Thank You

By Milton Posner

Today was supposed to be Commencement Day. Northeastern’s graduating class would have filed into their seats on the floor of TD Garden, then strolled onto the stage, shaken hands with the school’s infinitely memeable president, and received their diplomas as their families celebrated their years of hard work.

But with an ongoing pandemic it is foolish to gather in groups of 20, let alone 20,000. In light of the graduation cancellation and the station’s inability to say a proper goodbye, I want to acknowledge two WRBB Sports graduating seniors for what they’ve contributed to Northeastern and what they’ve meant to me.

Michael Petillo (right) was our sports director this year, the culmination of a four-year journey. At my first WRBB show, I was struck by his analysis. He weighed in on every topic so clearly and cleanly you’d be forgiven for thinking he’d written and revised his takes beforehand.

The year after, we did our first game together after a schedule juggle left us both in South Carolina for the Charleston Classic. I was just beginning to broadcast Northeastern basketball regularly, and I looked to Mike for an example of how to call the action and pace the broadcast. Again, he seldom stumbled.

But it was this past season I’ll remember most, the season when Mike took over the sports director job that had, the previous year, provided ample responsibility for two people. Leadership of our station relies not just on sports knowledge and broadcasting skill, but on the personality and positive attitude to attract new broadcasters and make them feel valued. Mike made it look easy.

If Mike was the tip of the spear, Matt Neiser was the Swiss army knife.

Neez (right) did everything for this station — hockey and basketball, broadcasting and writing, even photography when the mood struck him. He was a constant resource for new broadcasters, the first to inform us of breaking Northeastern sports news, and somehow found time to direct our finances this year.

My first real broadcasting experience with Neez was the Wilmington–Charleston trip last year. When a piece of faulty equipment left us without our usual setup in a deafening arena, we took turns shouting our play calls into our earbuds, then made frantic rounds the next day to electronics stores in both Carolinas desperately seeking a replacement. Thank god we found one.

Of the games I called with Neez, my favorite was the men’s basketball game against Holy Cross in November. The Crusaders weren’t a great squad and the Huskies had lost two in a row, so we weren’t expecting much.

But the Huskies decided they just weren’t in the mood to miss shots that night. Their 101–44 win, the largest in program history, was sealed well before halftime. Neez and I couldn’t stop yelling, laughing, celebrating the sheer ridiculousness of what we were seeing. On the commuter rail back to Boston, he helped me write a game story that still brings me fond memories of the evening when the Huskies demolished a decades-old record.

Anyone who heard Neez call a game would never think to question his passion. For anyone who hasn’t heard him, his goodbye thread is ample proof (click here for the whole thing).

The most obvious Husky sports casualty of the pandemic cancellations was the women’s hockey team. Fresh off a commanding win in the Hockey East Championship and with just one loss in the previous two months, they were poised for a serious run at a national championship. They deserved that chance. Same goes for Neez, who deserved his chance to don his headphones one more time and call his first NCAA Tournament game.

Boys, you deserve to be on that graduation stage at TD Garden, the home of your beloved Celtics. You deserve as many high-leverage tournament games as a coronavirus-free world would have thrown at you. And you deserve an in-person sendoff from your broadcast partners, the ones you supported and elevated and welcomed into the fold. But this will have to do for now. When the pandemic passes and the sports resume on Huntington Avenue, the rest of us will do our best to follow your example and do a job you’d be proud of.

We are better broadcasters for having worked with you. We are better friends for having known you. And we are grateful for the years you gave us.

Boursiquot, Murphy, Franklin to Leave Northeastern

By Milton Posner

Not one week after a surprising, inspiring, rejuvenating run to the CAA Championship game, Northeastern men’s basketball found itself in trouble.

Compounding the losses of CAA leading scorer Jordan Roland and versatile four-year starter Bolden Brace to graduation, three players — Max Boursiquot, Tomas Murphy, and Myles Franklin — announced their intent to transfer from the program.

Franklin logged decent minutes in non-conference play this year, but saw his workload wither as the season progressed. Though he showed flashes of a stabilizing, disciplined presence at the point, many of his better offensive performances came in games where the outcome was no longer in doubt. After sitting on the bench for two years behind All-CAA First Teamer Vasa Pusica, then watching freshman Tyson Walker start over him all season, Franklin probably figured his playing team wouldn’t increase next year. As a grad transfer, he’ll be eligible to play this fall.

Murphy was supposed to see a larger role this season, as the graduation of bruising big man Anthony Green left shoes to fill in the paint. But after playing just four games, Murphy injured his ankle in a mid-November practice. Though the team was initially hopeful he’d return before too long, he’d played his last game in a Husky uniform.

The four-star recruit averaged seven points and three rebounds per game across two full seasons, with excellent shooting efficiency and a burgeoning perimeter shot to boot. Husky fans will never get to see what higher usage would have done to his offensive footprint.

Murphy will head north to the University of Vermont. Because he played only four games this season, it will count as an redshirt year, meaning he has two years of eligibility remaining and can suit up this fall.

But by far the biggest loss of the three was Boursiquot.

As Murphy’s absence stretched from mid-November into conference play, Boursiquot took center stage. His offensive contributions — nine points and five rebounds per game — were solid, and his versatility on that end helped to keep the offense moving.

But his defense was otherworldly. Though he stood just 6’5” and weighed 211 pounds, he started most games at center, routinely frustrating taller, bigger players. He was as strong, pound-for-pound, as any player in the conference, and he used his low center of gravity to dislodge the conference’s skyscrapers and force them into areas where they were less comfortable.

The Husky defense allowed the fewest points of any CAA team, and Boursiquot was the versatile engine. His speed, quickness, and agility allowed him to bottle up guards on the perimeter, then battle big men in the post without missing a beat. In two matchups with eventual CAA Player of the Year and likely NBA draft pick Nathan Knight, Boursiquot held his own for long stretches and earned high praise from Knight. His active hands were a constant presence in passing lanes, forcing live-ball turnovers the Huskies converted into transition buckets.

He was arguably the most valuable defensive player in the conference. That Knight won CAA Defensive Player of the Year is unsurprising; award voters are more likely to evaluate defense through basic stats like rebounds, blocks, and steals, and Boursiquot was somewhat underwhelming on paper. But his effort, strength, intensity, spatial awareness, and basketball intelligence made him a sight to behold, and his exclusion from the All-Defensive Team was a horrific snub.

His finest hour came in the CAA Tournament earlier this month. With Roland struggling to find his shooting touch, Boursiquot picked up the offensive load, averaging 13 points on 58 percent shooting to go along with seven rebounds. This in addition to guarding Towson’s formidable frontcourt, red-hot forward Federico Poser of Elon, and human-tank hybrid Isaac Kante of Hofstra.

