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.”

Men’s Basketball Jackhammers JMU

By Michael Petillo

BOSTON — The Northeastern Huskies defended home court on Thursday night, defeating James Madison 77–57 to secure a first-round bye in next week’s CAA tournament. Graduate transfer Guilien Smith led the Huskies with 20 points and Shaquille Walters dropped in 15 points to go along with six assists.

Northeastern (15–14, 9–8 CAA) jumped out to an early lead thanks to three early three-pointers by Smith and used a balanced scoring effort to stretch the advantage to 20. The second half was more even, but JMU never mounted a significant run.

The contributions of Smith and Walters were particularly valuable to due to the absence of starting point guard Tyson Walker, who is day-to-day after injuring his shoulder during Saturday’s game against Drexel. In his stead, Smith stepped into the starting lineup and played a season-high 36 minutes, nailing five threes and playing his signature lockdown defense.

“It felt great to get that first one to go and from there I was just feeling it,” Smith said.

Walters assumed most of the ballhandling duties with Walker sidelined. He comfortably handled JMU’s pressure and got Northeastern into their halfcourt offense throughout the game. 

 “He had to be the primary ball-handler out there tonight,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen said of Walters. “He had really great court composure and was able to quarterback the offense.”

In addition to overcoming Walker’s injury, the play of Walters and Smith allowed Northeastern to secure a win despite an uncharacteristic off night for Jordan Roland. Normally the Huskies’ leading scorer, Roland managed only 11 points amid stifling JMU defense.

The win gives Northeastern a two-game winning streak heading into Sunday’s regular season finale against Towson, who knocked off CAA-leading Hofstra on Thursday night. Coverage begins at 3:45 PM EST with Milton Posner and Alex Bensley on the call.

Women’s Hockey Wins Game One Quarterfinal Behind Explosive Third Period

By Matt Neiser

BOSTON — Finally, playoff hockey is upon us.

After a season of hard work to put themselves in pole position heading into the postseason, the first-seeded Northeastern Huskies have the chance to defend their Hockey East crown for the second consecutive season. The women kicked off their playoff campaign with game one of a best-of-three Hockey East quarterfinal series against the eight-seeded Vermont Catamounts at Matthews Arena. 

Despite being the lowest-seeded team in the tournament, the Catamounts put up quite the fight against the No. 4 nationally ranked Huskies. After two periods of deadlocked action, the Huskies used an early third period haymaker to put Vermont on their heels and followed up with a flurry of strikes to send the Catamounts crashing to the mat, pulling away to a 5–1 victory.

Northeastern (29–4–2) showed no sign of postseason nerves. Senior assistant captain Matti Hartman netted her eighth goal less than five minutes into the game, firing home a close-range shot off of a feed from sophomore Mia Brown.

Many may have thought the Huskies would quickly pull away after a start like that. Credit Vermont (10–17–8) for keeping their heads held high and refusing to kneel. The Catamounts used an aggressive, effective forecheck to disrupt Northeastern’s offense and keep them from cleanly carrying the puck forward.

“On their forecheck they were relentless; they were all over us. There were some things we talked about on our breakout that we weren’t really executing, and then the times that we did get out we were turning the puck over in the neutral zone,” said Husky head coach Dave Flint. “And then, all of a sudden, things aren’t going your way, everyone starts gripping their sticks a little tighter.”

Vermont capitalized on the Huskies’ disarray in the second period, using a Kristina Shanahan goal to even the game just over six minutes into the frame. The Catamounts pressed throughout the second, outshooting Northeastern nine to five. But their failure to tally a second score would soon come back to bite them.

Whatever Flint and his staff said in the locker room before the third period, it worked like a charm.

After an early penalty, the Huskies went on the power play for the third time on the afternoon. After a beautiful passing sequence led to a saved shot from Jess Schryver, sophomore Alina Mueller picked the puck up near the corner of the offensive zone. As she does so often, the Patty Kazmaier candidate picked out the perfect pass to her teammate, finding Brown in open space for a one-time rocket to give the Huskies the lead.

“We stress a lot dropping into the house, and I noticed that Vermont had all their players packed in almost below the hash marks,” said Brown. “So I just was coming right down the middle, and I saw Alina so I slowed up a bit, saw her pass it, and just shot it.”

