Mueller Named Player of the Year, Huskies Dominate WHEA Awards

By Matt Neiser

Surprise, surprise.

Well, not really.

In the midst of one of the greatest season in programs history, nine players on the No. 4 Northeastern women’s hockey team and head coach Dave Flint were honored with a slew of awards for the 2019–20 campaign, the conference announced this week.

Freshmen Megan Carter and Katy Knoll, sophomores Alina Mueller and Chloe Aurard, juniors Skylar Fontaine and Aerin Frankel, seniors Matti Hartman and Paige Capistran, and head coach Flint were all recipients of various conference awards, as voted on by the league’s 10 head coaches.

Headlining the honors were Mueller and Flint, who took home two of the most prestigious awards on Friday.

Mueller was unanimously selected the Cammi Granato Award winner as the Player of the Year in Hockey East. With 20 goals and 24 assists for 44 points in Hockey East play, Mueller led the conference in scoring by a wide margin; the next closest player (teammate Chloe Aurard) was 10 points behind. Mueller led the conference in both points and assists as well, in addition to her nine game-winning goals and three shorthanded goals. If ever there was a time for a unanimous selection, Mueller’s season fits the bill.

Mueller also earned a pair of statistical awards during her otherworldly regular season. The sophomore was named both the league’s Scoring Champion and the PNC Bank Three Stars Award winner.

After every Hockey East contest, the Three Stars of the game are announced. The Three Stars Award is given to the player that accumulates the most “points” based on these recognitions, with first being worth the most points and third the least. Mueller was named the first and second star four times apiece and the third star on a trio of occasions, earning her the overall award.

For the second year in a row, Flint was voted as the Coach of Year. Northeastern’s helmsman led the Huskies to a program-record 24 conference wins and their second consecutive regular season title. Flint’s never-too-high, never-too-low mentality has been a staple of his teams’ success over the years and helped the Huskies to new heights this year.

Mueller (unanimous), Aurard, Fontaine (unanimous), and Frankel were each named First-Team All-Stars and collectively comprised two-thirds of the team’s selections. 

Second only to her linemate Mueller, Aurard racked up 34 points on 15 goals and 19 assists in Hockey East play. Individually, her goal and assist tallies rank third and second in the conference. Aurard was the only player in Hockey East to record two hat tricks, and she matched Mueller’s three shorthanded goals. Talk about a lethal duo on that top line.

Fontaine, Northeastern’s star blueliner, led Hockey East defensemen in myriad categories, including goals (13), assists (21), points (34), rating (+42) and shots on goal (155). Fontaine was a vital contributor to Northeastern’s elite offense and defense, often her blinding speed and smooth stickhandling to initiate attacks and stymie opponents’. 

Fontaine was also honored with the Best Defenseman Award. She is the first Northeastern player to win the award since its inception ten years ago.

Stalwart as ever in net, Frankel compiled one of the best seasons in Hockey East history. Her .967 save percentage is the highest mark in conference history, while her .84 goals against average ranks third. Frankel also led the conference with nine shutouts, as well as wins and win percentage (.864) with a 19–3–0 record in Hockey East play. A top-10 Patty Kazmaier candidate, Frankel consistently gives the Huskies a chance to win every game. The junior netminder was also named Goaltender of the Year for the second straight season.

Carter and Knoll, the most prominent members of the Huskies’ standout freshman class, were both named to the Pro Ambitions All-Rookie Team. 

Carter was a pivotal part of the conference-best Northeastern defense, her size and physicality perfectly complementing Fontaine’s speed and shiftiness. The blueliner led Hockey East freshmen with 41 blocked shots in the regular season, while chipping in two goals and nine assists.

Knoll made an immediate offensive impact for the Huskies. The Amherst, New York native oscillated between the first and second forward lines for most of the season, earning two Pro Ambitions Rookie of the Month nods (November, December) and a WCHA National Rookie of the Month award as she led Northeastern freshmen in scoring with 10 goals and 16 assists (26 points). Those numbers were good for fourth, second, and third among Hockey East first-years.

Matti Hartman, the Huskies’ second-line center, was named the conference’s Best Defensive Forward. Hartman excelled on the forecheck, pinning opposing teams in their own zone and regaining possession for the Huskies by forcing turnovers. When opponents actually made it down to the Northeastern end, her excellent positioning clogged passing lanes and disrupted attacks. Hartman is the third Husky to earn the honor, joining alumnae Casey Pickett and Hayley Scamurra.

Paige Capistran is the first-ever Northeastern recipient of the Sportsmanship Award. Voted by her teammates as captain for the first time in her final campaign, Capistran has been a Husky mainstay over the past four years and always exemplified leadership qualities on and off the ice.

A quick anecdote about Capistran to cap things off, as it’s one of my favorite stories and really illustrates what she’s meant to the program. In the waning seconds of regulation in last year’s Hockey East Championship, all hell broke loose. A waved-off empty netter, a thrown notebook, and a late Boston College faceoff goal to force overtime left the Huskies reeling as they headed back to their locker room to regroup.

Was it captain Brittany Bugalski that settled things down and rallied the troops? One of the assistant captains, maybe? According to Kasidy Anderson, it was actually Capistran, who up to that point was known by the media as more of a quiet presence than an outspoken leader. Anderson recalled that Capistran reminded everyone to forget about the chaos that had just happened, even though it “sucked,” and focus on the task ahead. It would have been easy to blame officials or lament bad luck, but the now-captain displayed true sportsmanship, shrugging it all off and getting her team back on track as they went on to claim the trophy.

The Huskies will look to return to the championship again this weekend, starting with their semifinal matchup against Maine at 12 p.m. today. WRBB will provide written coverage of the game.

Men’s Hockey Fizzles Against BU

By Adam Doucette

BOSTON — Northeastern began their Friday night hopeful that they could beat Boston University on home ice, then go to Agganis Arena the next day and overtake the Terriers in the Hockey East standings. They ended the night realizing that wasn’t going to happen. 

The Terriers came to Matthews Arena Friday night and thoroughly beat the Huskies, 3–0. After surviving an up-tempo first period, Northeastern conceded a goal to BU’s Patrick Curry with 7:11 elapsed in the second period. Husky goaltender Craig Pantano stuffed the initial shot by BU center Jake Wise, but Curry slid the rebound under Pantano’s pads.

The Huskies attempted to rebound but instead conceded again, this time to a Cam Crotty redirect with 14:26 gone in the second.

“We had a decent first period, and then second and third period we didn’t generate much offense,” Northeastern coach Jim Madigan observed. “They got up 2–0; we didn’t respond well enough.”

The Huskies went into the second intermission down two goals and in desperate need of a better offensive effort. That didn’t happen, as Terrier center Wilmer Skoog put one past Pantano to give BU a 3–0 advantage.

Northeastern simply lacked the offense to cut into the deficit. While senior forward Grant Jozefek returned after missing last week’s doubleheader due to injury, the continued absence of leading goal scorer Tyler Madden (day-to-day with a hand injury) was noticeable. Madigan, however, refused to blame Madden’s absence for the team’s offensive struggles.

“Other guys need to step up,” he said before channeling his inner Rick Pitino. “Tyler Madden, he’s not walking through the doors right now . . . we’ve got enough in that room to create some offense; it’s up to those guys to create offense.”

On the opposite side of the puck, David Farrance continued his run of dominance. The star defenseman played well all night and notched an assist on all three BU goals. 

Despite the disappointing loss, Northeastern still controls its own playoff destiny. If the Huskies beat BU on Saturday in their last regular-season game, they guarantee themselves a spot in the Hockey East Tournament. If they don’t, they will make the tournament only if Boston College beats or ties New Hampshire tomorrow.

Christian Skroce and Adam Doucette will call the game from Agganis Arena, with coverage beginning around 3:45 PM EST.

Roland, Walker Win All-CAA Awards

By Milton Posner

Reminder: Northeastern begins their CAA Tournament play against Towson Sunday at 6:30 PM EST. Michael Petillo, Matt Neiser, and Milton Posner will have the call from Washington D.C., with coverage beginning at 6:15.