Because he redshirted last year after a hip injury, Boursiquot will be a grad transfer, eligible to play this fall wherever he goes.

Though the loss of Franklin will likely prove negligible for head coach Bill Coen’s rotation, Boursiquot and Murphy were the two best returning forwards. Notre Dame midseason transfer Chris Doherty will likely provide a boost when he becomes eligible to play, but it will be up to 6’9” junior Greg Eboigbodin to anchor the defense until then.

The versatility of Shaquille Walters, who assumed some point guard duties in the last few weeks of the season, is suddenly paramount. So is the scoring punch of Tyson Walker, whose nine shot attempts per game this season pale in comparison to what he’ll likely post next year.

But the solution can’t be as simple as those two turning into stars. Besides Walker and Walters, no returning Husky averaged more than four points per game. For Northeastern to fill the shoes of their two graduates and three transfers, everyone will need to step up.

Northeastern Loses CAA Championship

By Milton Posner

WASHINGTON — Before the swarming zone defense, before the frantic scrambles for offensive rebounds, before the drives and the kickouts and the one-on-one brilliance, Tuesday night’s game was about vengeance.

The Northeastern Huskies knew it better than anybody. Two years ago, after locking up a share of the CAA regular-season title, battling their way to the conference championship, and building a 17-point lead in the second half, the Huskies slowly collapsed as the Charleston Cougars clawed their way to an overtime victory.

The Cougars went to the NCAA Tournament. The Huskies went home.

That loss stayed with the Huskies. It fueled them. As they embarked on their 2018–19 season, they focused on a singular goal: returning to the championship game and seizing the moment that had slipped through their fingers. After exacting revenge on Charleston in the semifinal, the Huskies did just that, knocking off the Hofstra Pride, 82–74, to win the March Madness berth they’d dreamed of for a year. It was vengeance, and it felt fantastic.

The Huskies went to the NCAA Tournament. The Pride went home.

But on Tuesday night, in a rematch with the Pride, the Huskies found out what the other end of vengeance feels like. In a remarkably close, ludicrously energetic championship game, the Huskies fell to the Pride, 70–61.

The Pride are going to the NCAA Tournament. The Huskies are going home.

“It’s tough,” a visibly choked-up Max Boursiquot said after the game. “It’s called March Madness for a reason.”

“That feeling of losing and then coming back the next year and having another opportunity is a special feeling,” Bolden Brace added. “You don’t get that unless you lose . . . They played with an edge and played with that desire to win and I think they deserve it.”

Though Hofstra was coming off blowout wins over Drexel and Delaware, it was Northeastern that struck first, running up an early lead thanks to aggressive drives. Sometimes those drives yielded layups, other times they yielded open threes off the catch for Husky guards who filled to the corner when Hofstra shifted to protect the paint. With his team trailing 10–3, Hofstra head coach Joe Mihalich called for time.

While the scoring came more evenly after that, the Huskies continued to earn quality looks. Hofstra famously plays a matchup zone, a combination of zone and man-to-man principles that allows for pressuring ballhandlers on the perimeter without the draining effort of man defense. The Huskies, who struggled against zone defenses in their other CAA Tournament games against Towson and Elon, countered by repeatedly entering the ball to small-ball center Max Boursiquot near the foul line, warping the zone and freeing up cutting and kickout opportunities. The Huskies’ threes were finally falling, they hustled to every rebound and loose ball, and held the Pride at bay.

But the squad with the best regular-season record couldn’t be subdued indefinitely, and when Husky point guard Tyson Walker aggravated a left shoulder injury and went to the bench, the Pride seized the momentum and sent their fans into a frenzy. Walker returned but struggled, finishing with just four points.

“When he started the second half he just didn’t look right to me, just didn’t look his normal competitive self,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen noted. “I gotta give him a world of credit just for going out there and trying. His competitiveness, his grit and determination, and his toughness are really admirable . . . that was a physical game and he put himself out there and put himself on the line for the team and the program.”

After a few minutes of hanging around and trading buckets, Hofstra finally drew even. Three Jalen Ray free throws were bookended by two eerily similar sequences in which a Hofstra guard drove into the paint and had a layup blocked, only for his teammates to secure the rebound and nail a three as the shot clock ran down. The upshot of these three mediocre possessions: nine points.

Guilien Smith, not to be outdone, let the Pride have the lead for all of 18 seconds.

By this point the energy in the building was palpable. Each team sensed the audible footsteps of the other and the gradual ticking of the clock, and boosted their energy accordingly. It didn’t matter that their workload — three playoff games in three days — was unprecedented in their schedules this season; they played like their jerseys had been set ablaze.

“The way we summoned that energy was just playing together and using each other and feeding off each other’s energy,” Brace said. “When somebody was down, I think there was always someone there to pick them up, and I think that just goes to show you how good of a team we were this year.”

A turnaround jumper from Shaq Walters afforded the Huskies a two-point halftime edge, far narrower than their double-digit halftime margins in their last two games. But that was the only real constant for much of the game: neither team could free itself from the other. For a 23-minute stretch spanning both halves, neither team built a lead greater than five points.

There was plenty for the Huskies to be happy about at the break. Boursiquot, Walters, and Brace all had at least five points and three rebounds, and all of them were shooting efficiently. On the opposite side of the box score, Eli Pemberton decidedly wasn’t; he’d missed eight of his 11 shots amid excellent pressure from Walters and Smith.

But there were also deficiencies that allowed the Pride to close the gap. Roland, the conference’s leading scorer, had shot the ball just three times. Hofstra pulled down six more offensive rebounds than Northeastern and netted 10 second-chance points to the Huskies’ none. Isaac Kante, the lone man in the middle on a team built around guards, snatched 10 rebounds.

The second half began with promise, as Brace knocked down a catch-and-shoot three from the corner. Brace often played with hesitation this season, opting for ball fakes, halfhearted drives, and slow-moving handoffs instead of relying on his elite perimeter shooting. That version of him completely vanished in the CAA Tournament, as he performed with the conviction, determination, and leadership of a senior who didn’t want to play his last college game.

Desure Buie didn’t want to play his last game either. While his scoring buoyed the Pride all night, it was his passing that turned heads, excited fans, and catalyzed the Hofstra run. He began with a quick first step around Walker, which forced Walters to help off Pemberton. Without looking, Buie wrapped a magnificent bounce pass around his head to a now-wide open Pemberton in the corner, who finished off the play to retake the lead.

Just seconds later, Buie snuck up behind Boursiquot and jabbed the ball loose. On the ensuing two-on-one, Walters planned his chase-down block, timing his approach and jump to meet Buie at the rim. But with the level of grace and smarts Buie has shown this year, he wasn’t about to be on anyone’s highlight reel. Instead he added to his own and forced Coen to call timeout.

