrimack coaches in post game would have been if running Frankel was part of the game plan.
Early in the final frame, Knoll’s hard work was rewarded. As I’ve pointed out before multiple times, The Hockey Gods always reward hard work. Knoll got her cookie when she finished off an Aurard feed to beat Gorski over the glove. Aurard dug the puck out of a scrum in the RW corner and worked her way behind the net with her head up the entire way. Knoll drove the net down the slot and was ready when Aurard laid her the backhand in front of the net. Up 3-0 and the Huskies had slipped the chain.
A questionable major call (at least in my eyes: the player was leaning forward over her stick as she lost the puck and Knoll was on her line going for the loose puck. It was a bad result but I don’t think deserving of a major) put NU on the PK for an extended time in the middle of the third. During their ensuing power play, Merrimack was whistled off (Karma? Makeup call? Hockey Gods?) and the teams skated 4 on 4 for 2 minutes. With the extra open ice, the Huskies took control once more as Maddie Mills got on the board. Murphy again with some excellent wall work behind the net found Mills all alone in front and she went 5-hole on Gorski. I mean check the game notes bud, you’re going to leave Mills all alone in the slot: what did you think was going to happen?
Finally Merrimack was called for
running the goalie interference and for those of you who like the oddity of special teams in hockey this next bit is for you. The teams played 4 on 3 for 8 seconds, then played 4 on 4 for 20 seconds before NU went on the PP for 1:32. The Huskies retained possession in the Merrimack zone until they were on the PP and then Murphy called deuces as she netted her 2nd of the game. Fontaine carried the puck down the RW wall and drew the defender before dishing to Murphy out in front. Murphy had half the net to shoot at as Gorski slid to the near post to defend against Fontaine. I guess she remembered Fontaine’s snipe to open the scoring.
The officials tried to get control of the game as they started whistling both teams for mean looks and bad intentions. Tessa Ward got called for a “hook” when the replay clearly showed the Merrimack player with a chicken wing on her blade. If the officials had gotten involved in the first period, none of the extra curricular activities at the end of the game would have even happened.
Some quick stats:
Aerin Frankel recorded her 8th shutout of the season to go along with her nation leading GAA (1.09) and save percentage (.956). Is that good? She’s also the only NCAA goaltender to appear in the top 3 in all of these categories.
Maureen Murphy notched a 5- point game today, not a big deal. She is currently leading the squad in points 17-18-35 and a +17. Not a bad Friday.
Skylar Fontaine has a team best 26 apples. Fontaine is 2nd amongst all defensemen in the assist category. Fontaine also notched career assist 100 today and is currently a +20.
Maddie Mills has 29 career power play goals. She is the current active NCAA leader in PP goals. I ask again (to the Merrimack coaching staff) why did you leave her alone in the slot?
Chloé Aurard is currently 2nd on the team in points 15-17-32 and a stunning +25 while leading the NCAA in shorties this season with 3.
Up next for NU is the consolation game at the Beanpot on Tuesday vs. BU before a pair with the Maine Black Bears. #HowlinHuskies