It was hard to know what to expect from Jordan Roland and Tyson Walker before the season started.

Everyone knew Roland could shoot. He spent all of last season sprinting around screens and letting shots fly from downtown en route to 99 three-pointers, a school record. But how would he adjust to being the focal point of the offense and having the ball in his hands more often?

Everyone knew Walker was quick, a good driver, and could handle the ball. But how would he adjust from his high school team to playing point guard for a Division I program?

Both spent the year exceeding expectations and were recognized for it. On Friday, the CAA announced its postseason awards, the results of voting by the league’s head coaches, media relations directors, and media members (including your favorite Northeastern student-run radio station).

First TeamDesure Buie, Hofstra
Nate Darling, Delaware
Nathan Knight, William & Mary (PoY)
Grant Riller, Charleston
Jordan Roland, Northeastern
Second TeamBrian Fobbs, Towson
Matt Lewis, James Madison
Eli Pemberton, Hofstra
Marcus Sheffield II, Elon
Camren Wynter, Drexel
Third TeamKevin Anderson, Delaware
Allen Betrand, Towson
James Butler, Drexel
Isaac Kante, Hofstra
Andy Van Vliet, William & Mary

Roland was tops in the conference — and seventh in the nation — with 22.7 points per game. His white-hot start — best encapsulated by a school-record 42-point explosion against Harvard — placed him atop the national scoring leaderboard to begin the season and garnered him national attention. His 87 three-pointers rank second in the CAA, with only Delaware’s Nate Darling making more.

Roland keyed the Husky offense all season with superb, often unbelievable shot making. His unorthodox shooting style, hesitation-heavy movement, and supreme concentration made him a nightmare for the conference’s best defensive guards and forced opposing coaches to gear up on him.

As expected, Nathan Knight took home the Player of the Year Award. Though Grant Riller was the preseason favorite for the trophy, Knight quickly established himself as the man to beat, averaging more than 20 points and 10 rebounds per game despite the arrival of star center Andy Van Vliet in the William & Mary frontcourt. Knight’s size, quickness, shooting touch, leaping ability, spatial awareness, and basketball IQ made him a terror to guard on the block.

They also made him a terror on the other side of the ball, as he led the league in blocks, defensive rebounds, and won Defensive Player of the Year as well. Only Knight and George Evans (1999, 2001) have ever won both awards in the same season.

William & Mary’s awards weren’t limited to Knight. Andy Van Vliet took home Third Team honors, Luke Loewe joined Knight on the All-Defensive Team, and first-year head coach Dane Fischer earned Coach of the Year recognition. The Tribe finished seventh in the preseason poll, and many expected this to be a rebuilding year for them after the firing of head coach Tony Shaver and the transfer of four of their top five scorers. But under Fischer, the Tribe won more regular season games than they had in 70 years and tied their record for conference wins with 13.

While Tyson Walker’s hot start to the season and numerous Rookie of the Week Awards appeared to establish him as the frontrunner for Rookie of the Year, he ultimately lost to Elon’s Hunter McIntosh, who averaged 11.5 points per game and made 41 percent of his threes. McIntosh torched the Huskies in the teams’ meeting last month, dropping 24 points on near-perfect shooting.

All-Rookie TeamJason Gibson, Towson
Hunter McIntosh, Elon (RoY)
Shykeim Phillips, UNCW
Tyson Walker, Northeastern
Hunter Woods, Elon

Walker carved up defenses like a hot butter knife this season, using crossovers, hesitations, and raw speed and quickness to earn himself layups. After the graduation of All-CAA First Team point guard Vasa Pusica, when there were serious doubts about who would carry on the Huskies’ point guard tradition, Walker didn’t blink. He took the keys to the offense from the opening game and never looked back.

As the season progressed, Walker displayed an increasingly deft, alert, and creative passing touch, something he will undoubtedly build on next season after the graduations of Roland and Bolden Brace.

His best game was January 2 against Elon and eventual Rookie of the Year McIntosh. The Huskies as a team had a tough time getting their offense going, so Walker came to the rescue again and again, torching the Phoenix with a diverse array of moves and buckets.

All-Defensive TeamDesure Buie, Hofstra
Brevin Galloway, Charleston
Nathan Knight, William & Mary (DPoY)
Luke Loewe, William & Mary
Dennis Tunstall, Towson

Notably absent from the All-Defensive team was Northeastern forward Max Boursiquot, who started every conference game as an undersized center and held his own against the league’s best big men, including Nathan Knight. Perhaps it’s more a case of statistics; Boursiquot’s defense is best understood and appreciated through watching him every night, while the players on the Defensive Team have statistics like blocks and rebounds to back up their cases.

Sixth Man of the Year Nicolas Timberlake (Towson), Dean Ehlers Leadership Award winner Desure Buie (Hofstra), and Scholar-Athlete of the Year Tareq Coburn (Hofstra) rounded out the awards.

Men’s Basketball Media Day

By Milton Posner

The CAA Tournament is a funny thing.

Save for the top six teams receiving a first-round bye — which Northeastern has — there isn’t much advantage in being a one seed instead of a six seed. This is especially true this season, in which the league’s almost ludicrous parity limits the matchup advantages higher seeds would normally enjoy.

With just a few days left before the Huskies depart for Washington D.C., WRBB Sports caught up with them during their Wednesday practice at Northeastern University’s Cabot Center to talk about their quarterfinal matchup, their preparation, and the mental challenges of a conference tournament.

Head Coach Bill Coen

What’s the prognosis [on Tyson Walker]?

He’s working hard with our trainers. We’re hopeful he can he can give us something, but nothing’s been decided yet. Obviously he’s an elite competitor, he wants to get out there and help the team. But right now he hasn’t practiced yet, hasn’t been cleared to practice five on five yet, so it’s going to be day to day for him and probably a game-time decision.

Is he practicing today?

He’ll be conditioning and doing everything you could do, everything short of playing basketball.

So what do you do to try to flood the hole with that? Who has to step up?

Shaquille Walters finished the [Drexel] game, played really, really well on the ball. Then he had a terrific game against JMU, played the point against Towson last game, played 35 minutes on the ball and had nine assists and one turnover. So he’s done an unbelievable job in Tyson’s absence. We’ll need another great supporting effort from Shaq, I’m sure.

What went into the decision to have Shaq slide in for Tyson at the point?

He’s played there all year long, since really the beginning of the season. Part of our system [is] we like guys that play multiple positions. We try to rotate around — whether it’s developing our offense or defense — we’ll move guys around. Right from the beginning he played some point guard. He has a natural ability because of his size and length, the way we play in a ball-screen motion offense. He’s able to make passes with both hands, handle the ball, and get into the lane. So he’s gotten better and better at it and I think you’ve seen that over the last couple games. But still, you have to give him credit for his mental toughness to be able to step up in that type of situation and really try to help the team.

And for Guilien who’s slid into the starting lineup for Tyson, how does his defense and offense compare to what Tyson brings to the table?

Completely different player than Tyson. But he’s a very good on-ball defender, gives you some athleticism and some rebounding and has shown the ability to make shots. He’s gonna have to play at a high level in order for us to be successful. He’s a mature kid, a fifth-year student athlete. He’s played a lot of college basketball, so I know where his heart is and what he’d like to do. If we’re going to be successful, it’ll come down to some of his contributions.

How does your team change depending on whether Tyson plays?

With two different point guards you get two different styles of play. Shaq has shown the ability in the half court to run offense and make passes. Tyson can be more of an open-court player; he’s got a little bit more quickness where he can get to the rim and penetrate and draw some fouls. Hopefully, we’ll have both those guys available and that’ll give us a nice little option.

How is the health overall of the team? How many cylinders are you firing on?

I think everybody this time of year is . . . a little banged up, a little sore but really, really excited because it’s March and if you’re a college basketball player or college basketball fan, you know what that month means. Our guys are excited to get out there and compete. It’s kind of the third portion of the season where you’re out there you’re in one-and-done territory. So the urgency is at the utmost high and they’re excited to get ready and get down to D.C.