The Pride looked poised to pull away and the Huskies needed an energy boost. And did Max Boursiquot ever respond.

Boursiquot has been anything and everything the Huskies needed to turn around a season marked by an unrealistic number of close, disappointing losses. He provides shooting, passing, positional versatility, perimeter and post defense, rebounding, and, most importantly, energy. He treats every rebound and loose ball as if it’s his birthright.

Right out of the timeout, Boursiquot, under duress, threw a picture-perfect cross-court pass to Roland for a triple. When Roland missed a three the next trip down, Boursiquot bodied Kante — who outweighs him by about 30 pounds — to snatch the rebound, received a pass at the top of the arc, and beat Kante with a right-to-left crossover and first step so quick that he seemed to teleport from the perimeter to the block. Even when he stumbled and lost the ball on a drive, Boursiquot grabbed it from Kante and threw a spot-on pass to a teammate — all while sitting on the floor.

When Boursiquot’s offense forced Mihalich to call timeout, his message to Kante in the huddle was simple: we need to defend Max Boursiquot because he’s killing us.

That said, Kante had his way offensively with Boursiquot on a handful of possessions. Kante would establish deep position, earning himself either an easy layup off a feed or an offensive rebound when a perimeter shot clanged off the iron. Though Boursiquot enjoyed slightly greater success when fronting Kante to deny him the ball, the Pride forward still posted a preposterous nine points and 15 rebounds. He had as many offensive rebounds (six) as the entire Northeastern team.

But it was not Kante that governed play down the stretch. It was Buie.

Buie had an admirable campaign a year ago, but was considered the third offensive option behind Pemberton and two-time CAA Player of the Year Justin Wright-Foreman. After Boursiquot and Roland each picked up their fourth foul and headed to the bench with 5:23 to play, and with Hofstra’s other top scorers — Pemberton and Jalen Ray — not shooting efficiently, Buie seized his moment.

He began with a tough, drifting, pullup long two, a difficult shot with low value. He made it anyway. As Northeastern’s offense sputtered amid suffocating on-ball pressure from the Pride, Buie stretched the lead to nine with a quick drive, a pump fake to get Guilien Smith in the air, and a strong finish through contact.

With less than two minutes left and the shot clock ticking down on a stagnant Hofstra possession, Buie sized up a top-notch defender in Guilien Smith, threw him a few crossovers, and fired up a contested three when the dribbles failed to earn him a sliver of separation.

Buie wound up on the floor. The ball wound up in the bucket.

Despite Roland’s impressive drifting three a short while later, Buie’s bucket proved the dagger. The Huskies’ second-half fouling had put the Pride in the double bonus, so the Huskies couldn’t get lucky with the Pride missing the front end of one-and-ones. They could only watch as the Pride made every one of their free throws.

The Pride had their first March Madness berth since 2001. They also had their revenge.

“It is awfully sweet,” Mihalich said after the on-court celebration, his undone blue tie still hanging from his neck. “Not just because we won. It’s something to be really proud of. We beat a bunch of champions. The championship went through them.”

“This feeling is everything,” Ray said. “This has been our mission since day one . . . this time we completed our mission.”

“We came up about 20 minutes short,” Coen said. “I thought we played a really strong first half, very competitive game overall, and these guys played their hearts out. But in the end I thought it was a little bit too much Desure Buie.”

With 19 seconds to play and the outcome no longer in doubt, both coaches opted for a platoon swap. While the Hofstra players enjoyed the applause, cheers, and adulation of a jubilant fan section, the Huskies filed off the court and into the waiting embrace of Bill Coen. The moment was especially poignant for Brace, Roland, and Smith, who ended their college careers on a brutal loss.

“I thanked those guys for their unwavering commitment to Northeastern University, to this program, all their hard work and dedication,” Coen said, his voice breaking a bit. “So much goes unseen — the long days in the weight room, long days of training, hours of practice, hours of individual time, hours of watching tape. It’s a commitment, and that group was a special group.

“Bo has played in three CAA Championship games in his four years; he’s made an incredible mark on this program. Jordan has made an incredible mark on this program. And I think if you asked every player on our team, maybe the favorite teammate in the locker room is Guilien Smith. In a short time he’s made an incredible impact in terms of relationships, and ultimately that’s what this whole experience is all about.

“You’d love to win championships each and every year, but . . . what lasts is the mutual respect that you earn by giving your best. And when you do that, whether you win or lose, nobody can take that from you for the rest of your life. These guys will share a bond because they know they gave it up for each other, and that’s the real championship in my mind.”

Men’s Basketball Downs Elon, Advances to CAA Championship

Reminder: Northeastern faces Hofstra in the CAA Championship tonight at 7 PM. Michael Petillo, Matt Neiser, and Milton Posner will have the call from Washington D.C., with covering beginning around 15 minutes before tipoff.

By Matt Neiser

WASHINGTON — No. 6 seed vs. No. 7 seed in a ten-team tournament. It sounds like an early-round matchup that no one cares about because neither team will threaten for the title. Right?

Wrong. It’s actually a semifinal, and both teams beat top-three seeds to get there.

Confused? You must be new around here. Welcome to the CAA. 

Northeastern and Elon, two teams most onlookers probably did not expect to make deep postseason runs, found themselves face-to-face in the CAA Men’s Basketball Championship semifinals on Monday night after beating No. 3 Towson and No. 2 William & Mary, respectively, the night before. 

Despite similar postseason expectations, the teams’ seedings arose for different reasons. For Northeastern, it was mostly a lack of consistency and inability to close out tight games. For Elon, it was more a lack of depth and talent.

Things finally began to make a little more sense in the semifinal, as the deeper, higher-seeded team came out on top for once. Using an early-game run to thrust themselves in front, the Huskies never looked back as they put together a convincing, wire-to-wire 68–60 victory to advance to the championship game for the third year in a row.

Defense has been the Huskies’ calling card all season. They called on it once again on Monday, stifling the Phoenix offense throughout the night. Bill Coen’s squad was locked in, flying all over the court with the boundless ferocity of their canine namesake. It took nearly six minutes for the Phoenix to put a number on the board, by which time Northeastern had tallied nine points.

“Our defensive energy to start the game really set the tone for us, allowing us to get into transition a little bit, and get our confidence going,” remarked Coen.

Elon head coach Mike Schrage had plenty of praise for Coen’s defensive game plan.

“Give them credit. They had a lot of juice and a good game plan, a unique game plan in how they guard our offense [after] not even a one-day prep,” Schrage remarked. “Defensively, he’s a great coach. He did some really good things to exploit our defense.”

