Huskies tie Clarkson, 3-3, in first leg of Friendship Classic

(Image Credit: Belfast Telegraph)
(Image Credit: Belfast Telegraph)

by Joe Barbito

BELFAST, Northern Ireland – The Northeastern Huskies and Clarkson Golden Knights skated to a 3-3 draw in the first contest of the first ever Friendship Series at SSE Arena. The game marked the first NCAA women’s ice hockey contest to be played outside of North America.

Facing a 2-0 deficit late in the second period, the Huskies (13-2-3) rattled off three goals in thirty five seconds to take a 3-2 lead, with sophomore defenseman Skylar Fontaine, senior forward Kasidy Anderson and freshman forward Mia Brown all scoring. Clarkson (14-4-2) equalized in the third period, and neither side could pot the decisive tally after a five minute overtime.

“I think the first seven minutes was a combination of knocking off the cobwebs, travel, and nerves from coming here and playing such a big game,” said Northeastern head coach Dave Flint.

“Second period we played really well and really got it going.”

The Huskies outshot Clarkson, 34-31. Sophomore goalie Aerin Frankel posted 31 saves in the while Clarkson senior Kassidy Sauve tallied 28.

Scoring opened up at 4:52 of the first period when senior forward Loren Gabel tipped home a shot from sophomore Elizabeth Giguere to earn her 15th goal of the season. Gabel and Giguere began the game on a line with senior forward Kelly Mariani, but as the evening progressed the two reunited with junior forward Michaela Pejzlova to reform one of the most formidable lines in the NCAA. Giguere would ultimately score another goal of her own at the 12:57 mark of the second period.

Fate finally turned around for the Huskies when Fontaine scored her third goal of the season. Fontaine’s goal was the product of some precise passing by both forwards and defense, earning both Matti Hartman and Brooke Hobson an assist a piece.

“I don’t think the goalie saw it because we had our screen,” Fontaine said.

“Our bench just got excited and was like ‘here we go’ and we just built off that.”

The goal came at 18:31 of the second period. Northeastern would score twice again in the next 35 seconds of play. Freshman forward Alina Mueller intercepted a Clarkson pass intended to clear the defensive zone, then quickly found Anderson crashing to the front of the net; Anderson tipped the puck past Sauve to even the score at two.

Brown found herself in a fortuitous position as well, as she skated into the middle of the slot when a rebound from a Tori Sullivan shot rolled right to her stick. Brown’s tally put the Huskies up 3-2 and the Huskies headed to the locker room 54 seconds later with the excitement from the scoring barrage still bubbling.

“When we got that first one that fired everybody up,” Flint said.

“We got the second one and the bench was going crazy. Then we got that third one and they were all jumping on each other so we had to bring them back down to earth a little bit and get them refocused.”

The three-time national champion Golden Knights would not go quietly into the night, and just 3:05 into the third period, Mariani tipped a slow rolling puck past Frankel to equalize the score. Clarkson would hold Northeastern to just five shots in the third period, and the score held at 3-3, forcing overtime.

There were five total shots on goal in the extra five minutes, four from Clarkson and one from Northeastern. Neither team was able to find the back of the net, and the game ended with the score even at three.

The Huskies will again battle the Golden Knights at 7 am ET Sunday (noon local time) at SSE Arena.  WRBB’s crew will be on the call.

Matt MacCormack and Justin Littman contributed to this article.

Five Things to Know: Women’s hockey prepares to make history in Belfast

Image Credit: @gonuwhockey
Image Credit: @gonuwhockey

No. 3 Northeastern women’s hockey will play two games against No. 5 Clarkson at SSE Arena in Belfast, Northern Ireland on Saturday, Jan. 5 and Sunday, Jan. 6. Saturday’s game begins at 3 p.m. local time (10 a.m. in Boston) and Sunday’s puck drop is set for noon (7 a.m. in Boston). WRBB will broadcast both games online at http://www.wrbbsports.com/wrbb-sports-extra/.

by Matthew MacCormack

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND –

It’s been a historic season for the Northeastern women’s hockey team.

The Huskies’ No. 3 national ranking is their highest since 2002, and their 12-game unbeaten streak earlier this season was their longest such streak in four years.