What kind of a challenge does Towson bring to you guys? What do you guys have to do well in order to beat them?

They’re playing almost as well as anybody in the country. They’ve been on kind of a hot streak since we played them the first time back in late December. They’re a team that’s built on aggressive defense and rebounding. What’s really allowed them to have great success during CAA play is that their offense is highly efficient, both from the free-throw line and from the three-point line. When you marry that type of offense with great defense and rebounding, you’ve got a pretty good club.

Did you learn much from the last game?

You’re certainly in the neighborhood, but you’ve got to finish the game a little bit better. We had maybe a five-point lead with about six minutes to go. We’ve got to do a better job of keeping them off the foul line. I thought we gave them too many easy points and ultimately that was the difference in the game. They outscored us by nine at the line. So we’ve got to be a little bit more disciplined there and try to keep them off the line.

Why do you think you guys are so highly considered in this tournament? You’re a six seed but the oddsmakers are saying you’ve got a good shot here.

We’ve played competitively all year long. I think each and every team and each and every game we’ve been competitive. Out of 18 league games, we’ve had one game where it was kind of lopsided. In one-possession games, everything comes down to maybe just get one possession better and that’s what we’re trying to do this week is to improve in those areas.

So playoffs now — what do you tell your guys?

They know that. It’s not too much explaining for me to do. It comes down to execution in the moment. As John Wooden would say, “You have to be best when your best is required.” That’s what makes March so special; guys step up and you get some magical moments when guys really live out their dreams in this type of environment under this type of spotlight.

Have you ever seen a team lose so many close games and at the same time keep showing up?

I think it speaks to the resiliency of this group. Certainly there’s a level of frustration. We’ve been in more close games and had opportunities to win and opportunities to reverse the fortunes of the season, but this group is coming to practice each and every day. That keep believing in themselves and keep trusting in the system and in the coaching staff. We’re hoping that resiliency will bear fruit in the tournament down in DC.

Who are one or two guys that you’ve seen the most improvement from over the course of the season?

One guy we talked a lot about is Shaquille Walters. He’s a guy who had shooting struggles early on and was more of a defensive-minded guy, now he’s proven at the end of the year with a lot of his hard work that he’s a more-than-capable point guard. He’s able to make plays, makes his free throws, and has learned to attack the basket a little bit more and create some offense for us that way. So I think he’s made the biggest improvement over the course of the year.

You have a few guys from last year’s team in leadership positions. How helpful will they be [in the tournament]?

You’re going to need that leadership and that tournament experience. It’s an emotional time. You have to stay ready; the preparation time is very, very quick in between games. And just keeping the guys focused and keep everybody in it. We need that voice in the locker room and we have a couple of guys who have been on championship teams and played in that environment. That should help us.

Are there any Towson players that you’re particularly looking to key in on after Sunday’s game?

They have a very balanced attack right now, but I think Brian Fobbs and Allen Betrand are the two guys who have been most consistent throughout the year. Freshman [Jason] Gibson played really well against us, had a very efficient game. So, not so much keying in on, but you have to know everybody’s tendencies and take try to take the best part of their game away from them. And that’s hard to do against a talented group like Towson.

Is there a sense that if you guys could just win one of these close games, it would be a breakthrough that would get you going?

I thought we did that kind of towards the end the year. We had some terrific outings against Charleston both times. We played well down the stretch, had one very competitive game down at Drexel, and they’ve been great at home. We’ve been close.

Unfortunately, foul trouble put us in a position where we couldn’t finish the game. We’ve just got to be better in certain areas. It’s not always that; sometimes it comes down to making a shot, sometimes it’s getting rebounds, sometimes it’s making a smarter play, better execution. But we have to find a way to be one or two possessions better and then we’ll be right in the mix.

When teams key in on Jordan, what do you have to do?

You’ve seen that all year long. Teams will try to take him out of what he does. He’s hard to deal with because he’s a prolific scorer. Two things have to happen. He’s got to kind of give himself up a little bit and pick his spots and not feel rushed at the end of the game that he’s got to do it all by himself. And then somebody else has to step up and help carry the load.

So I think we’ve been much better at that as of late; we’ve had a more balanced scoring attack, and Jordan’s been better in terms of understanding he can be a little bit more of a playmaker and pick the spots where he’s most aggressive.

What’s it going to be like playing in this new venue?

It’s supposed to be a beautiful venue. I’ve never been in it, but it’s an NBA arena. The G League team from the [Washington] Wizards plays there. It’s fairly new so it’s going to be a first-class arena and I know our guys are excited going down in that area. I think having a tournament down in D.C. gives — at least for a northern school — more of a chance for our fans and alums and students to get there. It’s a little bit more accessible than some of the other venues we’ve competed at. So we’re hoping people come out and support the team.

Bolden Brace

How do you think your experience will help you and the team heading into this tournament?

Personally, I think I feel a lot more comfortable than some of these guys who haven’t been here. Jordan and I both — as well as some other guys — won it. We also know the feeling of losing as we did like against Charleston two years ago. But having experience kind of just calms you. You can think back on that and use that to your advantage.

It’s amazing to look back at the schedule and all the close games, all the close losses, and you guys keep putting yourselves in that situation. Where do you fall whether to take more bad out of it or more optimism?

I think that the theme this year has been trying to learn from our losses, try to learn as much as we can, try to get better from that. But the fact that we’re in with every team and we have a chance is good, and we can beat anyone. The three-day tournament is awesome, because it’s hard. If you win, it’s one of the most amazing feelings ever. So just knowing that we can stay with any team, we’ll have a chance. We’ve just got to prepare and be ready.

What are some takeaways from the game you just played against Towson that you could use for this Sunday’s game?

The offense that they run isn’t really that difficult. In terms of a scouting perspective, they just play really hard and they’re athletic, and they rebound. So just knowing that we know what they’re going to do and better preparing ourselves on the scout perspective is going to be big. And just fighting on the glass and playing as hard as we can knowing it could be our last game.

And what’s been the difference just from your standpoint with Shaq running the offense versus Tyson?

They’re different players. They both bring different things to the table, and Shaq’s been playing really well at the point. He can pass well. I think he if he can keep doing that, we the guys around him just have to play better and help him succeed.

But Tyson’s great, hopefully we can get him back. He brings another dimension to our offense and scoring, passing, and just doing a bunch of little things. So no matter who we have, we just got to do our best and work together as best we can.

You get to the doldrums of February, then all of a sudden you’ve got to turn it on. It must get you rejuvenated.

Yeah, Coach always says there’s three parts of the season: the non-conference, the conference, and the conference tournament. It seems like every year the conference goes by super fast; non-conference goes pretty slow, but once we’re done it seems like it went fast. And then the conference tournament is just a whole new beast.

Some guys have never been here before and preparing for that three days in a row is tough. But I think just knowing what we’re getting ourselves into and knowing that we can stay in the game with anyone and hopefully beat anyone is going to be big for that.

How have you viewed your role this year, your leadership position?

I think of my role this year as a little bit similar to last year. I think going into the season, Coach told me that I’d have to have a little bit more aggressive offensively and keep trying to play well defensively, guard some of the best four men in the league.

It’s taken me a while to kind of assert myself offensively; I haven’t played that style since high school. Last year we had great passers like Vasa and a bunch of guys who could do different things, and we all worked together well last year. So this has kind of been about figuring it out as we go. And I think right now, I’m playing with more confidence than I have all season just knowing my role and trusting the guys around me. I’m ready. I’m ready to get it going.

You had an uptick in the number of shots you were taking as conference play went on. Was that confidence?

Yeah. Coach was telling me to shoot the whole time but I had to remind myself throughout the game: do the little things — rebound, defense — and the shots will come. And that’s kind of how I’ve been trying to provide for the team this year. It’s kind of hard for me to always remember to shoot but once my shot gets going, I forget about it and just play my game.

Have you had to play bigger this year because of injuries to big men?

Max has done a great job down low. He kind of took away some of that pressure that we felt earlier when we lost Tom. And Greg’s played well. I definitely have tried to rebound more in terms of playing big and guarding other teams’ big men. But the way our offense works, I don’t really feel like I’ve had to play bigger defensively.