The biggest driver of Northeastern’s blistering two-way start? If you’ve followed this team at all the past few weeks, you probably guessed already: Max Boursiquot. By the time Elon scored their first basket, the redshirt junior had already accumulated four points, two rebounds, and two steals. His energy was infectious; his teammates followed suit as they stayed attached to bodies, contested shots, and secured rebounds to limit the Phoenix’s offensive opportunities.

While Boursiquot buoyed the Husky defense, Bolden Brace carried the offensive torch. Brace, who’s no stranger to big games against Elon — he dropped a career-high 40 points against the Phoenix his freshman year — splashed home three triples in a four-minute span partway through the first half to extend the Northeastern lead to 13. The senior added a layup to finish the first 20 minutes with a game-leading 11 points and push the Husky advantage to its peak: 35–15.

Junior Shaquille Walters, who Coen identified as one of the team’s most improved players this season, left his mark on the opening half as well. The London native drilled a shot-clock-beating three from all the way across the pond, then followed it up with a pair of free throws, a steal and gorgeous one-handed feed ahead to Brace for his aforementioned layup, and an assist on a Jordan Roland three-pointer. All told, Walters dished out a team-high four assists in the half.

It’s fortunate for the Huskies that many different players made a significant impact in the first half; Roland, who had a relatively quiet game against Towson the night before, struggled again to start the semifinal. Though he chipped in eight first-half points, it was on an inefficient 3–10 shooting. 

Roland did find other ways to impact the game; he finished the half with two rebounds, three assists, a block, and zero turnovers. However, he was nowhere near his usual lofty standards.

That’s been the biggest question for Northeastern this season: can they stay competitive when Roland isn’t on his game? In this tournament, the answer’s been yes. Boursiquot, Brace, Walters, and Co. have all stepped up, and that’s why the Huskies are playing in the championship game.

Despite chugging along for much of the half, the Huskies’ offense sputtered as they neared halftime. The Phoenix took advantage, mounting a quick 6–0 run that forced a timeout from Coen with 33 seconds remaining. Roland hit a baseline jumper right out of the huddle to bring the Northeastern lead back to 16 points, throwing a splash of water on Elon’s spark.

The Phoenix kept striking that flint in the second stanza, but the Huskies were right there every time to stamp out the nascent flames. After the two sides traded a few baskets to begin the frame, freshman Hunter McIntosh knocked down a triple. Roland responded with a trey of his own, but the Phoenix came right back with an 8–0 run courtesy of a short-range McIntosh jumper and three straight interior makes from Federico Poser to cut the Husky lead to 11. 

All-CAA Second Team swingman Marcus Sheffield finally joined the party after that, pouring in 13 points in a six-minute span as Elon whittled the Northeastern lead to seven with just under three minutes remaining.

“He’s one of the hardest matchups in the league. Luckily we have a guy with Shaquille’s size and length who can kind of match it,” Coen remarked. “He’s quick enough to keep him off the dribble and long enough to get a hand in his shot pocket. That being said, I’m not sure anyone can guard him when he gets going.”

The Huskies were on their heels, but a familiar face burst back onto the scene to save the day.

“I just kind of felt like the game was getting close,” Roland explained. “I just wanted to do my part to help close out the game. I wanted to get a little more aggressive toward the end of the game even though I wasn’t shooting that well.”

Pull-up, triple, good.

Elon got two looks at a three-pointer on the other end, but McIntosh and Sheffield couldn’t connect. Rebound Northeastern.

Crossover, three-ball, money.

There’s the Jordan Roland Husky fans are accustomed to — the one who takes over games.

Elon was relegated to the foul game after that, and the Huskies knocked down enough shots at the charity stripe to close the game out.

Northeastern becomes just the fifth team in CAA history to reach three straight championship games, setting up a rematch of last year’s battle with the Hofstra Pride. The title-game rematch will be just the third since the league’s inception.

Coen started both Sunday and Monday’s press conferences by reiterating how grateful he is to still be playing this late into March, adding, “With everything that’s on the line, an NCAA bid and everything, there’s nothing else like it.”

Brace, a senior, is reveling in the pressure of his final season, remarking, “I’ve finally realized that every game could be my last and it’s made this tournament super awesome and I’m having a lot of fun with it. Hopefully we can get another one tomorrow.”

The Huskies have a tough task ahead of them, as No. 1 seeded Hofstra comes into the game blazing hot. Joe Mihalich’s squad won their previous two tournament games by an average of 16 points, including a 14-point drubbing of an impressive Delaware team in the other semifinal.

Said Coen of the impending matchup, “I think they’ve played with a chip. I think they’ve had great senior leadership. It’s going to be a difficult game for us, but that’s what you want if you’re a competitor. You want to go against the best, you want to try yourself against the best, and that’s what this time is all about.”

CAA Tournament Day Two

Reminder: Northeastern plays Elon in the semifinal of the CAA Tournament today at 8:30 PM EDT. Michael Petillo, Milton Posner, and Matt Neiser will call the game, with coverage beginning about 15 minutes before tipoff.

By Milton Posner

WASHINGTON — An atypical day for the CAA is, well, typical.

Sunday’s schedule saw four quarterfinal games, all of them bemusing to one degree or another.

Hofstra 61, Drexel 43

This contest was decided, more than anything else, by starkly contrasting star performances.

On one end, Hofstra senior guard Eli Pemberton rebounded from a decent but unremarkable first half to eviscerate the Dragons in the second. He began the half with a three-pointer, a driving layup, and a putback after snatching an offensive rebound in traffic. A three-point halftime lead had swelled to ten, Drexel called timeout to regroup, and Pemberton let out a primal scream as his teammates surrounded him.

Pemberton maintained the energy even as Hofstra built an insurmountable lead, diving for a loose rebound with seven minutes left and his team up 20. He finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Pride.

Pemberton’s exact opposite was fellow All-CAA Second Team guard Camren Wynter of Drexel, who had his worst college game at the worst possible time. Hofstra’s matchup zone defense made things difficult for the Drexel guards, who were left to pass aimlessly on the perimeter and toss up an array of tightly contested layups that trickled off the rim. Wynter took just eight shots, failed to score, and turned the ball over five times. Zach Walton (17 points and 10 rebounds) and James Butler (14 points and 14 rebounds) were left to shoulder almost all of the burden for a sputtering Drexel offense.

Drexel will be back. Barring transfers, they will return their three top scorers next year. But it is Hofstra that moves on to the next round.

Delaware 79, Charleston 67

It’s a testament to how insane the CAA has been this year that these teams were the fourth and fifth seeds in a ten-team tournament. You’d be forgiven for thinking each was a top-three team. In Grant Riller and Nate Darling, each team had one of the league’s most dynamic, talented scorers. Each boasted a strong, versatile, athletic frontcourt that makes life difficult for their opponents on both sides of the ball.