The floodgates opened after that. Mueller converted a goal of her own just 32 seconds later, and junior Tessa Ward and freshman Kate Holmes added scores over the next 15 minutes to put the contest out of reach and secure game one for Northeastern.

“Credit to Vermont for a hard-fought game,” Flint said. “They gave us all we could handle, especially in the first two periods.”

Northeastern’s depth has been a key factor for them this season — they’re one of just four Division I teams with at least five double-digit scorers, along with Wisconsin, Franklin Pierce, and Minnesota. That depth shone again on Thursday, with five goals by five different Huskies.

“That’s the way it’s gone all year,” Flint remarked. “That’s what we need if we’re gonna be successful down the stretch. We need players to step up in certain times, and that’s what we had tonight.”

Game two of the best-of-three series will commence tomorrow night at 7 PM EST, as the Huskies look to sweep the Catamounts in the quarterfinals for the second-straight year. WRBB will have full coverage of the game starting at 6:45 PM, with Matt Neiser and Dale DeSantis on the call.

“We need to be ready, “Flint said. “They’re gonna play desperate, because they have to win or their season’s done . . . we need to be ready from the drop of the puck.”

Northeastern’s Convoluted Playoff Scenarios

By Milton Posner

Claustrophobics beware.

With one week remaining in the CAA’s men’s basketball regular season, just four games separate third and eight place, and just two games separate third and sixth.

The Northeastern Huskies sit in sixth place with an 8–8 record. There are four games on Thursday, four on Saturday, and one on Sunday (moved to accommodate the CBS Sports Network). Nine games to determine playoff seeding. All 10 teams make the CAA Tournament, but only the bottom four seeds play in the first round on Saturday, March 7. The top six teams receive a first-round bye. Because of the league’s higher-than-usual parity — and because the top six teams will play, at most, three games in three days instead of four games in four days — securing the bye is critical.

TeamCAA RecordGames Back
Hofstra Pride13–3
William & Mary Tribe12–51.5
Delaware Blue Hens10–63
Towson Tigers10–63
Charleston Cougars9–74
Northeastern Huskies8–85
Elon Phoenix7–106.5
Drexel Dragons6–107
UNCW Seahawks4–129
James Madison Dukes2–1411

The top and bottom of the standings have more or less hardened. James Madison can move from tenth to ninth if they win both of their games and UNCW loses both of theirs, but James Madison’s recent play and the quality of their opponents this week makes that highly unlikely. Same goes for UNCW, which will remain in ninth barring two UNCW wins and two Drexel losses.

At the top of the standings, Hofstra has clinched a share of the regular season title and can claim sole possession with a split or sweep this week, highly likely given that they play last-place James Madison. William & Mary owns the tiebreaker over Delaware, and therefore cannot fall lower than second.

But the other six teams are in flux. Dissecting every possible outcome and ripple effect would take hours, so ahead of Northeastern’s games against James Madison and Towson this week, here are the Huskies’ possible outcomes from worst to best.

If Northeastern loses both games . . .

They will drop to 8–10. An Elon win over William & Mary would bring Northeastern and Elon into a tie. Because the pair have split their season series, it would trigger the next tiebreaker, record against the top team in the CAA. Both teams have lost twice to Hofstra, so Elon’s season split against William & Mary would give them the sixth seed and a first-round bye.

This is the only way the Huskies could possibly fall out of the top six. It would require them to lose to a solid team in Towson and the CAA’s worst team in James Madison, and it would also require a middling Elon team to beat William & Mary. This outcome is possible, but highly unlikely.

If Northeastern wins one game . . .

They will finish at 9–9 and guarantee a first-round bye regardless of which game they win. If Charleston loses both its games — unlikely but not impossible given their current four-game losing streak — the Huskies will vault over them for fifth place due to their season sweep of the Cougars. If Charleston win one or both of their games, the Huskies will finish sixth.

If Northeastern wins both games . . .

They will finish at 10–8 and guarantee a first-round bye. They finish fifth unless Charleston wins both of its games. If Towson loses to Hofstra on Thursday, Northeastern and Towson will finish with the same record, and Northeastern holds the season series tiebreaker.

Thus, a 2–0 record this week could put Northeastern anywhere between fourth and sixth. Rising from fifth to fourth helps with optics and bragging rights but is strategically and competitively useless because the fourth and fifth seeds play each other in the quarterfinal anyway.