Jordan Roland

Sometimes when defenses set up stop you, you have to change your game and make the other players around you better.

I think that’s definitely something I have to work on, passing the ball to put the other guys in a situation where they could be successful. But it’s something I’ve been running into all year. It’s a constant adjustment. Especially going to tournament time this will be the third time that we’ve seen teams, so going in and knowing what their scheme will be [is important] and I’m trying to make that adjustment for those guys.

You got off to a great start, teams started reacting. How did you learn to adapt to the defenses that you saw?

I came on the scene pretty quickly. Just a matter of trying to keep my composure. I was getting a lot of attention, and just like I was saying earlier, I’m just trying to make those adjustments. Try to figure out what kind of looks teams are going to give me before the game. The biggest thing is trying to keep my composure.

What’s the excitement of tournament time been like?

This is the best time of the year for almost all sports. I feel like the brackets are super fun, especially us getting to be a part of last year, winning the championship. So we kind of have a taste of what that feels like. I think that experience will definitely help us. Me, Bo, and a bunch of guys have been in this situation already. It’s a super fun time for sure.

It is weird playing a team in the first round of the tournament that you played so recently? Is it an advantage?

Yeah, it’s definitely kind of weird, I don’t think a lot of teams are in the situation where they’re playing the team that that they just played. But I don’t think it’s necessarily an advantage or disadvantage. Whoever we play we would have played twice already. So it’s definitely a weird coincidence, but I don’t I don’t really look at it any different.

How was it for you against Towson’s defense on Sunday, and how do you think that factors into the game plan for this Sunday?

They’re a good defensive team with how they how they attack you off the ball screens and everything. They’re a team that you’ve got to be able to move the ball against and we have a whole week to prepare in practice, so we’ll definitely be ready for them.

How much do you think your experience will help you?

I think it’ll be huge. I think experience is huge in college basketball. Senior teams are usually the teams that do well. We don’t necessarily have a lot of seniors, but we have a lot of guys who have been around. Max played in the conference championship two years ago. Bo has won a conference championship, as I have. Shaq has been around in college basketball for three years. So I think experiences is one of the biggest examples, it’ll definitely be able to help us.

Your record wasn’t what you would have hoped, but you were [close] in every game. Do you think there’s a lot of respect for your team heading into this tournament?

I would think so. I’m not sure what other teams are thinking about us. But I don’t think that really matters. I think we’re really confident that we can beat any team in this league. I think that we’ve shown that. I think any team that we haven’t beat we’ve been within one possession and if you can play with a team you can beat them. So even though we’re a six seed I think we’re going in with the mindset that we have as good a chance as anybody to win the whole thing.

Last year the pressure was all on you guys. This year you’re a little bit of an underdog. Do you feel that makes things a little bit easier?

I wouldn’t say it makes anything easier or harder. It’s definitely a different situation. Last year I feel like we were in a situation where the tournament was kind of ours to lose. I think the league is also so much more open this year. I think we have as good a chance as anybody, but there’s seven or eight teams that are thinking the same thing. You’ve got to win three games in three days regardless of what your mindset is, so I’ve just got to be ready to play every day.

How do you guys manage your energy and the fatigue of playing three games in three days?

Just trying to be smart with this week. You don’t want to go too hard but you want to make sure you’re in shape. These guys have been there before. The biggest thing, I think, is the quick turnarounds and just getting ready, coming off of the game and going through scout the next morning and just getting the game plan in a short time, more than the fatigue.

Men’s Hockey Media Day

By Milton Posner

It’s been a difficult couple of weeks for the Huskies. After losing star sophomore forward Tyler Madden to injury, the Huskies dropped two games against first-place Boston College, including their worst loss since 1992. After losing senior Grant Jozefek to injury in the second BC game, the Huskies were swept by last-place Vermont.

The Huskies look to rebound with a home-and-home against Boston University this weekend. Both games are critical, as the Huskies — who sit in eighth place, one point ahead of New Hampshire — need to finish in the top eight to make the Hockey East Tournament.

The Friday game begins at 7 PM, the Saturday game at 4 PM. WRBB will call both games, with Matt Neiser and Adam Doucette on the Friday game and Christian Skroce and Adam Doucette on the Saturday contest. Both broadcasts will go live about 15 minutes before game time.

WRBB Sports caught up with head coach Jim Madigan and captain Ryan Shea at Northeastern’s Wednesday practice at Matthews Arena.

Jim Madigan

I saw in your postgame press conferences that you were down to ten forwards. How is Jozefek doing?

Jozefek is day-to-day and we’re hoping he can play on Friday. He skated yesterday, he skated today, he looks good. So he’s getting close. Madden’s getting close, but he probably won’t go on Friday.

How’s the morale of the team?

We’re not a fragile group. We’ve lost four in a row; we haven’t lost four in a row all season. And Vermont was an emotional game for them up there. It was their coach’s last weekend, their senior night, and they’d been playing well. We’re not looking at it as “we just lost two games to the last-place team.” They’re a good team. Every team in this league is a good team.

But I think when people see that we’ve lost four in a row and we lost to Vermont they think that it’s doom and gloom here. Certainly there are things we need to clean up and get better at, but we’ve had two real good practices here yesterday and today. We got back to some fundamentals and some basics yesterday and today and we’re excited about the opportunity to play on Friday. We still control our own destiny in terms of the playoffs. We’re a point ahead of New Hampshire for that eighth spot; we play BU here at home [which] is a very good team and is a rival for us. Expect our guys to be ready.

Was that the message this week to the team, that there’s still a lot in front of you despite the way things have gone the last couple games?

What happened the last two weekends is in the rearview mirror. [We need to] learn from those situations, but it’s all about what’s in front of us, the opportunity to make the playoffs, playing well this weekend, focus in on Friday and be ready to play BU. We’ve played well at home all season long.

And it’s BU. It’s going to be an emotional game. The last time we played them was the Beanpot. So we know they’re going to be hungry. They’re fighting for a playoff seeding more than a spot. We’re in a spot where we can not just sneak into the playoffs, but if we play well this weekend we could move up in the standings. So there’s a lot to play for.

You’ve talked a lot in the last couple of weeks about the leadership of your veteran guys at a time like this. What is it you’re expecting from them to push this team back to where it can go?

To lead. To let their actions show on the ice. Make sure that — there’s going to be adversity as there is in every game — they get us through those tougher times in a game. Be a difference maker. I thought last weekend on the back end Ryan Shea tried to be a difference maker. Matty Filipe scored a big goal for us to get us going on that second night. We can play better when we score that first goal. Last time we played BU we were down 2–0 after one and came back.

Those guys need to step up and show the way for the younger guys. Since the Lowell game they’ve been playoff-type games, so this is the biggest game of the season because it’s the second-to-last game of the regular season.

Looking ahead to BU, what have you seen from them since the last time you guys faced off, and what are some strengths and weaknesses you’re looking forward to?

Their strengths are — and we’ve seen them a couple of times on video since we played them — they’re great in transition. They’re fast, they want to play fast, they want to score off the rush. You can’t turn pucks over in the neutral zone because [Trevor] Zegras and some of their forwards are just too good in transition that way.

And they jump up into the play. [David] Farrance is leading the league [and the nation] in scoring from the defender [position]. He’s up in the play a lot. So we’ve got to manage pucks, we’ve got to play in their zone, we’ve got to get pucks below the goal line and make them defend, and forecheck as much as we can.

Ryan Shea

So what do you do as a senior right now? What are you trying to say to your teammates?

Everyone knows where we are right now. UNH is playing well — obviously they’ve got a tough opponent in BC — but my message is if we play the way we know how to play against BU — we beat them in the past and we played them well even when we lost — but we just gotta get to the playoffs because once you get to the playoffs it’s a whole new season.

Before I came in, when they won Hockey East the first time, they had to beat Notre Dame and they had to beat all these top teams and they beat UMass Lowell in the championship. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, being an underdog. I think that’s honestly a positive for us, because it’s kind of gives us a chip on our shoulder that we need right now that.

