Your Northeastern Huskies were back at it this afternoon in the 2nd half of a home and home vs. Merrimack College. Skating in the friendly confines of historic Matthews Arena usually brings out the best in the Huskies, but today that was not the case. While the result was similar to last night, the game play was very much not the same. All’s well that ends well however, as the Huskies remain perfect on the year hanging a 4-1 loss on the visiting Warriors.
In net was Gwyneth Phillips for NU and for MC it was Calli Hogarth. I don’t blame the Merrimack coaches for giving Emma Gorski the afternoon off as she faced over 50 shots in the loss last night. Once again Phillips hardest battle was against boredom as she faced 16 shots for the contest. To put that in context, NU put 21 pucks on net in the first period alone. Phillips looked good when called upon whenever, fluid with her lateral moves and directing the defense from the back end. Oh yeah, and she’s still perfect against Merrimack for her career, not a big deal.
You could see from the opening draw that MC decided to play a more physical game today. I mean pick your poison against the Huskies I guess. On one hand the Huskies can play keepaway with their cycle and wall game and you won’t touch the puck at all. On the other hand, you can run around dirty and put the Huskies on the PP and get lit the fudge up. A real Sophie’s choice that one is. The Warriors chose chaos and opted for the latter (I mean they picked the other option last night and that didn’t work out so well for them so can you really blame them?) The first PP of the day came at the 5 min mark and while the Huskies didn’t cash in, you could see the writing on the wall. MC didn’t clear the puck once during the PP and as soon as they got out of the box they went right back in with another whistle. For you stat nerds: In the first 9 minutes of the game, NU was on the man-advantage for 4 minutes. That’s not the way to slow the Huskies down.
Once back at full strength the ice definitely tilted the Huskies way. There was a lot of jump with the Huskies skating and they were flying to open the game. Molly Griffin drew first blood as she got it going at just about the midway point of the first. As the PP expired, Griffin drove the slot from the LW (with the entire MC squad trying to catch her), and went top shelf over the blocker. Sick snipe on the backhand. That’s called getting your first of the year in style.
Late in the period Megan Carter showed that she’s not just a pretty passer with an end-to-end rush that nearly cashed in. Carter gathered the puck behind her own net and glided up ice with her head up all the way. She froze 2 defenders when she opened her stance (12 to 6, heels together) and drove over the blue line to the net. Just letting everyone in Hockey East know that she’s got that in her tool bag too. Look out for Ms. Carter.
The physicality ramped up even more in the 2nd as NU got tired of strictly being on the receiving end. Ms. Congeniality Katy Knoll earned her full 2 minutes when she sent 2 Merrimack players tumbling like bowling pins. Maybe it was 1 minute for each player she dumped? During the ensuing PK, Maureen Murphy had as many saves as Phillips did. You want to talk about leadership? Watch Murph lay out on those blocks. Just after the penalty expired, Abbey Marohn got her first as a Husky. Carter fed the puck to Chloé Aurard at the blue line and as Aurard dropped down the RW wall she slid the puck to Marohn who was working out of the RW corner. Marohn dragged the puck backwards with her as she walked the blue line and put a wrister on net that found its way home. Look at that skating up top, so slick.
The play in the middle stanza was sloppy and choppy from both sides. This seemed to be Merrimack’s game plan and they dragged NU right down into that style of play. The zonetime started to even out in the 2nd and the shots reflected that as NU “only” outshot Merrimack 13-6. The extra-curriculars also ramped up, as after almost every whistle there was a scrum or an exchange of pleasantries. At this point the officiating crew needed to tamp things down before it got out of hand. They decided to go another route and ignore every infraction in front of them. I mean I’m not one to complain about officiating but I get better reffing for a 10pm weeknight beer league game.
The officiating crew arrives at Matthews
Alina Müeller got her team leading 6th goal of the season, when she finished off Aurard’s rebound with less than 4 minutes played in the final period. Müeller drove the net down the right side of the slot in a picture perfect 2:1 with Aurard. As she got to the bottom of the circle, Müeller laid the puck across for Aurard for the tap in. Hogarth got her right leg pad on the puck denying Aurard, but the rebound was there for Müeller to punch in. Don’t overlook the outlet pass from Murphy right on Müeller’s tape as she broke out of the defensive zone.
During an extended stay in the offensive zone, Murphy told everyone else they could change and she’d just hold the puck in the zone for them (probably what she said). As she circled the Merrimack defensive zone, Aurard came bombing into the O-zone off the bench and Murphy found her at the top of the paint. Aurard went top shelf and thanked Murphy for waiting for her (probably what she said).
A late goal that I’m guessing Phillips would want back finished the scoring for the afternoon, giving the Huskies the 4-1 victory. I’m not knocking Phillips in the slightest; it has to be a tough day when you’re playing both another team and the 4 skaters in stripes on the ice. 999 times out of 1000, Phillips has that knuckle puck; I guess the shooter should buy a lottery ticket this weekend.
Up next for the Huskies is a long bus ride and a pair against UMaine.
Some thoughts from the stands at Matthews Arena:
- Mia Brown is even more impressive with her puck possession in person. I still don’t think she knows what the puck looks like as she always has her head up. A key keep-in at the offensive blue line late in the game was crucial to killing the clock too.
- Lily Yovetich was all over the place this afternoon. Calm with the puck and crisp passing out of the zone.
- Holly Abela was a one-woman cycle multiple times today letting her teammates change on the fly and retaining possession. Just dogged work in the O-zone on the perimeter.
- Skylar Irving (the Mayor of Kingston – this nickname was endorsed this afternoon) was all over the place again and she was feeling it. Calling for the puck multiple times, I feel she’s about to start cashing in and the points are going to come in bunches.
- Taze Thompson was big on the walls all game and battled up and down the ice. The line of Thompson, Irving and Katy Knoll (the premier power forward in women’s hockey) are just out there enforcing their will on everyone they are up against. It didn’t show up on the scoresheet this afternoon, but this Bully Line is dominant. Yep, I’ve given their line a nickname, deal with it.
- Want to see how a player in the NU system develops? Late in the third, there was a change when NU got the puck deep in the Merrimack zone. As 4 players vacated the sheet, Jules Constantinople was the last player out there. The puck rimmed around to her side and it was a 50/50 puck for her to keep it in the zone, or if she lost the race, would send Merrimack away the other way. Constantinople laid off and drifted back on D (the right play) and directed the oncoming NU players on who to pick up and where to be. Heady play for a freshman that has a whole 6 games under her belt at the NCAA level.
On a personal note, I’d like to thank The Bully Line, Yovetich and all the players for taking the time to talk to my daughter after the game in the room. A fist bump and a smile may not be a lot in the grand scheme of things, but it means a lot to a 6 year old. It also guaranteed that the entire car ride home was a non-stop chant of “Let’s Go Huskies”, but that seems a small price to pay for the memories you guys made for her today.
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