***

Assuming the Huskies avoid the worst-case scenario and finish in the top six, they will face either Delaware, Charleston, or Towson. If this season’s games are any indication of how a CAA Tournament matchup will go, Northeastern would prefer Charleston, who they swept, over Delaware, who swept them. Northeastern is 1–0 against Towson, who they play on Sunday.

Two wins this week would also provide a massive momentum boost for the Huskies, who haven’t strung three wins together since the beginning of conference play.

The Huskies’ game against James Madison begins at 8 PM EST; WRBB’s live coverage from Matthews Arena begins about 15 minutes before tip-off.

Women’s Hockey Honors Seniors, Sets Records, Sweeps Merrimack

Story and Photos by Sarah Olender

BOSTON — Coming off of a 3–0 win against the Merrimack Warriors Friday night, the Northeastern Huskies were still feeding off of that energy. 

Northeastern’s three seniors were honored before their last regular-season home game. Codie Cross, from Alberta, Canada, Paige Capistran, from Manchester, New Hampshire, and Matti Hartman, from Etna, New Hampshire, were all recognized for their contributions to the program.

Cross played a shift in the first period, but an ongoing lower-body injury kept her from playing heavy minutes. Capistran and Hartman both played their hearts out, as did many other Huskies.

“They’re great leaders on and off the ice and really nice people, and I think they’ve done a lot for this program,” junior goaltender Aerin Frankel said. “Our culture has grown a lot, and it started with them as freshman learning from their seniors and they’ve done a really good job carrying that out to this team.”

Even though the Huskies’ position in Hockey East was determined more than three weeks ago, head coach Dave Flint still wanted to finish the year strong.

“I get more passionate, I think, on senior weekend,” he said. “Even though it was a long time ago for me, I remember what it was like . . . so I always want the seniors to go out on a winning note.”

The energy that Flint wanted was evident throughout the first period and most of the game. The Huskies started strong, maintaining possession for most of the period.

With nine minutes remaining, Northeastern center Tessa Ward received a penalty for cross-checking. While most teams might be nervous when down a player, the Huskies seem to gain confidence. Only eight percent of the team’s penalty kills have ended in goals, compared with the Huskies’ 15 percent success rate on the power play.

This penalty kill was no different. Alina Mueller fired a shot into the back of the net for her third shorthanded goal this season. 

The Huskies notched a second goal when Miceala Sindoris’ slick puck handling and blocked wrister led to a loose puck in the slot. Brooke Hobson was trailing the play and positioned herself perfectly to slap it home.

In the second period Merrimack increased their intensity and energy. They had many attempts on goal, but none passed through Frankel. The Husky goalie fired her team up near the end of the second period when she made an initial save, saw the puck was open and vulnerable behind her, dove backward to make a second save, and perfectly cleared the puck to Katy Knoll. Knoll found Tessa Ward, who carried the puck up the ice, wrapped around the net, and perfectly fed Mia Brown for the third and final goal of the game.

The third period was a slow and scoreless one for the Huskies. While they maintained possession for most of the period, they did not get as many shots on goal as they would have liked.

Near the end of the game, a Tessa Ward checking penalty and a Chloe Aurard slashing call brought the fierce penalty kill squad back out onto the ice. It was fitting that the successful penalty kills would seal an illustrious defensive record — when the clock showed zeros, Aerin Frankel had recorded her 10th shutout of the year, breaking Erika Silva’s 20-year-old school record. Frankel also equaled Chanda Gunn’s 19-year-old record of 23 wins.

“It’s a cool thing to know, but it’s not super important to me personally,” Frankel said. “It’s more important to me that we keep winning.”

The Huskies (28–4–2, 24–3–0 WHEA) kick off the Hockey East Tournament this week with a best-of-three quarterfinal series against the Vermont Catamounts. Tune in for WRBB’s coverage from Matthews Arena, with the first game starting at 1 PM EST on Thursday.

“We need to be focused, we need to be ready,” Flint said. “It’s playoffs, anything can happen.”

Men’s Basketball Bests Drexel in Crucial Late-Season Matchup

By Milton Posner

PHILADELPHIA — The last time Northeastern faced Drexel, the Huskies tore the Dragons up in every way imaginable. The Huskies nailed nine of their 17 tries from beyond the arc as their balanced attack carried them to a 85–52 victory.