You mentioned you beat them before; that was a pretty emotional ending. Any concerns that you know they’ll be carrying into this weekend series?

Right now both teams are on losing streaks. They lost to UConn, Merrimack, and BC and we got swept the last two weekends, but they’re going to be pretty upset because of the Beanpot and especially how it ended with the power play in the OT. But that’s in the past for us. If I was in their locker room I’d be trying to take — not runs at people — but make sure you get an extra bump in or an extra slash. They don’t like us and, honestly, we don’t like them. So we I think we play two different types of styles, and I think if we stick to ours we’ll come out on the good side of it.

Are you feeling the sense of urgency from your teammates? Do they understand what they’re up against this this weekend?

Yeah for sure. Everyone was a little down after Vermont. We gave them their first two wins in Hockey East. We kind of had the look on our face like “the season’s over” and it’s not even close to being over. I know the seniors definitely don’t want to be over, and I think once some of the younger guys see like the reception we have on Senior Night and all the families coming out and how important these four years were to us, I think we’ll step up our play right away after that. There’s no better night to start then Senior Night.

In the Vermont game you came out in the third period and really tried to get people energized. How do you think your on-ice leadership will factor in Friday and Saturday against BU?

Just controlling our emotions. There’s going to be there’s going to be a lot of talking and chirping back and forth between the teams. We just got to stick to the way we play. We don’t need to worry about the refs, we don’t need to worry about their coaching, their coaching style, their top players. Every team’s got top players; it’s Division I hockey.

I think, especially on senior night, we’ve got to set an example. There’s no room for error. We’ve got to have our best game every game no matter if it’s two more games or we end up making it to the Hockey East Championship. Our seniors, older guys, and younger guys — they’re not freshmen anymore — everyone needs to have their best game. It’s like we’re playing the Beanpot championship every night. You don’t want to make that mistake that ends up costing the season.

How have you guys managed the workload and the fatigue given that you haven’t been at full strength for a little while?

That hasn’t been bad. [If] we have a hard weekend where we play a team that’s heavy and strong, we’ll have short practices, kind of more of a rehab-type week. I think they do a good job with that.

During the game, you got to kind of manage it within yourself. For me, it’s making sure you don’t take that extra-long shift that’s going to affect your next one because I might be out there the shift after. And same with a guy like Jordan Harris, and Solow, Filipe because Madden’s out and someone has to fill that extra center spot right now.

But like I said earlier, it’s a chip on your shoulder once Madden went down, everyone thought the world was over. We won a couple games and obviously we’re in a little slump right now but hopefully we have Jozefek back and Filipe’s already back, so that’s a positive.

Max Boursiquot Should Win Defensive Player of the Year

By Milton Posner

On December 17, Northeastern flew to Michigan for their last games before conference play. Though 6’9” sophomore forward Greg Eboigbodin was advertised before the trip — he played high school ball in Detroit — he sat out both games due to injury. With 6’8” junior forward Tomas Murphy also hurt, head coach Bill Coen had a decision to make.

In his first two seasons of action under Coen, Max Boursiquot had never started at center. Listed at just 6’5” tall and 211 pounds, he’d be lighter and shorter than every player he would guard, an already daunting task made more so because he’d be the Huskies’ last line of defense. But, as he had in the previous game, Coen chose Boursiquot.

In the 20 games to follow, Max Boursiquot defended with versatility, with energy, with athleticism and strength and intelligence. He was the best defender in the CAA this year and should be recognized as such.

“He gives you a chance each and every night,” Coen said. “He’s a big reason why we’re hopeful going into the tournament.”

Boursiquot’s supreme versatility starts with his physique. While his height is clearly a disadvantage against big men, he is as strong as any player in the league. His low center of gravity allows him to hold his position in the post against larger players, then seal those same players off to secure rebounds.

Just ask William & Mary forward Nathan Knight. Knight is a lock for the All-CAA First Team, will likely win Player of the Year, and is one of the most athletic, skilled big men in the nation. Even he — and his star 7’0” frontcourt partner Andy Van Vliet — had trouble with Boursiquot at times.

“Huge credit to Max,” Knight said after the teams’ second meeting of the year. “He’s deceptively strong . . . a lot stronger than he appears on paper. His physicality and his quickness, being the size of a guard with the strength of a big, really grants him some upside on the defensive end playing against guys like me who play a little more inside out.”

Knight also pointed out another of Boursiquot’s defensive skills: forcing matchups to change plans and attack him away from their preferred spots.”

“He’s 212 [pounds], I’m 250, so I try to take advantage of that size by getting the ball as close as I can to the basket,” Knight said. “He did a tremendous job today of pressuring our bigs, making us catch the ball where we didn’t want it when there were plays drawn up for us to get on the block.”

Boursiquot is also quick, nimble, and athletic enough to harass guards on the perimeter. He bodies them and disrupts their usual driving game. He has the positional awareness, basketball IQ, and reflexes to disrupt perimeter passing and reap the benefits with layups and dunks on the other end. He finished third in the conference in steals; of the top 12 players in that category, he is the only one who isn’t a guard.

Perhaps the biggest knock on Boursiquot is his fouling, which has limited his minutes in a handful of games. True, he does have a team-leading 90 fouls this season. But his foul total is on par with many other forwards, including those who are undoubtedly receiving DPOY consideration. Nathan Knight has 90, same as Boursiquot. Isaac Kante, often the lone big man in a guard-heavy Hofstra lineup, has 82. Justyn Mutts, who often has the 6’10” Dylan Painter to help him out on defense, has 103. Nakye Sanders and Dennis Tunstall, who lead the way for Pat Skerry’s fearsome Towson defense, have 99 and 81, respectively. Elon has four players with foul totals above 85. Even a few guards are close, including Delaware’s Kevin Anderson and William & Mary’s Tyler Hamilton.

As Coen acknowledged after the Huskies’ final game of the season, foul trouble is an almost inevitable consequence of battling against larger opponents all game. The numbers bear this out. In non-conference play, when either the 6’8” Murphy or 6’9” Eboigbodin typically started and Boursiquot played 22.1 minutes per game, he committed 2.1 fouls per contest. In conference play, when Boursiquot started at the five every game and played three more minutes per contest, the number jumped to 3.3.

Of course he fouls a good amount. It would be almost impossible for a player in his position not to. The fouls do not diminish what he has achieved.

Last year’s Defensive Player of the Year award went to Hofstra’s Desure Buie. The year before it was Northeastern’s Shawn Occeus. Both spent their defensive days hounding the CAA’s best guards around the perimeter. This year, the award should go to someone who did that and more, who stood up against the conference’s most skilled, powerful players and made a big difference, someone who had a tangible, visible impact on every defensive possession.

“Pound for pound, he’s about as tough as they come,” Coen said. “He’s undersized, but they can’t measure his heart.”

Men’s Basketball Tumbles Against Towson

By Milton Posner

BOSTON — Playing the Towson Tigers is like fighting an actual tiger. They’re fierce, they’re territorial, and the longer you’re locked in with them the more fatigued you get.

So if you’re the Northeastern Huskies, and you have an extra day to prep for a Sunday showdown with Pat Skerry’s squad, you know exactly what kind of foe lies in wait. Any hope of topping them depends on mustering enough rebounding and physical play to beat a team that, per their account of their Thursday win over first-place Hofstra, “cleaned the glass better than Windex.”

But despite an even rebounding battle, Jordan Roland’s usual scoring heroics, and a scintillating show from a stand-in point guard, the Huskies fell just short, falling to Towson, 75–72, in their last regular-season game.

The Huskies’ prize? Another bout with Towson. While Northeastern (15–15, 9–9 CAA) would have finished sixth regardless of Sunday’s result, the Husky loss ensured that Towson (19–12, 12–6 CAA) finished third, setting up a rematch this coming Sunday at 8:30 PM EST in the CAA quarterfinal. WRBB will have live coverage of that game from the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Washington D.C., with Michael Petillo, Matt Neiser, and Milton Posner on the call.

“We’re going to be more familiar,” Roland remarked on the impending rematch. “We’ve got a whole week to scheme for them.”