But ultimately it was Delaware — a team flush with high-powered transfers and homegrown juniors maturing at the perfect time — that looked the elite team.

The Blue Hens built a slim first-half lead largely thanks to two strong points. The first was Darling, who rained down consistent fire on the Cougars from all over the floor, including a couple of difficult one-on-one shots the Cougars couldn’t do much about. The other was a strong defensive game plan similar to the one Northeastern used against Charleston last month: keep Grant Riller out of the paint.

This is a tall order, but the Blue Hens largely succeeded in the first half. Riller tried a number of tough shots around the basket and grew frustrated when his attempts to draw fouls didn’t succeed. After the game, Darling pinned the defensive success on the decision to have Justyn Mutts guard Sam Miller, allowing Delaware’s guards to switch on screens without worrying about the sweet-shooting Miller pick and popping to the three-point line. Riller got hot in the second half, but by then the Blue Hens were in the driver’s seat. Delaware scored 47 second-half points to advance to the next round, where they will face No. 1 Hofstra.

It also marked the last college game for one of the best players the CAA has ever seen. Riller overcame a season-ending injury during his freshman year to make three All-CAA First Teams and score 2,474 points, trailing only David Robinson and Charles Jenkins on the conference’s all-time list.

Elon 68, William & Mary 63

At first it seemed improbable, then mildly unlikely, then reasonable, then likely, then certain.

This year, William & Mary had their best regular season in seven decades. They were stacked and versatile, best exemplified by senior forward Nathan Knight, who was crowned CAA Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year two days earlier. By any measure, Knight is one of the best players the conference has ever seen.

And now he’s done.

The Phoenix sledgehammered the Tribe from the opening tip. By the time Tribe head coach Dane Fischer called for time with three-and-a-half minutes gone, Marcus Sheffield II had led Elon to a 13–2 lead.

Though Sheffield would soon drop off and wind up with a merely solid if inefficient stat line, Elon forwards Hunter Woods and Federico Poser picked up the slack. Poser posted his second straight good game, nailing a number of short shots. Woods dropped 20 points and 15 rebounds, playing the entire game and expending so much effort that his sweat-laden jersey was distinguishable in color from his teammates’. He nailed five of seven tries from beyond the arc.

The Tribe eventually fought their way back, buoyed by thousands of fans who traveled the relatively short distance from Williamsburg to Washington D.C. Those fans, easily the loudest of any crowd in the tournament thus far, boosted the Tribe during their steady second-half run.

The energy in the last 10 minutes was on an entirely different level, peaking when Van Vliet’s titanic rejection of a layup led to a momentum-building three by Quinn Blair down the other end. Blair, soon joined by the William & Mary bench, motioned repeatedly to the crowd to get loud, which they happily did.

When Bryce Barnes’ three-pointer cut the lead to two, the crowd was so loud that it drowned out the Elon marching band.

But Elon’s starters took turns hitting shots at opportune moments, and the Tribe would never quite catch them. A No. 7 team that few gave much of a chance is now in the semifinals, where they will play No. 6 Northeastern.

Northeastern 72, Towson 62

For detailed coverage of this game, click here.

Men’s Basketball Topples Towson in CAA Quarterfinal

Reminder: Northeastern plays Elon at 8:30 PM EDT on Monday in the semifinal of the CAA Tournament. Michael Petillo, Milton Posner, and Matt Neiser will be on the call from Washington D.C., with coverage beginning about 15 minutes before tipoff.

By Milton Posner

WASHINGTON — The calling card of Northeastern’s conference season was an infuriating one: they couldn’t figure out how to win close games. They forfeited second-half leads large and small, going long stretches without a bucket and letting other teams pillage them down low with little defensive resistance.

So when the Huskies went up 16 a few minutes into the second half, and when Towson mounted a furious run to trim the lead to four, Husky fans could be forgiven for fearing the worst.

But not tonight.

With their season on the line and the Tigers bearing down on them, the Huskies found another gear, securing a 72–62 win and advancing to the semifinals of the CAA Tournament. They will face No. 7 Elon on Monday night in the first six–seven semifinal matchup since 1993.

The game began in a rather unexpected fashion. Pat Skerry’s Towson squads are known for size, strength, and defensive intensity, all of which manifest in fierce play around the basket. But the Huskies used a number of lateral cuts and slides to earn strong position in the paint, and their ballhandlers ably found the cutters for layups. Max Boursiquot set the tone for this style of play, scoring Northeastern’s three buckets and finishing with 16 points (7–10 FG). Greg Eboigbodin also notched a pair of buckets off penetration and drop-off passes from the Husky guards.

“We knew Towson was going to blitz on ball screens, so we had a game plan to slip me to the mid-post and try to be aggressive,” Boursiquot noted. “My teammates were doing a great job of finding me and I was doing a good job of getting in and out of screens.”

Eventually the Huskies diversified their attack, with Bolden Brace chipping in some outside shooting. His three triples keyed a 15-point, eight-rebound performance that helped to negate several of Towson’s physical strengths.

In an odd scheduling quirk, Northeastern had played Towson a week before in their last regular-season game. Northeastern head coach Bill Coen attributed the Huskies’ three-point loss in that game primarily to Northeastern’s excessive second-half fouling, which give the Tigers a hefty advantage from the charity stripe and landed several key forwards in foul trouble.

Tonight there would be no repeat mistake. The Huskies played brilliant defense throughout the first half, limiting the Tigers to 23 points and fouling just five times. By holding their defensive positions on the low block and maintaining verticality when contesting shots, the Huskies turned the Tigers’ famous physicality against them, drawing offensive fouls that killed any chance Towson had at offensive momentum. It also placed nearly every Towson starter in foul trouble.

“We left our feet a lot when the ball came [inside],” Skerry said. “We were a little bit all over the place.”

After a slow start, Husky point guard Tyson Walker turned on the jets to boost Northeastern’s lead to 10 by halftime. Walker injured his shoulder two weeks ago against Drexel, and until he emerged from the tunnel before the game it was unclear if he would play. But he said the shoulder felt “perfectly fine” and undoubtedly played like it, netting 14 points.

The true oddity for the Huskies was Roland, who went scoreless in the first half amid foul trouble. When he finally stole a pass and slammed home a breakaway dunk with 18:24 to go in the second half, he immediately picked up his fourth foul and headed to the bench.

Coen deployed him in short bursts for the rest of the game, playing him for just 10 minutes in the second half when Roland would normally play all or almost all of it. He finished with just eight points after missing most of his shots and committing two turnovers. (The Huskies as a team were extraordinarily disciplined, turning the ball over just seven times to Towson’s 15.)

Northeastern wasn’t missing Roland, though, and after a pair of bailout threes from Walker and Shaq Walters — plus a layup form Guilien Smith — the Husky lead stood at a game-high 16 points.