Youth has been key for the Huskies. Freshman forwards Alina Mueller and Chloé Aurard have lit up the stat sheet, while sophomore goalie Aerin Frankel has been a stone wall in net.

What’s more, when the Huskies take the ice on January 5th and 6th in Belfast, Northern Ireland to battle two-time defending national champion No. 5 Clarkson, they’ll be playing in the first NCAA women’s hockey games played outside of the United States.

The two-game series – which has been dubbed the “Friendship Series” and was spawned by the sisterhood-city status of Boston and Belfast– is not only a great on-ice matchup, but an opportunity to grow the women’s game. The Huskies will play at SSE Arena, home of the Belfast Giants professional team.

Here’s five things to know about the Huskies’ international trip:

A bit about Clarkson

How does Northeastern head coach Dave Flint plan to slow down Clarkson? Answer: try your best to neutralize the top line.

That top line contains three of the country’s top six point getters: sophomore Elizabeth Giguère (1st nationally with 35 points), senior Loren Gabel (T-3rd, 32 points) and junior Michaela Pejzlová (6th, 29 points).

“Having those two high profile teams – respected programs – will bring a lot of attention to it,” said junior defenseman Andrea Renner.

Switching time zones

Northern Ireland is five hours ahead of Boston. It’s hard enough to get used to the time change when you’re on vacation; it’s even tougher when you have to play a pair of Division 1 hockey games.

To combat this, the Northeastern staff put together a rigid itinerary. The team flew into Dublin on a red eye on New Years’ Eve, landing early on the morning of January 1. From there, the group dove right into their cultural excursions, staving off sleep until a proper Dublin bedtime. After a full day in Dublin – more on this in just a second – the squad departed for Belfast. The hope is everyone will be adjusted to Ireland time before puck drop on Saturday.

“They’re definitely keeping us busy so we’re not sleeping on our time,” said senior forward Kasidy Anderson.

More than just hockey

There’s plenty to see in both Dublin and Belfast, and a huge part of this trip is the cultural immersion. But the Huskies are also playing two games against a two-time defending national champion.

“The challenge for me is to provide them with a good experience – a cultural experience, team bonding – but also keep them focused on playing two important hockey games,” Flint said.

In Dublin, the team took a tour of the Guinness Storehouse, as well as taking part in a step dancing class.

“That’s probably not my strong suite,” Flint said of the step dancing.

“I think the girls will have fun with that. Hopefully they don’t try to pull me up on stage.”

A homecoming, sort of

Aurard and Mueller should feel a bit more at home in their return to Europe. The dynamic freshman have brought a spark to the Huskies this year,

Mueller – of Switzerland – ranks 8th in the country with 26 points and is a two-time Olympian.

Aurard is widely regarded as one of the best hockey players in France, and ranks 16th nationally with 22 points.

Flint says he expects both players to have a crowd of extended family in tow to watch the games.

“They’re super excited about it,” Flint said of his prolific freshmen forwards.

“It’s great for them to be able to play closer to home.”

Growing the game

Believe it or not, hockey has taken hold in Northern Ireland.

But the women’s game hasn’t soared quite as high as the men’s. Anderson hopes this series will inspire the next generation of stick-wielding gals.

“I don’t think we realize how influential we are to kids and I think this is a huge stepping stone,” Anderson said.

Flint called it an “honor” to be among the first teams to play outside the U.S.

“We’re going to get to showcase women’s hockey to a part of the world that hasn’t probably seen much women’s hockey,” Flint said.

“We’re definitely excited.”

Huskies suffer double OT loss to Delaware

by Matthew MacCormack

“It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Everybody’s gonna kind of stub their toe at some point or another.”

Northeastern men’s basketball head coach Bill Coen knew his squad should’ve done better. The game was in hand, but the preseason conference favorite Huskies (7-7, 1-1 CAA) lost in heartbreaking fashion to Delaware , 82-80, in double overtime Saturday night at Matthews Arena.