While Sunday’s game was by no means critical for either club since both had already clinched first-round byes, it is perhaps more instructive as a preview of their win-or-go-home quarterfinal matchup next week. While the Huskies’ persistent defensive pressure did silence the Tigers, 61–45, in the teams’ first meeting in December, both teams have evolved plenty since then.

So what does Sunday’s game tell us?

First, and most importantly, the Huskies need to improve their defense and inside play. The problem is not rebounding, as the Huskies hung with the self-proclaimed “glass act” all game and even doubled up the Tigers in second-chance points.

The problem is one of fouls. The fouling pattern closely mirrored that of the Huskies’ dogfight with Drexel last Saturday, in which neither team entered the bonus in the first half, but both teams found the double bonus in the second as the game grew more physical. But this time Northeastern was on the wrong end, putting Towson in the double bonus with more than six minutes to play.

The foul disparity did two things. First, it gave Towson — the CAA’s best free-throw-shooting team in conference play at 81 percent — 23 tries from the charity stripe. They converted 18 of those tries, earning nine more points at the line than Northeastern.

But just as essential was its effect on Northeastern’s rotation. While no Towson player accumulated more than three fouls, multiple Huskies did. Chief among them was Max Boursiquot, who fouled out after jostling nonstop with Towson’s towering frontcourt. Northeastern had lost its defensive stopper.

“When you’re in foul trouble you tend to be a little more tentative on the defensive end, a little bit softer,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen observed. “The next time we play, the emphasis will be on playing defense without fouling. We’ve got to make sure we keep them off the line.”

On a much brighter note for the Huskies: Shaquille Walters. When Tyson Walker injured his left shoulder last week against Drexel, it wasn’t immediately apparent who would fill his shoes. Roland’s ballhandling and driving prowess would suggest him, but he already dominates the ball with Walker in the lineup, and giving him more touches could take other players out of the offense and allow the defense to gear up on Roland. Myles Franklin usually runs point when he plays, but can’t punish defenses the way the Husky starting guards can. Guilien Smith drives occasionally, but hasn’t proved that he can run point for the Huskies.

And so Walters, the lanky 6’6” junior forward, took the wheel. Though his 15-point, six-assist showing on Thursday was excellent, it was difficult to know how much stock to put in it given that it came against James Madison’s league-worst defense.

But against one of the best defensive teams in the conference, the newly minted point guard didn’t blink. He posted 12 points, four rebounds, and a career-high nine assists courtesy of outstanding passing patience, discipline, awareness, and accuracy. He has 15 assists in his two games running the offense and has turned the ball over just twice.

“Adversity hits everybody . . . injuries happen. Some people just have a way of responding to that, and I think he’s responded in a big, big way,” Coen said. “His effort this afternoon was just terrific. He’s playing a little bit out of position [but] really controlled the game. [He had a] little bit of foul trouble — my staff was telling me to take him out, but I had to leave him in, he was just playing too well.”

Walters’ steadying presence will likely serve the Huskies well next week — especially if Walker, who Coen described as day-to-day, is unavailable — but neither his offensive contributions, nor Jordan Roland’s 25 points, nor the 14 apiece that Brace and Boursiquot contributed, could account for Towson’s strengths.

There was Brian Fobbs, who rebounded from an invisible performance against the Huskies in December to drop 18 points. There was freshman guard Jason Gibson, who notched 18 points of his own on just eight shots as the Huskies consistently left him alone from behind the arc. There was Dennis Tunstall, who obliterated several Husky shots in the paint. There was Charles Thompson, who threw down two one-handed dunks to swing the momentum Towson’s way in the first half, then took a charge on Roland and screamed with such intensity that his neck veins were visible from the media center.

The upshot was Northeastern’s sixth one-possession conference loss, and their eighth by five points or fewer.

The game was also the final home game for seniors Jordan Roland, Bolden Brace, and Guilien Smith, all of whom were honored at midcourt before the game. Smith, who transferred from Dartmouth for his final season, professed appreciation for the group’s quick acceptance of him at a time when he didn’t know many people. Brace and Roland identified last year’s CAA Championship as a favorite moment.

“I was sitting out the year that they lost to Charleston in the CAA final,” Roland said. “Being able to come back after a hard loss and contribute to that was really special for me.”

“I was very, very fortunate that they, at one time, took a chance on this program,” Coen said. “Their families trusted us to give them the experience not only of playing basketball, but trying to become better men, good people, and good students.”

Coen was also optimistic that the week between now and the rematch with Towson — which coincides with Northeastern’s spring break — will benefit his squad.

“It allows you to invest a little bit more time in your rehab, your rest, your recovery, fine tuning, individual meetings along with practice. Nobody’s under the dual obligation of being a student and an athlete. Now you can be more athlete than student.

“It’s a long week; it’s an exciting week. It’s a complete restart for every team in the league. Whether you finish first or last, everybody has a chance.”

Men’s Hockey Swept by Vermont

By Jack Sinclair

BURLINGTON, VT — Every season, every team, no matter the sport, goes through ups and downs. The 2007 Patriots rode high for 18 games, then fell in the Super Bowl. The 73–9 Golden State Warriors’ high lasted until the last three games of the NBA finals.

The 2019–20 Northeastern men’s hockey team is no different. They began the season with five straight wins, then laid some eggs, like the 6–3 loss on home ice to UMass where the Huskies allowed six unanswered goals. The team went on to experience one of the highest highs possible in college hockey, with an epic comeback win in the Beanpot Final.

The Huskies entered tonight’s match in Burlington, Vermont riding the lowest of lows. A tough loss at home to Boston College, followed by the Huskies’ worst loss since 1992 — a 10-1 thrashing at the hands of BC — was the prelude for what would happen Friday in Burlington. A 4–2 loss to Vermont, the Catamounts’ first conference win this season, may be the most embarrassing loss of this unholy trinity. 

Despite this, the Huskies had an opportunity on Saturday. The mark of a truly great team is not how high their highest point is, but how well they bounce back from their lowest of lows.

The Huskies wasted no time in rebounding from their previous efforts, coming right out of the gates with an energy that had been missing as of late. With Grant Jozefek and Tyler Madden sitting out, forwards Neil Shea, John Picking, and Brendan Van Riemsdyk performed admirably, flying to every loose puck and putting loads of pressure on the forward and back check. Northeastern dominated the first 20 minutes, outshooting Vermont 12–7. Vermont netminder Stefano Lekkas was more than up to the task, as he stopped all 12 of the Huskies’ efforts.

The Huskies carried their first-period momentum into the second. Just under two minutes into the frame, a Riley Hughes pass down the boards found a surging Matt Filipe who, as he has several times, took his space behind Vermont goal and tucked away a lovely wraparound shot, giving the Huskies a much-needed lead.

Had the Huskies exorcised their second-period demons? Could we finally look away from the barn fire of the past three games to the greener pastures of victories to come?

No, they had not. And no, we couldn’t.

Less than a minute later, Vermont forgot they were a one-conference-win team playing the reigning Hockey East champions, and fought through the neutral zone into the Huskies’ end. The Catamounts forced Craig Pantano out of his crease to make a tough save and, in the defensive disarray, poked the puck into the empty net. Whether the failed puck clearance was due to poor sticks on Northeastern’s part or excellent ones by Vermont is almost beside the point. Gutterson Fieldhouse erupted, and Junior Bryce Misley skated away to celebrate. 

The goal took all the wind out of the Huskies’ sail, and Vermont took advantage by pressing up the ice. The Catamounts had a couple of dangerously close chances, but Pantano held fast, undeterred by the change of momentum. The Northeastern defense is known for extremely disciplined and steady sticks when defending five-on-five situations, but this time they were wild, allowing the Catamounts to carry the puck through the Northeastern defensive zone with little-to-no resistance.

As the second period continued, the Huskies struggled to pass the puck tape to tape, with overpassing and underpassing resulting in several neutral zone turnovers. A costly turnover only a few minutes after the first Vermont goal resulted in a loose puck in the slot. Once again, the Huskies couldn’t clear the puck away from danger, and Vermont snuck a point-blank shot between the legs of Pantano to take a 2–1 lead.