But Towson finally tightened the screws, switching to a 3-2 zone.

“They were findings guys for a lot of layups . . . we couldn’t handle them off the dribble,” Skerry explained. “We probably played a lot more zone tonight than we’ve played in 20, 25 games, but we needed it to try to get back in the game.”

The zone threw Northeastern’s offense off the rhythm it had established from the opening tip. The Huskies started turning the ball over and forcing up contested long-range shots. Towson, normally the slowest-playing team in the CAA, used every defensive rebound as a chance to push in transition. Between their layups, foul drawing, perimeter shooting, and offensive rebounding, the Tigers went nine possessions without an empty trip. The zone threw Northeastern’s offense off the rhythm it had established from the opening tip. The Huskies started turning the ball over and forcing up contested long-range shots. Towson, normally the slowest-playing team in the CAA, used every defensive rebound as a chance to push in transition. Between their layups, foul drawing, perimeter shooting, and offensive rebounding, the Tigers went nine possessions without an empty trip. The run was keyed by Brian Fobbs — who finished with 21 points to lead all scorers — as well as Nakye Sanders and Dennis Tunstall, who each scored nine without missing a shot.

Combined with their rediscovered defensive restraint — they didn’t commit a foul for the first ten minutes of the second half — it allowed the Tigers to seize the momentum, with a resounding rejection by Sixth Man of the Year Nicolas Timberlake prompting a Jakigh Dottin layup that trimmed the lead to four.

But with Towson bearing down on them like a bowling ball, the Huskies refused to fall. Brace hit a quick three off a baseline inbounds to stem the tide, then Boursiquot threw down an basket-shaking jam off a slick pick-and-roll feed from Walker.

But the final dagger would come with a minute left when Walker stole an errant dribble and flew downcourt. With Towson big man Nakye Sanders bearing down on him, Walker tossed a pass to Walters — the man who filled in for him at point guard last week — who flushed home a clean one-handed dunk to seal the game and end Towson’s season.

The Tigers truly had a commendable year, leaping several spots in the conference standings after posting one of the largest record improvements of any team in the country. But this is the CAA, where absurdity is the new normal and calling a team an underdog proves only that you’re about to lose the money you bet against them.

The Huskies’ next opponent is a perfect example of that. After needing last-second heroics from Marcus Sheffield just to squeak by the worst team in the conference, No. 7 Elon scrapped their way to a win over No. 2 William & Mary and Nathan Knight, their newly crowned Player of the Year. Northeastern and Elon will square off at 8:30, and god only knows what happens then.

“We’re really, really excited to still be playing basketball in March,” Coen said with a wide smile. “It’s the greatest month of the year, and if you’re involved at all — as a player, as a fan, as a coach — the excitement around these tournaments is just unbelievable.”

IT’S A THREE-PEAT! Women’s Hockey Wins Hockey East Championship

By Christian Skroce

NORTH ANDOVER, MA — There was a theme for the 2020 Hockey East Championship, a theme the Northeastern Huskies hammered home forcefully and often: goals, goals, and more goals. That theme propelled the Northeastern Huskies to an unforgettable 9–1 victory over UConn and their third consecutive Hockey East Championship.

Northeastern began the day with 149 goals on the season, and they decided to add to that in a big way. The Northeastern Huskies played the Huskies of UConn, a team they had beaten three times during the regular season by a combined score of 10–2. By the time Sunday’s game wrapped up, Northeastern had doubled that margin.

Northeastern came out firing early and often, applying heavy pressure on the UConn defense and tallying several opportunities in the first five minutes. Junior defenseman Skylar Fontaine gave Northeastern its first goal of the day as she finished off a brilliant feed from forward Alina Mueller. Including the two quarterfinal games against Vermont, the semifinal against Maine, and her goal on Sunday, Fontaine had scored or assisted on the Huskies’ last eight goals.

Northeastern doubled its lead soon after, as Jess Schryver finished off an excellent pass from Chloé Aurard for a 2–0 lead. The goal was initially called back for interference, but replay confirmed the score.

UConn’s lone goal came just two minutes later, as an awkward bounce off the boards put goalie Aerin Frankel in a difficult position and allowed UConn forward Catherine Crawley to put the puck in the back of the net.

That’s when Northeastern really decided to take things seriously.

The Huskies stayed aggressive for the rest of the game, tallying minutes upon minutes of offensive zone time with exquisite puck movement that made it seem like they had eyes in the back of their heads. Mueller triggered the avalanche with a minute to play in the first period, fielding a pass in the high slot and firing an impeccably placed rocket into the bottom left corner.

The second period was easily the lowest-scoring, but its lone goal was easily the most impressive of the night. Just one minute in, Matti Hartman was skating away from the goal near the right dot when a quick pass flew behind her. Without looking at the goal, Hartman subtly flipped her stick behind her back and poked it through traffic for the Huskies’ fourth score. It’s difficult to tell from looking at her reaction whether or not she was trying to score, but the result was gorgeous either way.

Hartman’s fellow captains Capistran and Brooke Hobson logged assists on the play. After the game, Hartman remarked that three had been waiting for a such a goal for some time, and that they finally got their chance.

The third period was a nonstop Northeastern tidal wave, with goals from Chloé Aurard and Katie Cipra coming in the first 40 seconds.

By the end of the period Jess Schryver, Codie Cross, and Peyton Anderson had joined the party, yielding the 9–1 final score that set records for goals and scoring margin in a Hockey East Championship. Eight different Northeastern skaters punched home a goal, with Schryver the only double-dipper among them.

“I had confidence in the team, seeing how relaxed they were before the game,” coach Dave Flint said. “I felt good about them going out and taking care of business.”

Hartman spoke on the team’s recent results, noting “with the recent success, it’s important to remember where you came from. Freshman year was tough and so was sophomore year. We were about .500 that year, and we’ve tried to remember that struggle going into games like this.”

Mueller took home Tournament MVP for her efforts throughout the Hockey East Tournament, including a one-goal, three-assist performance in the championship. Mueller now has 66 points on the year as the leader one of the most formidable attacks in college hockey. Aurard matched Mueller’s performance with four points of her own in the championship game.

Head coach Dave Flint praised the entire first line, noting that they played like a “buzz saw” for the entirety of the contest. Flint also reflected on his time at Northeastern after the game, explaining that he has learned to focus on the players in the locker room rather just look ahead to victories and bring in recruits. Flint emphasized the impact former Husky Kendall Coyne had on the locker room during her junior year and says that competitive mindset has been maintained during the past several years.

Aerin Frankel took home goalie of the tournament, although she didn’t have much to do in this game. Northeastern’s defense stepped up on the biggest stage, forcing UConn into several turnovers throughout the game and preventing the bad Huskies from having significant offensive zone time.