The Huskies blew a double-digit first half lead, and had a shot to win or tie in double overtime. Trailing 81-80 with 15 seconds left in the second overtime, redshirt junior guard Donnell Gresham missed his second free throw, but junior forward Bo Brace grabbed the offensive board, sending it back out to Gresham. Coen appeared to yell for a timeout, but Gresham drove to the bucket, missing a contested layup.

After Delaware’s Ryan Allen hit one of two free throws to make it 82-80 with 1.7 seconds left, Gresham came up short on a last-second heave that would’ve won the game. The Blue Hens (9-6, 1-1 CAA) came out victorious.

“I didn’t think we came out with energy necessary in order to compete,” Coen said.

“If you don’t come ready to play, in this league, you’re gonna get beat.”

Brace played a tremendous game, racking up 18 points, eight rebounds and five assists.

Northeastern led by as many as 12 points in the first half, but the Blue Hens — who suffered a 45-point defeat at Hofstra two days prior — rallied to bring the game back within one, and trailed by just five at the break, 34-29.

The Huskies will be back in action at Hofstra on January 5, in Hempstead, N.Y. at 4 p.m.

 

Men’s basketball upends Drexel in CAA opener

by Matthew MacCormack

For as up-and-down as their non-conference schedule was, the Northeastern men’s basketball started off conference play on a high note, taking down Drexel, 93-83, at Matthews Arena on Friday night to open up 1-0 in Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) play.

Three Husky starters topped twenty points, with redshirt senior point guard Vasa Pusica leading the way with 29 points, five rebounds and four points. Redshirt junior guard Jordan Roland and senior center Anthony Green each added 21 points, combining for 39 in the second half to guide the Huskies (7-6) over .500.

“We got contributions up and down the lineup,” Northeastern Head Coach Bill Coen said after the game.

“It’s gonna take a team effort to work your way through this tough CAA schedule.”

Drexel (6-8) was led by senior guard Troy Harper, who pored in 28 points on 10-11 shooting from the free throw line.

The Huskies took control of the game late in the second half, with an 8-0 run that pushed the lead from three to eleven, giving Northeastern a 79-68 lead with 5:29 to go in the game. A Green dunk was sandwiched between two Roland threes, and the lead never dropped below six from there.

Northeastern will next face Delaware at home on Sunday at 5 p.m. Matt MacCormack and Matt Neiser will be on the call.

Pusica’s return sparks MBB over St. Bonaventure

by Matthew MacCormack

The Northeastern men’s basketball team just isn’t the same without star redshirt senior point guard Vasa Pusica. Pusica missed six games with a left wrist injury, and the favorites to win the Colonial Athletic Association treaded water without him, scrapping their way to a 3-3 record.

Pusica returned in a big way Friday afternoon, notching a team-high 16 points to go along with seven assists, sparking the Huskies (6-6) to a 64-59 victory over St. Bonaventure (4-8) at Matthews Arena. Senior center Anthony Green chipped in 11 points (5-5 FG), five rebounds and two blocks, and the Huskies shot over 70% in the second half to end their non-conference schedule on a high note.

“It was great to have [Vasa] back,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen said after the game.

“I thought he  did a great job for being out as long as he’s been… getting us into the offense and hitting shots.

Senior forward Courtney Stockard led the Bonnies with 17 points and six rebounds, but made just six of his 18 shots from the floor.

Pusica had to shake off a little rust — he did surrender a game-high seven turnovers — but his presence alone made the entire Husky offense hum, especially in the second frame.

“I think everyone just kind of settled down and shots started falling,” Pusica said.

“For myself, I felt much better after feeling it out and coming back.”

The Bonnies shot just 27% in the first half, but trailed by just two, 27-25, at the break.

The turning point came when the Huskies strung together a 17-3 run midway through the second half, turning a 35-30 deficit into a 47-33 lead. St. Bonaventure freshman guard Kyle Lofton (11 points) tied the game at 55-55 with a triple with 3:33 to go in the game, but Pusica was fouled on a three-point attempt on the next possession, sinking all three free throws.

Green threw down a slam on the next trip down, and the Huskies never looked back.

“I think he is a huge piece to this team,” Pusica said of Green.

“On offense he gives us the ability to throw the ball up and he’s going to catch it. He’s a really good roller. On defense he’s blocking a lot of shots.”