Northeastern played seven games between then and Saturday afternoon’s rematch with Drexel. They posted a subpar showing from three-point land in every one of those games and, unsurprisingly for a perimeter-oriented team, their offense has suffered. Five of those seven games were losses. Their perimeter performance Saturday was among the worst of the year, with just three of the Huskies’ 15 long-range bombs settling into the bucket.

But Northeastern finally found a way around the distance deficiency. Led by Jordan Roland and Shaq Walters, the Huskies used ball movement and timely cuts to earn numerous layups and outlast the Dragons, 77–68.

The win is vital for the Huskies’ playoff hopes, as it guarantees they won’t fall below seventh place and — combined with Elon’s loss to Towson on Saturday — greatly boosts their chances of finishing in the top six. The top six seeds in next month’s CAA Tournament receive a first-round bye, essential given the league’s remarkable parity and the rigors of playing three games in three days (four in four days without the bye). If the Huskies split their games against JMU and Towson next week, they will secure the bye.

Saturday’s win was also essential in rebounding from Thursday’s 22-point loss against Delaware.

“You look up and down the league and everybody seems to have one of those games that’s an outlier,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen observed. “We understand it’s the next play mentality . . . [we] have a mature team that doesn’t have a hangover effect into the next game.”

The Huskies jumped out to an early lead, keeping the pressure on the Dragons’ defense despite Roland heading to the bench with two fouls. Walters and Tyson Walker keyed the Husky attack in his stead, with Guilien Smith and Max Boursiquot joining them in nailing multiple buckets.

Roland attempted just two three-pointers, his lowest-ever total in a Husky uniform. It was, more than anything else, a function of Drexel’s defense.

“We all know what Roland does; he’s an elite shot maker, and if he gets going from three life can be pretty hard,” Drexel head Zach Spiker noted. “You want to make him work to get the basketball, you want to make him work to catch it in the right spot. So when you limit him from three and he back cuts, if you don’t have proper rotation he’s going to have a clean look at the rim.”

Nearly every Husky shorter than 6’6” spent most of the game doing just that. Roland, who usually spends most of his time outside the paint, often faked a flare toward the perimeter and slashed back toward the basket, receiving passes and displaying impressive touch and body control to lay it in over larger defenders. Shaq Walters finished a number of buckets inside en route to 16 points, while Boursiquot and Bolden Brace added 10 apiece.

The cuts yielded easy buckets early on, bolstering the Huskies’ resolve and energy. While the Delaware game was marked by stagnant offense and little off-ball movement, Saturday’s contest featured constant activity. Every Husky who made a pass instantly looked for the next cut or screen. Whereas Delaware pressured the Huskies’ passing lanes, Northeastern forced Drexel to choose between covering the passing lanes or the cutters.

“They’re a pressure-and-deny team,” Coen explained, “and when you do that [backdoor cuts are] one of the things that’s available to you.”

Drexel kept things close throughout, trading the lead with Northeastern in the waning minutes of the first half and responding quickly when the Huskies built an 11-point lead after the intermission. Led by 20 points from sophomore guard Camren Wynter and 17 from junior forward James Butler, the Dragons matched the Huskies with 36 points in the paint.

The Dragons also took excellent care of the ball all game, committing just nine turnovers. While the Huskies turned the ball over frequently in the first half, they lost the ball just three times in the second, making it difficult for the Dragons to build momentum and cut into the lead.

But besides the cuts for layups, Northeastern won its biggest advantage at the foul line. While both teams committed just four fouls apiece in the first half, the second half grew more and more chippy as the clock wound down. Northeastern’s 10 fouls were spread out across the half, and were therefore less destructive than Drexel’s concentrated 14. The Dragons shot just six free throws in the second half, while the Huskies shot 20 and made 18 of them. Roland and Brace both went six-for-seven, with Boursiquot and Walters cashing in multiple times as well. Though the Huskies made three fewer field goals than the Dragons in the second half, they outscored them by seven.

The Huskies did have one scary moment or, more precisely, a scary moment in two parts. A few minutes into the half, Butler received a pass on the low block with good position against Boursiquot. Walker rushed over from the weak side to help and reached in with his left hand trying to knock the ball away. When Butler raised the ball to avoid the steal, he caught Walker’s arm in the process, and the freshman point guard doubled over in pain.

