Your Northeastern Huskies welcomed in the Merrimack Warriors to historic Matthews Arena tonight for a quarterfinal matchup in the Hockey East playoffs. The Warriors upset UNH on Wednesday and what do they get as a reward for that hard fought victory? The opportunity to get pumped by the Huskies 8-0; I mean did you think the Huskies didn’t earn that top seed?
The Huskies welcomed back Alina Müller, who hadn’t suited up for NU since January. Were there concerns she’d be rusty? She was only overseas playing in the Olympics (4g-6a-10pts keep the change). At puck drop she was right back out on the top line between Chloé Aurard and Maureen Murphy without missing a beat. That trio dominated the score sheet tonight as they combined for 9 points and were absolutely buzzing.
I spoke to Associate Head Coach Nick Carpenito prior to the game and asked him what the mindset was going in and what the coaching staff was looking for. “We’re looking for statement games. With a single elimination format, it’s important to set the tone early.” I don’t know about you, but hanging 8 to open the tourney sure sounds like a statement. Some free advice to the Merrimack coaching staff: maybe tell the ladies to stay out of the penalty box? This was the Hockey East equivalent of F around and find out. The Huskies went 4-7 on the power play, and I thought the refs missed a bunch of obvious calls.
The game was over in the first minute when Miceala Sindoris got NU on the board and you could see Merrimack deflate. Lauren MacInnis came with the clapper from the point and Sindoris redirected the puck past Merrimack goalie Emma Gorski and the Huskies were off and running.
Sindoris doubled up a few minutes later when she tucked in a Skylar Irving rebound on the doorstep. Irving generated this sequence as she had her skating legs tonight. She picked off a clear attempt in the Merrimack zone and drove the net. The rebound popped to Sindoris at the left post and she tucked it home for the 2-0 lead. Let’s go!
Late in the period Aurard got one on the PP. Müller walked down the LW with her head up the whole way looking for her liney who was parked out front. Müller slid the puck to Aurard as she got to the goal line extended and Aurard made no mistake going upstairs over the glove to open up the lead to a 3 spot.
With about a minute left in the opening frame, a rare turnover in the NU end tested Aerin Frankel who (of course) was up to the task. She came up big off her line and shut down the bid. The All Galaxy Goalie only faced 4 shots in the opening frame, but she was dialed in from puck drop and made key saves down the stretch. Frankel was huge in the 2nd with a poke check when Merrimack was throwing everything at her but the kitchen sink. She ended the night with her 100th career win (and counting) and is only the 6th woman in NCAA D1 history to reach that milestone. Is that good?
The 2nd was more of the first: The Huskies dominated play and Merrimack grew more frustrated. 25 seconds into the middle frame, Murphy got her first of the night when she took a Müller feed just inside the Merrimack zone and beat Gorski with a drag snap over the blocker. If you watch the clip, you can see Murphy wait until the defenseman just crosses in front and screens the Merrimack goalie and that’s when she lets it fly. Pure filth.
Murphy got her 2nd of the night on? That’s right class, you got it: another power play. (I will say this: The Merrimack commitment to shorthanded play is something to be applauded. It takes a full team effort to spend that much time in the penalty box). Aurard circled up from the RW circle and put the puck on net from the dot. Skylar Fontaine crashed the net and her rebound just bounced over the goalie for the easy tuck for Murphy. What have I been telling you all this time? Good things happen when you go to the net.
In the final frame Murphy got her hatty. On yet another PP (Some free advice to the Merrimack coaching staff, stay out of the box!. When you take dumb penalties the other team scores: do you see the trend yet?), Murphy walked in from the LW circle and went far side high from the dot to notch her 4th hat trick of the season and her 3rd this month! Oh, again, not a big deal: Müller broke the all time NU assist record with that apple. This was the 1st Hockey East playoff hat trick since 2017 and the 9th all time. Is that good?
A great cycle in the Merrimack end led to a Mia Brown tally and NU scored the touchdown. Maddie Mills possessed the puck behind the Merrimack net and laid a sweet backhand out front. Brown was walking in alone from the LW dot and went far side over the glove. Ladies and Gentlemen, I believe the Huskies have slipped the chain.
Just when you thought it was over, the Warriors took yet another penalty (I mean at this point, Merrimack what are you doing? It’s embarrassing, I mean I’m embarrassed for you even if you’re not) and Andrea Renner made them pay. Brooke Hobson circled the Merrimack offensive zone and found Renner alone at the RW dot. The Captain’s cross-ice seam pass was on her tape and Renner unloaded a one-timer that beat Gorski over the glove. The pass was ridiculous and the clapper was a bomb. I want to refer to Renner as Hawkeye: Can I do that? Andrea let me know if that’s cool with you, I mean Hawkeye doesn’t miss either.
After the game, Coach Carpenito told me that he loved the Huskies depth tonight and how “everyone contributed”. In my humble opinion, the line of Irving, Sindoris and Tessa Ward were instrumental in this tilt. Between Irving’s speed, Sindoris’ silky mitts and Ward being her normal “Little Wardo of Hate” that line was a matchup nightmare for Merrimack.
The coaching staff wanted a Statement Game, and boy was this it. Contributions up and down the lineup, a team wide commitment to puck retrieval and strong play in all zones. This is how you want to start the campaign. With this win, the Huskies are one step closer to their first goal. Up next is UMaine at Matthews on Wednesday night. Before we go, I have to give some props:
Your Northeastern Huskies currently lead D1 in:
Win Percentage .848%
Shutouts 13 (now 14)
Scoring Defense 1.03
Power Play Goals 38 (now 42)
Aerin Frankel named 1st team Hockey East All Star and also named the BW Windjammer goaltender of the year (4th year in a row) She currently leads D1 in GAA (1.07), SV% (.956) and shutouts with 10 (now 11)
Maureen Murphy named 1st team Hockey East All Star and is leading the NCAA in PPG
Skylar Fontaine named 1st team Hockey East All Star
Chloé Aurard is the NCAA active leader in SHG with 10, tied for 7th in NCAA history
Maddie Mills is the NCAA active leader in PPG with 30
Alina Müller set the NU record for apples (and counting)