While Pusica returned to action, junior guard Shawn Occeus — the reigning CAA Defensive Player of the Year — was not with the team. Coen said Occeus is back home in Florida attending to a personal matter, and is expected back after Christmas.

The Huskies open conference play at home against Drexel on Friday, Dec. 28. Matt MacCormack and Matt Neiser will be on the call from Matthews Arena

MBB falls short of comeback at Vermont

by P.J. Wright

BURLINGTON, V.T —

Following a competitive, defense-driven first half that concluded in a 29-29 tie, the Northeastern men’s basketball team was outscored by five points in the second and fell to the University of Vermont, 75-70, on Sunday afternoon at Patrick Gymnasium.

The Huskies (5-6) fell behind by as much as 13 points with 2:50 remaining, but wouldn’t go down without a fight. A pair of threes from Bolden Brace and two more from Jordan Roland and Jason Strong had the Huskies within six with just over a minute to go. Brace had an opportunity to bring it to three with 1:05 remaining, but couldn’t get the triple to go.

“You almost have to play a perfect game given our situation in order to get back,” said Northeastern coach Bill Coen. “We really couldn’t capitalize when they took that extended lead in the second half.”

Roland had a game-high 20 points (8-16 FG, 2-8 3PT), while Jason Strong had 13 points and six rebounds. Donnell Gresham Jr. added 12 points.

Coming off a 37-point game against Harvard on Dec. 8, UVM forward Anthony Lamb was held to just two points in the first half but erupted for 15 after halftime to lead the Catamounts (8-3) with 17 points to go with a game-high eight rebounds.

“First half, I thought we did a pretty good job on him — second half he came alive,” Coen said of the Preseason All-America East forward. “But that’s the sign of a really good player. He’s going to find his way to exert his will on the game and he played a huge second half for them.

The Huskies will be back in action on Friday at noon, with St. Bonaventure coming into Matthews Arena. Last season, the Bonnies upended the Huskies, 84-65, in Olean, N.Y. Justin Littman and Matt MacCormack will be on the call on WRBB 104.9 FM.

Men’s Basketball Tops Oakland, 92-83 as Occeus Returns

by Milton Posner

Northeastern’s non-conference schedule has tested the skill, cohesion and mettle of an overwhelming conference favorite. After toppling Alabama, it ran into a dual stone wall of Virginia Tech and Davidson. After winning back-to-back games against Bucknell and Eastern Michigan, Syracuse emphatically brought the Huskies back to earth.

So when Northeastern sprinted to a 48-32 halftime lead against the visiting Oakland University Golden Grizzlies on Saturday afternoon, it seemed a respite from a persistent pummeling by NCAA-Tournament-bound monsters.

But it took a quartet of strong performances for Northeastern to shut the door on a surging Oakland squad, 92-83, in Shawn Occeus’ first game back from an ankle injury.

Donnell Gresham Jr. led with a career-high 26 points (7-11 FG, 5-7 3FG, 7-10 FT), seven rebounds and three assists, sparkling in his newfound point guard role following Vasa Pusica’s injury. When he remarked after the game that running the offense wasn’t too tough, head coach Bill Coen interjected.

“He’s being a little modest,” Coen remarked, adding that Gresham played point guard in high school. “He’s the ultimate team player. He’s doing an outstanding job with the offense, getting our young kids where they need to be and exuding confidence to those guys.”

Of those young guys, Jason Strong shone brightest, logging 13 points (6-6 FG) and six boards. Jordan Roland recorded 20 points (6-11 FG, 3-6 3FG, 5-5 FT) and boosted the Huskies when they sagged in the second half. Anthony Green powered his way to 16 points (7-8 FG), none more emphatic than the monster dunk over Oakland star forward Xavier Hill-Mais that seemed ready to rip the basket from its foundations.

Green was a big part of Northeastern’s early attack, converting his first four attempts against shorter Oakland defenders.

“We just wanted to make their interior players play some defense and hopefully get a foul,” Coen said of the team inside emphasis. “In the early part of the game, it paid dividends.”

Oakland got excellent contributions from Hill-Mais (22 points), Jaevin Cumberland (21) and Kamari Newman (19), even shaving the Northeastern lead to one with 5:08 remaining. But the Huskies made their free throws down the stretch and the Golden Grizzlies couldn’t sustain a comeback.