Flint briefly discussed the future after the game, stating, “You can get up there and you can achieve excellence, but how are you gonna sustain it? That’s the challenge for us now looking ahead to the [NCAA] tournament.”

Northeastern will likely play Princeton in the first round of the NCAA Tournament next weekend, though specific details will be announced later. WRBB will have the call for that quarterfinal matchup.

2020 CAA Tournament Day One

By Milton Posner

Reminder: Northeastern men’s basketball takes on Towson in the quarterfinal of the CAA Tournament Sunday at 8:30 PM EST. Michael Petillo, Matt Neiser, and Milton Posner will have the call from Washington D.C., with coverage beginning fifteen minutes before tip-off.

WASHINGTON — The CAA Tournament kicked off Saturday with two games featuring the CAA’s bottom four seeds, those that didn’t earn first-round byes. No. 8 Drexel squared off with No. 9 UNCW, then No. 7 Elon battled No. 10 James Madison.

Drexel 66, UNCW 55

Despite a steady second-half advance from UNCW, Drexel held on to win the tournament’s first game. Drexel will kick off the four-game Sunday slate against the No. 1 Hofstra Pride.

As you might expect of two well-rested teams playing a win-or-go-home game, the energy was sky-high from the opening tip. UNCW began by applying full-court pressure, but the main defensive objective was to funnel Drexel’s ballhandlers into the space between the midcourt line and the three-point arc, force them to the sideline, and trap them with double teams. The scheme required movement and energy, two qualities best exemplified by UNCW interim head coach Rob Burke, whose emphatic, demonstrative, dramatic sideline behavior was on full display.

The traps worked for a few possessions, but eventually the Dragons got more comfortable. They made the Seahawks pay with accurate passes for easy layups, enough to make the Seahawks relax the pressure a bit and finally ramp down the game’s initial chaos.

After a war of inside shots and parallel scoring droughts yielded a stalemate, Drexel’s Coltrane Washington and UNCW’s Ty Gadsden decided a little back-and-forth was needed. Washington kicked things off with a deep three from the left wing, Drexel’s first points in five minutes. Gadsden responded with a three. Washington nailed another three from the same spot after a pump fake and a slick sidestep. Gadsden nailed a tricky leaning midrange jumper. By this point, UNCW’s defensive pressure, again with mixed results, had refocused to swarming every time Drexel put the ball in the paint, so the jumpers were available.

After a close first half, Drexel emerged from the locker room and shot down the Seahawks. All-CAA Second Team guard Camren Wynter got things going by hunting out a layup to open the half. He hit a three, as did Mate Okros. After a pair of buckets from James Butler, the Dragons had built an 11-point lead. Though the Seahawks would steadily eat into the lead, even cutting it to three multiple times, the Dragons would never give it up.

Led by Butler, who finished with 14 boards, the Dragons snatched up most of the high-leverage rebounds and translated them into a momentum advantage. Only Gadsden (13 points) and Martin Linssen (18) got much going for the Seahawks, with Brian Tolefree, Jaylen Sims, and Mike Okauru making just one shot apiece. Three-pointers from Wynter and Zach Walton down the stretch put the game out of reach and ended the Seahawks’ season.

Elon 63, James Madison 61

If, someday, a movie is made of this game, there will be only one logical name for it: The Sheffield Redemption.

For the first 39 minutes of the game, Marcus Sheffield II, Elon’s top scorer, All-CAA Second Teamer, the focal point of their offense and the man who breathed life into a program reeling from the graduation of every volume scorer from last season, couldn’t score a basket to save his life. Long shots or short, contested shots or not, moving shots or stationary ones, it didn’t matter. Sheffield had tried 14 and made just two. He was sucking the life out of Elon’s offense.

But with one shot, a twisting, fading, stepback midrange jumper, Sheffield broke through. Elon’s first lead of the game was the only one they’d need.

The Phoenix will face the No. 2 William & Mary Tribe Sunday at 6 PM EST.

It was a fitting end to a game marked by profound weirdness. That weirdness began when James Madison’s Deshon Parker, a 26 percent three-point shooter this season, kicked off the scoring with a long-range swish. It continued when JMU, unquestionably the worst team in conference play this season, built on that shot until a 14–0 lead forced Elon to call timeout three-and-a-half minutes after the opening tip.

But Elon quickly flipped the script, taking better care of the ball and posting nine unanswered points of their own to make the game competitive.

The game featured poor outside shooting from both squads, partly due to poor shot selection and partly due to missed open looks. JMU want on a second-half run not because their offense clicked, but because Elon missed 11 consecutive shots. The only consistent offensive bright spot for Elon was sophomore big man Federico Poser, who scored more points (14) than he ever had against a Division I team.

If you had approached Elon head coach Mike Schrage before the game and told him that his squad would allow 14 unanswered points to start the game, that his best scorer would miss three-quarters of his shots, that his team would shoot just 28 percent from downtown, and that they would go seven minutes without scoring a bucket, he would have assumed disaster.

But that’s the kind of league the CAA has been this season. The line between disaster and triumph is so narrow that you often can’t see it until after the final buzzer sounds.

Northeastern Tops BU, Clinches Playoff Spot

By Christian Skroce

BOSTON — It was do or die time for Northeastern as they took a five-game losing streak into their regular season finale against Boston University. And to no one’s surprise, things were tense (and a little weird) from the very beginning.

The Huskies began the game on the penalty kill after backup goalie Curtis Frye was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Frye lifted a cross-ice shot during warmups that struck a BU player, which caused the referees to review the “play” just before puck drop. Because of the penalty call, senior forward Grant Jozefek spent the first two minutes on the sin bin while BU started the game on the power play. Despite a less than ideal start, the Huskies responded well in the first period and easily killed off the penalty.

Northeastern responded in a big way just six minutes after the penalty kill, as a well-constructed power play goal gave them the early lead. The Huskies combined excellent puck movement with great positioning as Aidan McDonough finished off a pass from Grant Jozefek. Northeastern controlled play for the rest of the period and headed into the first intermission with a one-goal advantage.

Despite some nice Northeastern chances throughout the second period, BU controlled the majority of play. The best chance for Northeastern came about 15 minutes into the period, as Matt Filipe nearly found fellow forward Neil Shea on a breakaway, though the pass trickled just wide of Shea’s stick.

The Huskies held their lead after two periods despite a late-period scare. With just 20 seconds left in the frame, BU forward Trevor Zegras sent a long-range shot on Pantano, who had difficulty holding onto the puck. With both teams fighting for the puck to the immediate right of Pantano, BU defenseman Cam Crotty eventually redirected the puck into the net. However, it was determined after a lengthy review that Crotty interfered with Pantano, causing the goal to be waved off and allowing NU to escape the second frame with the 1–0 lead.