Smith subbed in for Walker, who went to the locker room. Walker rejoined the team on the bench a few minutes later, re-entered the game, and played for six minutes without registering a stat before attempting a three and immediately grabbing his arm again. He exited for good this time, though he remained on the bench with his teammates.

“He just kinda ran into Butler and that’s kinda like running into a brick wall,” Coen lamented. “He got him pretty good in the shoulder so when we get back to campus we’ll get it evaluated.”

We won’t speculate on the condition of Walker’s left shoulder, but any time he misses is a body blow to the Huskies, for whom every game now holds critical playoff importance. If Walker is sidelined, Guilien Smith is the most likely candidate to replace him in the starting lineup, as Smith has proven his defensive mettle against some of the conference’s best guards. It would be the first game of the season in which Walker does not start.

The Huskies (14–14, 8–8 CAA) will play their penultimate regular-season game on Thursday at home against last-place James Madison. Michael Petillo and Christian Skroce will call that one, with coverage beginning at 7:45 PM EST.

Men’s Hockey Suffers Worst Loss in 27 Years

By Christian Skroce

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — It was one of the worst performances in recent memory.

After a hard-fought Thursday game between the Northeastern Huskies and the Boston College Eagles ended in a 3–2 BC victory, tonight’s matchup saw the Eagles demolish the Huskies 10–1, the worst margin of loss for Northeastern since a nine-goal loss to Maine . . . on December 5, 1992.

Northeastern grabbed some early momentum, beginning the contest with two early power plays. But despite some nice movement and a few chances, the momentum faded and the Huskies had nothing to show for the man advantages.

Grant McPhee got the scoring going for Boston College after finishing off a centering feed from teammate Marc McLaughlin. When Husky goalie Craig Pantano lost his stick behind the net, his defense momentarily fell asleep, leaving McPhee wide open in front of the net.

BC had a clear strategy to begin the game, as almost every offensive possession started with a centering feed from behind the Northeastern net. Despite the offensive onslaught, the Huskies found themselves down by only one heading into the first break.

And then BC decided to stop messing around.

Northeastern’s defensive luck ran out quickly in the second frame, as BC doubled their lead just one minute into the period off a breakaway goal by Alex Newhook. The NU defense seemingly lost the freshman first-round pick, who found himself one-on-one with Pantano off of a great pass from teammate David Cotton.

The defensive lapses continued for Northeastern as Marc McLaughlin made the score 3–0 after a poor clearance by Pantano, who found himself on the bench after letting in a fourth goal, this one from long range by Logan Hutsko.

But freshman goaltender Connor Murphy fared no better than Pantano. The Eagles didn’t let up in the second period, as their first-round forward Matt Boldy got on the scoresheet with a power play goal that looked eerily similar to Hutsko’s.

The Huskies could do nothing to stop the bleeding, as forwards Mike Hardman and Marc McLaughlin scored a goal each to give the Eagles six goals in the period and a 7–0 lead.

Northeastern finally got something going at the end of the period, as forward Matt Thomson finished off a fantastic breakaway effort to score his first career goal and foil BC’s shutout bid. The goal was a small consolation prize in the end, though.

Boston College poured more salt in the Huskies’ wounds in the third period, as Boldy, defensemen Ben Finkelstein, and forward Aapeli Räsänen each added a goal in the final frame to put BC into double digits. Northeastern could only watch with dropped jaws as the final seconds ticked down and BC celebrated their best performance of the season.

The Huskies showed a total lack of composure, with nearly every player failing to make a positive impact. While Northeastern’s defensive miscues did them no favors, Boston College’s dominant performance began on their own defensive end, as the Eagles barely allowed Northeastern forwards to get anywhere near goalie Spencer Knight. The physical BC defensemen were in full force, and the Huskies had minimal offensive zone presence.

“I don’t know what to say. They were the better team tonight,” Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan said. “They sensed blood in the water and those kids on BC are sharks. They just kept coming as soon as they saw us struggling. I could talk a lot about a lot of things, but bottom line is they beat us up.”

When asked about where Northeastern goes from here, Madigan took a more positive tone, noting, “Well, we’re gonna reset. We’re gonna reset and get back to work tomorrow in preparation for the rest of the way.”