Occeus, playing his first game of the season after suffering a sprained ankle, was the most welcome sight for the Huskies. Though he posted just one point in seventeen minutes, he made his presence felt, particularly with a clean pick of Oakland center Brad Brechting that reminded everyone why he’s the defending CAA Player of the Year.

“His numbers didn’t indicate the impact he had on the game,” Coen noted. “He gives us a defensive weapon we can move around. It really settles us down on that end of the floor. We didn’t want to put too much pressure on him today on his first day back.”

Northeastern will face Vermont and St. Bonaventure before their conference opener against Drexel Dec. 28. It remains to be seen how comfortable Occeus will be or whether Pusica will be healthy. But today’s win proves that Northeastern has plenty of firepower besides, and that taking down a healthy Husky squad will prove daunting for the rest of the conference.

Cuse too much as Orange rout men’s basketball

by Matthew MacCormack

SYRACUSE, N.Y. —

For most of the first half, it looked like the Northeastern mens’ basketball team might have enough in their bag to pull off one of their classic Power 5 upsets.

Facing a long and über-athletic Syracuse squad, the Huskies took an early first half-lead, and trailed by just two points, 23-21, with six minutes remaining in the opening half in Tuesday’s battle at the Carrier Dome.

What happened? Well, Syracuse happened.

The Orange went on a 12-2 run to close the second half, and went on to steamroll the Huskies, 72-49. The Syracuse 2-3 zone defense held the Huskies (4-5) to just 34% shooting from the floor and 21% from three, while the Orange scored 19 second-chance points on 15 offensive rebounds. The Orange were simply too long, too athletic, and too good for an undermanned Huskies squad to handle.

“If you want to have any chance at an upset you have to make shots, and we didn’t do that,” said Northeastern Head Coach Bill Coen after the game.

“They’re very quick in the zone. Even shots that we had that looked clean were a little bit rushed. We never really got rhythm threes.”

Sophomore forward Oshae Brisset led the Orange (5-3) with a game-high 21 points and a game-high 14 rebounds — including seven offensive boards.

Tomas Murphy — Northeastern’s sophomore big man — led the Huskies with 17 points (7-10 FG) and eight rebounds. Murphy tallied 21 points and 12 rebounds in last Wednesday’s win over Bucknell, and posted 10 points, six rebounds and a career-high seven assists in Saturday’s win over Eastern Michigan.

“Tomas was one of our few bright spots this evening,” Coen said

“I just think he’s coming into his own.”

Redshirt junior guard Jordan Roland (9 points, 4 assists) is a Syracuse native. He said he had many friends and family members watching him in the Carrier Dome.

“I thought I got some decent shots,” Roland said.

“Unfortunately they didn’t fall tonight. You just have to credit their zone and their length.”

The Huskies were missing senior point guard Vasa Pusica (wrist), junior guard Shawn Occeus (ankle) and junior forward Max Boursiquot (hip). Pusica and Occeus are expected back around the start of conference play, while Boursiquot is out indefinitely.

The Huskies will be back in action on Saturday at Matthews Arena, with a 4 p.m. battle with Oakland University.

Northeastern Tops Eastern Michigan 81-67 in return to Matthews Arena

By Mack Krell

In their first ever matchup against the Eastern Michigan Eagles (4-5), the Northeastern Huskies (4-4) were lead to an 81-67 victory by guards Jordan Roland and Donnell Gresham Jr. Despite trailing 37-34 at the half and playing without 3 of their projected starters, Northeastern was able to win the second half and ultimately win their second game in a row.

By the first media timeout, Eastern Michigan lead jumped out to an early lead of 12-4 on the shoulder of 6’11’’ big man, Boubacar Toure. Toure scored 6 of his 10 points in the first 5 minutes of the game. The Eagles then continued to stretch their lead to 35-21 with 5:28 to go in the first half. Northeastern then went on an 11-0 run that included 5 points from Roland and 4 points from Anthony Green. This 11-0 run brought Northeastern to within 3 points at the half.