The Huskies’ play did not improve from there. The Huskies saw barely any offensive zone time, and when they did, they were quick to turn the puck over and give Vermont loads of space to skate. The period couldn’t have ended soon enough, and it ended with the opposite result that the end of the first period would have indicated. Northeastern was outshot 11–4. 

The final 20 minutes of the game were a complete shot in the dark. Which Huskies team would we see? The aggressive, fast-paced team that executed with precision in the first period, or the sluggish, uninspiring team from the second?

Northeastern captain Ryan Shea came out of the locker room and tried desperately to get something started. He skated around the Vermont goal three times, looking for any sort of opening. However, his teammates were not on the same page as him. The Huskies that weren’t handling the puck looked look statues. No one moved to create a shooting lane for Shea, or to get open and cycle the puck around. Shea eventually found someone to pass it to — no doubt he was dizzy from circling the net so much — and there were a few opportunities, but Lekkas stood on his head between the pipes and made several ridiculous saves.

When Vermont regained the puck, the most glaring flaw in the Huskies game became apparent: neutral zone defense. To call the it swiss cheese is an insult to the dairy product. Whether it was a single Catamount carrying the puck towards the Husky zone or an even-man rush after a lengthy buildup on the Vermont end, the Huskies couldn’t challenge.

As a result, Pantano would decide the game. Vermont had free passage into his zone, and shots resulting from the biblical parting of the Northeastern back check would need to be covered up to prevent an unlucky rebound from winding up in the back of the net. Pantano finished with 24 saves, and for most of the night he covered the puck or deflected it away.

But his luck ran out when a shot bounced off his pad and stayed in the crease. Vermont pounced on the gift like an excited kid on Christmas morning and potted their third goal of the game. From then on, Vermont stopped trying to score, opting to pin the puck on the boards and let the clock wind down. This strategy change gave Northeastern a few glimpses at Lekkas, but Hockey East’s all-time saves leader flashed his glove and prevented all of Northeastern’s efforts. 

As the clock neared triple zeroes and the reality of defeat set into the heavy Husky hearts, the extracurriculars began. Soon after Pantano gave way to an extra skater, Zach Solow got into a shoving match with a few Vermont defensemen. A gnarly cross check by Solow well after the whistle earned him a 10-minute game misconduct, and Alex Mella wound up in the box. This was an ugly end to an ugly 40 minutes of hockey, and in a way it felt fitting. The clock struck zero, and the Huskies had been swept. 

After the game, Jim Madigan praised the Huskies’ increased effort in comparison to their previous games. He chalked up the lack of execution to fatigue, saying that “running 10 forwards and going back to back caught up to us.” The fatigue was clear, as the offensive shifts were definitely shorter than usual without forwards Tyler Madden and Grant Jozefek in the lineup.

“We didn’t have quite enough in the tank, to be frank” said Madigan, adding that returning to Boston would provide an ample opportunity to “settle in, get a good week of practice in, and get ready for BU on Friday.”

When asked how the Huskies could return to their winning ways, Madigan expressed his confidence in his players’ ability to bounce back from the low point of their season, “knowing next weekend is the last weekend of the season if we don’t play well.”

“We have got enough guys who have played meaningful games and don’t want [the season] to end,” he continued, indicating that he expects the older players to step up and lead. The Huskies have a lot of experience on their roster, but they also have a lot of fresh faces. The guidance of veterans like Solow, Shea, Filipe, and Van Riemsdyk, many of whom have been on this Northeastern team for several years, will be essential in salvaging the season.

This loss, and a win by Providence over Maine, dropped the Huskies to eighth in Hockey East, the lowest playoff seed. New Hampshire is just one point behind Northeastern, so the Huskies need to hope for a BC sweep of the Wildcats or sweep Boston University themselves if they want to keep their tournament hopes alive. In the national pairwise rankings, the Huskies fell even further. They took the ice at 14th in the national polls, and left in 17th

The Huskies make a much-needed return to Matthews Arena this Friday for the first game of the season’s final home-and-home series. It is also the final regular-season game at Matthews Arena, and will include senior night celebrations honoring the team’s graduating seniors. Matt Neiser and Adam Doucette will call the game, with coverage beginning at 6:45 PM EST.

Women’s Hockey Sweeps Vermont, Advances to Hockey East Semifinal

By Matt Neiser

BOSTON — Fresh off a 5–1 win in game one, Northeastern looked to close out their Hockey East quarterfinal series against the Vermont Catamounts with a sweep on Friday at Matthews Arena. Early struggles plagued the Huskies once again, but a second-period goal from junior Skylar Fontaine gave them the spark they needed to finish the job as they pulled out a 3–1 victory.

“Usually a coach can go into a one–eight series and be like ‘ah, okay’, but I wasn’t at all confident that we were just gonna walk through this,” Northeastern head coach Dave Flint said. “Credit to Vermont, they made us work . . . neither game was easy.”

Much like the day before, the Catamounts came out of the gates with their signature forecheck and stymied the Huskies’ offense. Northeastern came close to escaping the first period unscathed, but a late mistake did them in. 

Fontaine was whistled for a tripping penalty with less than a minute to go in the period, sending the Huskies to the penalty kill for the first time on the night. Despite Northeastern boasting the third-best penalty kill in the nation (.924), a goal is bound to trickle in every now and again — especially against the third-best power play unit in Hockey East.

In this case, “now and again” meant “with 16 seconds left in the frame.” Senior co-captain Eve-Audrey Picard, desperate to extend her season and career, was in perfect position to tuck home a rebound after a saved shot from Ali O’Leary. 

Vermont built on that momentum in the second period, continuing to dictate the run of play. Both teams generated a couple of clean opportunities early in the frame, but none of them found paydirt. The period seemed destined to mirror Thursday’s second period, where the Catamounts dominated the Huskies and almost doubled their shot total.

Fontaine had other things in mind.

In signature fashion, the Northeastern blueliner picked up the puck behind her own net with one thing in mind: head 200 feet down the ice and make something happen. Accelerating out of the Husky zone, Fontaine left two Catamount skaters in her dust as she flew all the way to the opposing end line. Once there, she flung the puck out in front of the net and ricocheted it perfectly off of Vermont netminder Blanka Škodová to level the game at one goal apiece.

The goal wasn’t called at first, but Fontaine was adamant that the puck crossed the line. The officials proved her right when, after a lengthy review, they confirmed the goal. Because Fontaine’s coast-to-coast journey was initiated by an Aerin Frankel save, the Husky netminder notched her second career assist.

“My thought process, honestly, was just ‘get the puck to the net.’ We needed something to work out for us, and I saw an opening so I just threw it and it ended up going in,” Fontaine said with a laugh.

Just like the day before, a single goal jolted the Huskies back to their style of play. Their energy immediately picked up; they began swarming around the Catamount zone and seemed destined to score another goal soon.

Destiny became reality 59 seconds later, when freshman Peyton Anderson streaked into the slot and muscled home a rebound off a Fontaine shot from the right circle. The goal was Anderson’s second game-winner and seventh overall in her first collegiate campaign.

Firmly back in control, Northeastern wasn’t going to let the lead slip away. In the third period, they reminded everyone in attendance how dangerous they are when firing on all cylinders. They attacked relentlessly, racking up a whopping 19 shots on net. Vermont allows an average of 23 shots per game, and the Huskies nearly equaled that total in just 20 minutes.

One of those 19 shots found its way into the back of the net, courtesy of Alina Mueller. Following two quick Catamount penalties, Mueller and Co. found themselves on an extended five-on-three power play. Just before the first penalty expired, the Swiss sensation received a pass in the high slot and blasted a snipe into the top corner of Škodová’s net.

With the goal, Mueller crossed the 60-point mark (25 goals, 35 assists) on her standout sophomore season. She becomes just the third player in program history to reach that milestone, following Vicky Sunohara (78 in 1988–89) and Kendall Coyne (68 in 2012–13 and 84 in 15–16).