The absolute drubbing by Boston College gives the Eagles a weekend sweep and puts Northeastern in a precarious position. With several Hockey East games still to be played this weekend, the Huskies find themselves in seventh place after Providence’s helpful loss to Merrimack.

Northeastern will end their season with two crucial series against Vermont and Boston University. While most of the Hockey East seeds remain up in the air, the weekend performance certainly does not help the Huskies’ outlook. Northeastern probably needs to win all four remaining games to have a chance at a home first-round playoff series. Anything less than eight points during their final two weekends will likely see Northeastern traveling for the first round, while completely missing the tournament remains a possibility.

Women’s Hockey Masters Merrimack

By Jack Sinclair

As the regular season winds down, Northeastern’s eyes are set on the playoffs. The Hockey East playoffs begin with a best-of-three at home against the Vermont Catamounts on Thursday. Before that, however, the team had one more job to do.

Merrimack and Northeastern sit at opposite ends of the Hockey East standings. The Huskies, with 44 points, tower above the rest, while the Warriors, with nine, are in the cellar. Northeastern looked to bounce back from a split home-and-home against Providence by sweeping Merrimack to close the regular season. Of additional note, Alina Mueller and Aerin Frankel saw a renewed spotlight, as both are top 10 finalists for women’s college hockey’s most prestigious honor — the Patty Kazmaier Award.

Tonight’s match began with engaging action, as both teams exchanged early scoring opportunities. Eventually, things settled down, and about halfway through the first period, Northeastern saw their first power play. The man advantage did not yield a goal, but it allowed Northeastern to firmly plant themselves in the offensive zone, and their lethal puck cycling began.

Minutes after going to full-strength, the Huskies caught the Warriors in a defensive change, and Alina Mueller found herself on a breakaway with only Merrimack netminder Léa-Kristine Demers between her and the goal. The nation’s fourth-leading scorer wasted no time, putting a move on Demers and netting her 22nd goal of the season.

The remainder of the period saw a few more Husky chances, but Demers held fast and kept the score at 1–0.

Second period action saw an energized Merrimack team establish themselves in the Northeastern zone, aided by an early Northeastern penalty. Northeastern killed off the penalty, but Merrimack put some pressure on Aerin Frankel between the pipes. Frankel was forced to make some impressive saves as Merrimack found themselves on a breakaway midway through the period. 

Both teams exchanged penalties, but an impressive effort from both netminders meant the second period would conclude with the same score as the first.

The third period saw a reenergized Northeastern team occupy the offensive zone. An early penalty against the Huskies was negated by another penalty from the man-up Warriors, resulting in a four-on-four that allowed the Huskies to maintain their momentum. Midway through the third the Huskies finally found their breakthrough. Peyton Anderson powered past several Merrimack players and promptly placed the puck off the post and past the Warriors’ pipe protector to put the Huskies ahead 2–0.

Whatever battle cries the Warriors used to rally themselves were silenced at this point, as the celebration of their seniors’ last home game took hold and their game lost some of its intensity. The Huskies, however, said “screw that” and continued to put pressure on the Warriors. With just under four minutes to go, sophomore forward Miceala Sindoris found herself one-on-one with Demers off of a great feed from linemate Tessa Ward. A simple snipe beat the blocker side of the goalie, and Sindoris’ second goal of the season iced the Huskies’ 3–0 victory. The clock wound down to zero, and Northeastern goalie Aerin Frankel had secured her ninth shutout of the season.

Northeastern (27–4–2, 23–3–0 WHEA) will conclude the home-and-home, and their season, on Saturday. Matt Neiser, Sarah Olender, and George Barker will be on the call, with coverage beginning at 1:45 PM EST. We’ll post the Listen Live link on our Twitter before game time.

Northeastern Baseball Falls to Red Sox

By Milton Posner

Imagine, for a moment, being Matt Lord or Dave Howarth.

Both are freshmen position players for the Huskies. Neither saw any playing time during the team’s first three games, all decisive losses to the Alabama Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa. So they made their collegiate debuts on Friday afternoon in Fort Myers, Florida.

Lord and Howarth’s last games were in high school. Today they played the Boston Red Sox.

The Huskies hung around for most of the afternoon, but a sixth-inning offensive breakthrough handed the Sox a 3–0 win. The game — along with the Detroit Tigers’ matchup against the Southeastern University Fire — was the first MLB action of the year. The Huskies have faced the Sox 18 times — including every one of the last 17 years — and have never won.