At halftime, Northeastern altered their offensive game plan by putting Tomas Murphy at the high post and this allowed Northeastern to be much more successful in the second half. Northeastern won the second half 47-30 behind the leadership of Roland and Gresham Jr. Roland scored 11 of his 24 points in the second half and Gresham had 14 of his 21 in the second half.

However, all of this was possible because of Murphy’s ability to do a little bit of everything for the Huskies. Speaking about Murphy, Coach Bill Coen said postgame, “He did a great job in the middle of the zone. Its not easy to play that spot, you have to have a little feel for it.” Murphy finished the game with 10 points, 7 assists, and 6 rebounds.

Northeastern ultimately walked away with a victory despite missing 3 of their starters for the whole game, and Bolden Brace only being able to play 9 minutes in the game. Coen was very pleased with his teams’ effort despite being short handed. He said postgame, “Everybody stepped up in the shorthanded situation and rose to the occasion against a very difficult style of play to compete against.”

Northeastern travels to Syracuse, New York on Wednesday to take on the Orange at 7:00 PM. Matt MacCormack, Justin Littman, and Mike Petillo will be on the call for WRBB Sports.

Injury-riddled men’s basketball looks to stay afloat

Northeastern point guard Vasa Pusica. (Photo courtesy Northeastern University)
Northeastern point guard Vasa Pusica will miss the next four to six weeks with injury. (Photo courtesy Northeastern University)

by Milton Posner

Northeastern men’s basketball is having a thoroughly weird season.

After dropping the season opener to beatable Boston University, they dismissed Harvard behind Jordan Roland’s hyper-efficient 35 points. It was Roland’s second game as a Husky.

They blew Alabama off the floor, 68-52, in the first game of the Charleston Classic, then lost their next three games by a combined 49 points.

On Wednesday night, the Huskies (3-4) dismantled Bucknell 96-78, besting their season scoring average by 27 points and their previous season best by 15. Sophomore forward Jason Strong–who didn’t even record a point last season –, contributed 15 points (7-9 FG) and five rebounds in his second consecutive start.

But Northeastern wasn’t done surprising. A slew of injuries to key contributors has given Head Coach Bill Coen’s rotation an extreme makeover — and shed some doubt on the Huskies’ status as the clear-cut favorite in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). Now it’s up to other players — both proven and unproven — to carry the load until some key cogs return.

Before Wednesday’s game, star redshirt-senior point guard Vasa Pusica was ruled out for four to six weeks after a slight left wrist fracture suffered in a first-half fall against Alabama, per Steve Hewitt of the Boston Herald. He played the next two games but clearly wasn’t himself, posting just 10 points (3-16 FG) and eight turnovers in 50 minutes.

Back in Boston, X-rays revealed the fracture, a serious blow to the CAA Championship favorites who returned most of last year’s expectations-exceeding, major-injury-free squad. Pusica started all 33 games, averaging 17.9 points, 3.6 rebounds and 5.1 assists while logging a 50/43/80 slash line and earning CAA Player of the Year runner-up honors.

Pusica isn’t the only returning starter sidelined. Versatile junior guard/forward Max Boursiquot is out indefinitely with a hip injury and hasn’t seen the court this year. Neither has junior guard Shawn Occeus (ankle sprain), though Coen expects Occeus to return within two weeks, possibly Dec. 4 at Syracuse. Occeus was the CAA Defensive Player of the Year and averaged just under 11 points per game last year — second best on the team

In the meantime, expect redshirt junior guards Donnell Gresham Jr. and Jordan Roland, junior swingman Bolden Brace and sophomore forward Tomas Murphy to pick up the slack. Coen also cited the injuries as an opportunity for younger, less-experienced players to play against elite competition.

The injuries, combined with Northeastern’s difficult non-conference schedule — including seven games against last year’s NCAA Tournament teams — could result in a losing record heading into CAA play. Given that the Pusica-Occeus one-two punch won’t play together until mid-December or later, the team’s roster consistency from last year to this year will certainly prove useful. They won’t have to build chemistry from scratch.

Last month, Northeastern was easily named the odds-on CAA Championship favorite. Three injuries and a whole lot of weird later, the season is more in doubt than anyone expected.