That’s vaunted company right there. Coyne is one of two Huskies to win the Patty Kazmaier Award as the best player in college hockey. Both Coyne and Sunohara have won Olympic gold medals for their respective countries (United States, Canada), including two for the latter. Mueller, a top-10 Patty Kazmaier finalist in both of her seasons at Northeastern, seems more than capable of filling their shoes.

The insurance goal gave Northeastern a little breathing room and let them really open up their attack. For the last five minutes or so of the game, the puck rarely left the Vermont zone as the Huskies pressed on. The only thing keeping the contest from becoming a blowout was Škodová, who stood on her head down the stretch to throw her team a lifeline. Despite giving up three tallies, the sophomore blew away her previous career-high in saves (34) with 41 stops on the night. The Catamounts needed that number to be at least 43 though, as they couldn’t claw their way back from the 3–1 deficit.

Fontaine, one of Northeastern’s x-factors, had a hand in all three Husky goals, notching a goal and two assists.

“She brings so much to the table; offensively, defensively, [she] gives you that spark when you need it,” Flint said. “She’s the best defenseman in Hockey East and one of the best in the country, and she shows it every night.”

Frankel continued her stellar postseason play, making 25 saves as she improved her Hockey East playoff record to 10–0–0. While discussing other teams in playoff race, Flint remarked that a hot goalie is an essential part of a championship team.

“We’ve got one of the hottest goalies in the country right now, so that’s always reassuring going in. It can be scary for your opponents,” Flint said.

With the win, Northeastern advances to the semifinals of the Hockey East Championships next Saturday. With other series ongoing, their opponent has yet to be determined.

The victory is the Huskies’ 30th of the season, an impressive feat that no Northeastern team has reached before. They aren’t resting on their laurels, though; they’ve already got their eyes set on the next round.

“It’s very exciting. This week we’re gonna put in a lot of work to get to the weekend and hopefully do well,” said Fontaine.

Flint echoed that sentiment, emphasizing there’s still work to be done.

“I liked how we responded. Credit to the team, we’ve done that all year,” he said. “We get our backs against the wall, a little adversity, they crank it up.

“Moving forward, we can’t start slow the rest of the playoffs, because the teams are getting better, and we’re gonna be behind too much and it’s gonna be too late. So, hopefully they heard that message and next weekend we start a lot faster.”

Men’s Hockey Stumbles Against Vermont

By Milton Posner

It was a game Northeastern could hardly afford to lose, and they just might pay dearly for it.

The Huskies took the ice Friday night fully aware of the stakes that awaited them. They sat tied for seventh place in the tightest playoff race Hockey East has ever seen, with just four games left to ensure a top-eight finish and the resulting playoff berth. They looked to rebound from their worst beatdown since 1992, a 10–1 shellacking from Boston College in their last game.

They didn’t. If anything, Friday’s loss might have been more disappointing. Against the Vermont Catamounts, the only winless team in a Hockey East season of record parity, the Huskies faltered, dropping the contest 4–2.

The Catamounts didn’t even wait two minutes before recording the game’s first tally, with Alex Esposito beating Husky goalie Craig Pantano top shelf off a feed from Matt Alvaro.

The rest of the first period belonged to Stefanos Lekkas, Vermont’s senior goaltender. Alex Mella and Matt Thomson try to stuff shots home? Nope. Matt Filipe smoothly swerves from the neutral zone to the doorstep for a point-blank look? Nope. Zach Solow on a breakaway 10 seconds later? Stuffed.

Jordan Harris wrister? Point-blank push from John Picking? Numerous passes tossed into the slot and a pair of two-on-ones? No, no, no, and no.

Some chances were worse than others, but there were chances, and Lekkas erased them. After one momentum-killing save with 2:39 to go, he laid flat on his back on the goal line, hands by his head, as if to catch his breath. He saved 12 shots in the period to Pantano’s nine, and despite Northeastern leading by two in shots, they trailed 1–0 after the first period.

Lekkas entered the evening with 3,816 career saves, the most in Hockey East history. During Friday’s game he moved into eighth place on the NCAA’s all-time list. But he wasn’t invincible, and Huskies cracked him almost immediately after the first intermission.

A little more than a minute in, a scramble for the puck behind Lekkas drew five skaters below the goal line and de-congested the offensive zone. When Aidan McDonough won the scrum and forced the puck through to Matt DeMelis in the high slot, Lekkas went to his knees anticipating a DeMelis one-timer. But DeMelis had other ideas, sliding a pass to a wide open Biagio Lerario at the bottom of the right dot for the one-timer that evened the score.

Vermont, not content with a tie, upped its aggressiveness and pushed into the Huskies’ zone. After a Pantano save had the puck sitting loose in the crease for what seemed like an eternity, Vermont’s Andrew Lucas tried to stuff it home and thought he had, but the puck just barely stayed off the goal line.

No matter; a faceoff in the Catamounts’ offensive zone led to Esposito’s second goal of the night — and fifth of the season — just ten seconds later.

Two minutes later came another. Frequent turnovers by both teams in the neutral zone led to a Vermont rush before Northeastern could set its defense. William Lemay fielded the puck at the center of the left dot and rifled it to captain Derek Lodermeier, who launched a missile past Pantano to make it 3–1.

Vermont’s passing was crisp, their movement smooth, their aggression apparent. When the Huskies turned up their aggression in the back half of the period, it backfired. A point-blank shot by Northeastern’s Tyler Spott was met by a full-body save from Lekkas, at which point most Husky skaters were deep toward the goal. The Catamounts sprung into transition; Ace Cowans moved largely unimpeded through the neutral zone to the left dot before slapping the puck into the top corner for Vermont’s fourth score.

About a minute later, what had been a strikingly calm, clean, penalty-free game took a sharp turn when a puck in close resulted in most of the players on the ice rushing the goal as Pantano threw his body on the puck. The pileup yielded a bit of extracurricular shoving, and McDonough and Vermont’s Max Kaufman headed to the penalty box with coincidental penalties for hitting after the whistle. Matt Alvaro also drew a roughing penalty, giving the Huskies the evening’s first power play with two minutes to go in the period.

Northeastern subbed in its top line for the man advantage but attempted just two shots, neither of which had much of a chance. The Huskies moved deliberately and struggled to open up passing angles. The Catamounts outshot the Huskies by just one in the second period, but the gigantic disparity in shot quality yielded a 3–1 scoring margin and a 4–1 lead.

The third period began on a strong foot for the Huskies, as McDonough chased down a loose puck in the corner and fed a cutting DeMelis for a nifty score.

The Huskies were aggressive in stretches during the third period but tried just eight shots and didn’t put any past Lekkas’ pads. Besides a couple of narrowly avoided Vermont empty-net goals, the third period passed without incident.

“Disappointing game for us. We didn’t have the consistent 60-minute game,” Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan observed. Madigan also spoke of the Huskies’ failure to execute their “identity plays.”

“Chipping pucks in below their goal line. We turned two pucks over at the blue line because we didn’t want to put it down low,” he said. “We blew a faceoff play assignment that we just went over at meal today. When you have those mental mistakes, and there was three of them . . . you’re going to come out on the short end.”

Pantano allowed four goals for the second straight game, and the 34–33 shot margin would seem to implicate him heavily in the loss. But he can hardly be blamed for letting in some of the uncontested rockets Vermont launched his way.

Northeastern’s third consecutive loss dropped them to 17–11–3 (10–10–1 HEA) and kept them tied for seventh place in Hockey East, albeit with one less game in hand. Vermont’s first conference win was their first of 2020 and their fourth of the season. The teams rematch Saturday at 7 PM EST, with the stakes still sky-high.

“We’re running out of runway here,” Madigan remarked. “We’ve got three games left and we’re in a playoff battle and I don’t know if the guys have understood the sense of urgency we’re at. They’ve heard it enough, but they’re not reacting and responding enough to the urgency of the situation we’re in.

“If I’m a player and I see where we are in the standings and I’m a senior and my career is winding down, there’s a sense of urgency. So they’ve got to take some stock in themselves and as a group we’ve got to come together tomorrow night.”