After an admittedly sluggish second period, the Huskies found their grove once again just 43 seconds into the third frame, as Matt Filipe finished a rebound off a long-range drive from defenseman Ryan Shea.

The Huskies’ momentum was short-lived, however. BU responded with their own goal just three minutes later when senior forward Patrick Harper sent in a bullet from the near face-off dot. Despite the goal light going off, play continued for the next two minutes with the referees saying the shot had not gone in. A review of the play determined what everyone already knew — the Husky lead was down to one.

With their season on the line, Northeastern did what they do best: block shots and clog shooting lanes. Despite some nice chances for BU, the Huskies maintained their lead for the rest of regulation. Northeastern combined impressive defense with timely offense, as the Huskies enjoyed several stretches of offensive zone time to further drain the clock.

BU would not go quietly, however, as with just 1:44 left Northeastern was called for a tripping penalty, giving BU a man advantage for the rest of regulation. The Terriers turned it into a two-man advantage, playing the entire power play with goalie Sam Tucker on the bench. Despite the six-on-four Terrier advantage, Northeastern held its own defensively, as BU would have virtually no chances on the power play. Matt Filipe cleared the puck for the final time as the Husky bench celebrated the breaking of a five-game losing skid with an intense 2–1 victory over their crosstown rivals.

“I thought our kids played a gutty, tough, and determined game,” coach Jim Madigan said. “We wanted to make sure that we earned our way into the playoffs and just not backed into it and tonight’s win was that.”

Captain Ryan Shea echoed his coach’s thoughts, saying, “We didn’t want to leave it up to chance. We didn’t want to risk our season and watch them [UNH] at 7 o’clock . . . We just wanted to get the job done ourselves.”

“This is a building we haven’t had much success in over the years,” Madigan said of Agganis Arena. The Huskies avenged their 6–3 defeat at Agganis earlier this year while playing in front of one of the Terriers’ largest crowds this season.

On Pantano’s performance, Madigan explained, “I thought he was really dialed in today. He was tracking pucks well and getting the puck out of the crease. I also thought our guys defended well, getting in front of shots and limiting BU’s opportunities.” Madigan said the team understood how dominant Boston University can be offensively, noting “With these guys [Patrick Harper, Trevor Zegras, Patrick Curry] you can just try to contain them and hope that they don’t get the opportunities where they can get going.”

The win places Northeastern (18–13–3, 11–12–1 HEA) in seventh place in Hockey East to finish the regular season and gives them a spot in the Hockey East Tournament. Northeastern will have a quarterfinals series away at UMASS Amherst next weekend, with the game times still to be announced. The Huskies are 1–2 against the Minutemen this season, with both losses coming on the road. Northeastern will have its work cut out for them if they are going to truly turn their season around, though this win gives them the confidence boost they will need to have any chance.

Women’s Hockey Advances to Hockey East Final

By Jack Sinclair

Reminder: Northeastern will play Connecticut in the Hockey East Championship game Sunday at 2 PM. Christian Skroce and Dale Desantis will be on the call from Lawler Rink at Merrimack College, with coverage beginning at 1:45 PM EST.

Northeastern established themselves as the team to beat early in the season. They clinched the number one seed at the end of January and have lost just four games all season. The reward for their regular-season dominance was a first-round playoff series against the eighth-seeded Vermont Catamounts, who they swept back to Burlington last weekend.

As a result, they headed up to Lawler Rink in North Andover, MA, to play a neutral-ice semifinal matchup against the University of Maine Black Bears. Maine’s journey to the semifinal game was not as smooth as Northeastern’s, as they barely edged Vermont out for the seventh seed, but their sweep of BU in an away series was impressive. The Black Bears came to Lawler Rink riding the high of their sweep, and this revealed itself early in the game.

Maine burst out of the gates firing. They were flying up and down the rink, and drew an early penalty. Less than a minute into their man advantage, Maine’s Ida Press slipped the puck past Hockey East Goaltender of the Year Aerin Frankel.

The Black Bears didn’t stop there, staying one step ahead of the Huskies by establishing a strong 1–2–2 trap on defense. This slower pace cramped Northeastern’s usual high-octane play style, and if not for the efforts of Frankel the score could have easily gotten out of hand. Maine managed to draw another penalty towards the end of the period, but the strength of Northeastern’s penalty kill was on full display, as they held the puck in Maine’s end of the rink for the duration of the penalty. 

The second period started, and Northeastern’s goal was clear. Establish their brand of hockey and simply keep the puck away from the Black Bears. Maine was ready for this, and jammed their bodies into the neutral zone, making it impossible for the line of Alina Mueller, Chloe Aurard, and Jess Schryver to blitz their way into the attacking zone on transition.

This resulted in a hard-fought stalemate of a period, with both teams fighting along the boards for possession. Northeastern managed to get some glimpses at the Black Bears’ goal, with a few great chances coming for Mueller in particular. Maine goaltender Carly Jackson used every square inch of her leg pads to keep the puck out of the back of the net and made some incredible saves to preserve her team’s lead going into the third period.

Whatever coach Dave Flint told the Huskies during the second intermission worked. Just over a minute of a power play carried over from the second period was all it took for Skylar Fontaine to send a rocket from just in front of the blue line into the back of the net. 

This was the cue for the Huskies. They had exposed a weakness in Maine’s trap: they simply could not keep up with the Huskies. The Black Bears had spent a lot of the game holding onto the puck and working slowly from their end of the ice into the Huskies zone. This proved costly, as their fatigue was apparent early on in the third period.

It took only two minutes for the Huskies to pounce on the tiring Black Bears and go up 2–1. Swiss Sensation Alina Mueller found herself with miles of space in the slot off a lovely feed from Skylar Fontaine. Mueller wasted no time, taking only one touch of the puck before sliding it coolly into the bottom left corner of the goal. 

Maine, despite their early skid, managed to establish their brand of hockey once more, and began to work into the Huskies zone. The defense held fast, and the Huskies were more than happy to dump the puck back into the Maine zone, switch out for some fresh legs, allow Maine to work their way back to their end of the ice, rinse, and repeat. Maine got a few looks at the net, but Frankel was having a grand total of zero percent of the Black Bears’ nonsense, and coolly protected her net. 

In the closing minute of the game, the Black Bears pulled their goaltender in a last-ditch effort to even up the score. Unlike the Beanpot final, there was no last-gasp goal. Fontaine forced a turnover in the neutral zone and sniped the empty net to ice the game for the Huskies. Fontaine has either scored or assisted on the Huskies’ last seven goals going back to last week’s doubleheader against Vermont.

The Huskies sealed their fourth straight Hockey East Championship appearance and will fight Sunday afternoon for their third straight title.