The Huskies threatened quickly, with senior infielder Scott Holzwasser earning a 3–0 count, nearly homering when his drive off Daniel McGrath just hooked foul, then took ball four low and away. But Holzwasser gave it all back a few minutes later when McGrath picked him off. It wasn’t a particularly artful or creative move to first, just a moderately deceptive maneuver that completely froze Holzwasser and hung him out to dry.

The first few innings were marked by clumsy fielding. Though the box score shows just two errors — both were Sox miscues — both teams fumbled the ball plenty. Some resulted in outs when the fielders recovered, others were ruled as hits. The first error came after Northeastern’s Kyle Peterson walked, when a scalding ground ball off the bat of Northeastern’s Jake Rosen leapt into the chest of Sox third baseman Chad De La Guerra. But with two on and two out, McGrath fanned Husky center fielder Jared Dupere to silence the threat.

Dupere couldn’t stand looking bad for long. In the Boston half of the first, Jarren Duran smacked a sinking fly into medium center field. Dupere sprinted to his right and made a nifty sliding snag to keep Duran off the basepaths, allowing freshman hurler Cam Schlittler to escape the inning without a problem.

Northeastern’s best chance arguably came in the second inning. After Corey DiLoreto was called out on strikes, junior outfielder Jeff Costello pulled a line drive into left field. Boston left fielder John Andreoli was shading a bit toward center, so Costello dashed toward second and beat the throw with a headfirst slide. This is no easy feat in JetBlue Park — the Sox’s spring training ballpark has the same dimensions and features as Fenway Park in Boston, including the famously shallow left field wall.

The Huskies had a runner on first with only one out, but again squandered the opportunity through baserunning mistakes. After Teddy Beaudet went down swinging, Costello tried to swipe third base. A strong, accurate throw from Boston catcher Connor Wong cut Costello down, depriving Spenser Smith of an RBI chance and sending the Huskies back into the field empty-handed.

Costello’s decision to steal third with two outs would ordinarily make no sense, but in this game it’s more understandable. He was born in Lexington, 13 miles northwest of Boston. He played high school ball just a few miles from Fenway Park. Maybe he just wanted to steal a base against the Red Sox.

The next few innings proceeded without major intrigue. Neither team capitalized on the other’s fielding missteps. Northeastern turned ground-ball, inning-ending double plays in the third and fourth innings to neutralize the Sox. Both teams substituted liberally in a seven-inning game: the Sox used 19 position players and seven pitchers, while the Huskies deployed 15 position players and six pitchers.

The Huskies came close to getting on the board in the fifth inning. After Peterson reached base for the second time, All-CAA First Teamer Ian Fair slammed a shot down the right field line that raised the Husky hopes, but ultimately fell foul. Fair struck out a minute later on Denyi Reyes’ 32nd pitch of the inning.

In the bottom of the fifth, Northeastern’s Nick David retired the Sox in order, the first 1-2-3 inning of the afternoon for either squad. Eduard Bazardo would do the same to the Huskies in the top of the seventh, but every other half inning saw runners reach base.

In the bottom of the sixth, the Sox finally broke the stalemate. Marcus Wilson walked, then swiped second base when Husky catcher Dave Howarth’s throw arrived too late. Northeastern hurler Rick Burroni retired the next two hitters to hold Wilson at second, but second baseman Ryan Fitzgerald smacked a ball into the right-center field gap to plate Wilson.

When Burroni walked the next two hitters to load the bases with two outs, Northeastern head coach Mike Glavine took the ball from him, making Burroni the only pitcher for either team to be pulled partway through an inning. The move didn’t pay off, as new pitcher Henry Ennen gave up a two-run single to Jantzen Witte to arrive at the 3–0 final score.

It was the first game for Red Sox interim manager Ron Roenicke, who took the helm after two years as the team’s bench coach and five years as manager of the Milwaukee Brewers. Roenicke replaced Alex Cora, who was fired by the Red Sox after his prominent role in the Houston Astros’ illegal sign-stealing scheme was uncovered. The Sox’s lineup featured AA and AAA ballplayers looking to boost their stock before the season starts next months.

The Huskies, still seeking their first win of the season, will head north to Tampa for a three-game series against the University of South Florida. That series begins with a doubleheader on Saturday, with first pitch at 2 PM EST.