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.”

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.”

Women’s Hockey Very Vehemently Vanquishes Vermont

By Catherine Morrison

Fifteen minutes into Saturday afternoon’s matchup with the Vermont Catamounts, Northeastern allowed a goal, the first in nearly three weeks. The team had played 315 consecutive minutes (more than five games) without letting their opponents on the board.

But in a reminder of the just how special this season has been, even a moment of disappointment was surrounded by overwhelming dominance. The Huskies thrashed Vermont, 10–2, for their sixth straight win.

They didn’t take long to get going, with Katy Knoll converting on a backhand just 36 seconds into the first period.

Five minutes later Chloe Aurard got in on the fun, taking advantage of a neat pass by Jess Schryver just in front of the goal to knock in the puck.

The Catamounts had an opportunity to shorten the Huskies’ lead when Tessa Ward went into the penalty box for cross checking. Although Vermont got a few good shots in, they couldn’t get past the indestructible Aerin Frankel.

With just 23 seconds left in the power play, Vermont was given a second chance when Skylar Fontaine was called for high sticking, making it five-on-three. Northeastern controlled the puck throughout the power play and much of the rest of the period. However, with five minutes to go, Vermont’s Val Caldwell shot from the right circle and ended the five-game shutout streak.

Northeastern rebounded four minutes into the second period when Lauren MacInnes put one home in from the right circle on a Veronika Pettey assist.

Vermont replaced goaltender Blanka Škodová with Natalie Ferenc in the hope of turning things around. The Catamounts were quickly given an opportunity to close the gap when Kristina Shanahan made a great shot at the goal, but Frankel turned her away.

Four minutes in, the Huskies capitalized on a Vermont penalty for too many players on the ice when Matti Hartman fired home a power-play goal from the left circle.

Apparently unsatisfied with one power-play goal, the Huskies made Vermont pay for a hooking penalty when Aurard notched her second goal of the game.

Vermont called a timeout, trying to regain control of a game that was quickly slipping away. The timeout appeared to do some good, as a few minutes later Shanahan’s ninth goal of the year cut the Husky lead to 5–2. But the Catamounts couldn’t celebrate for long, as Northeastern scored its third power play goal of the game when Schryver beat Ferenc for her third goal of the season.

With a little over eight minutes left in the second period, Aurard collected a rebound in front of the goal and netted her second hat trick of the season.

Clearly, the Huskies were not happy about the Catamounts taking away their shutout streak. With three minutes left, Peyton Anderson passed to Katie Cipra who knocked it in the back of the net, making the score 8–2 and ending an absolutely bonkers second period.

For the third period, coach Dave Flint replaced Frankel with freshman goaltender Gwyneth Philips, who hadn’t allowed a goal in 184 minutes of collegiate action. With a six-point lead, Flint must’ve felt comfortable giving Philips a little more playing time. Vermont also decided to change goalies, giving third-stringer Sierra Natzke her third career appearance.

Natzke faired about as well as expected, giving up a between-the-legs goal to Alina Mueller four minutes in.

Two minutes later, Northeastern captain Peyton Anderson snapped one home, producing the 10–2 final score.

The Huskies moved to 21–3–1 (18–2–0 HEAW), hold a nine-point lead atop the Hockey East standings, and will look to widen the margin on Tuesday against second-place BU. Christian Skroce, Matt Neiser, and Catherine Morrison will have the call, with coverage beginning at 6:45 PM EST.

Women’s Hockey Continues to Starve Opponents

By Jack Sinclair

The Soviet defense of Stalingrad was largely hailed as one of the greatest defenses in history. The valor demonstrated by the Soviet soldiers in the harshest of winters during their last-ditch effort to thwart the German surge became immortalized in history.

Speaking of steadfast defenses in frigid environments . . . the Northeastern women’s hockey team.

The Huskies began tonight’s contest against the Vermont Catamounts having played 240 consecutive minutes without allowing a goal. The efforts of Aerin Frankel and Gwyneth Phillips between the pipes led the Huskies to a 16–0 combined margin over a pair of home-and-homes against Boston College and UConn.

Friday night’s game would prove no different, as the Huskies sailed past the Catamounts 4–0 and extended the shutout streak to an even 300 minutes. Northeastern (20–3–1, 17–2–0 HEAW) now leads second-place BC by eight points while Vermont (9–11–6, 6–9–4 HEAW) is tied with Maine for seventh.

The Huskies dominated tonight’s match from start to finish. Skylar Fontaine opened the scoring early in the first period, netting her 11th goal of the season.

The remainder of the first period was marred by penalties for both sides, even seeing some four-on-four action. The Huskies held the puck on the offensive end of the ice for most of the period, spearheaded by a relentless forward check.

The second period started in a similar manner to the first, with the Huskies keeping the pressure and the puck on the Catamounts’ side of the neutral zone. Vermont goalie Natalie Ferenc held off several odd-man rushes from Northeastern’s top line of Jess Schryver, Alina Mueller, and Chloe Aurard that demonstrated the line’s ability to break out of the neutral zone and run a sequence. Four minutes into the second period, and Tessa Ward slipped one past Ferenc, giving the Huskies a two-goal lead.

The latter half of the period saw the Huskies’ third and fourth lines getting more time on the ice, resulting in some opportunities for the Catamounts. The stubborn defense led by Frankel, Fontaine, and Megan Carter held fast, preserving the Northeastern shutout.

The third period began with more four-on-four hockey, and upon resuming five-on-five play, Northeastern continued to dominate Vermont, keeping the puck in the offensive zone for minutes at a time. Just under five minutes into the period, Peyton Anderson surged from Northeastern’s blue line, carried the puck to the promised land, and put the Huskies up 3–0.

The middle portion of the third period saw the teams swap power plays, but neither side unleashed a threatening shot on goal. Eventually, the Huskies pressured the Catamounts with a few good looks on goal. With just under four minutes remaining, Katie Cipra took advantage of a rebounding puck and put the Huskies ahead by a comfortable four goals.

This game demonstrated Northeastern’s capability to play at their own pace, even when their opponent can’t match it. They never allowed Vermont to string together lengthy stints on their own end, and limited the Catamounts to only 16 shots for the entire game.

The Huskies continued their defensive dominance, notching their fifth consecutive shutout. That is to say, their fifth straight hour of goalless hockey. This run comes at a great time; the season is winding down, the Beanpot is approaching, and a third consecutive Hockey East championship banner seems closer than ever.

The Huskies will remain in Burlington for the second game with Vermont, which begins Saturday at 4 PM EST.

Hockey East Preview: Vermont Catamounts

Last Season: 12–19–3 (5–16–3 HE, 10th place); missed HE playoffs

Head Coach: Kevin Sneddon (17th season)

Coaches’ Poll Projected Finish: 10th

Losses

  • F Thomas Aldworth
  • F Liam Coughlin
  • F Martin Frechette
  • D Jake Massie
  • F Conor O’Neil
  • F Craig Puffer

Additions

  • F Jacques Bouquot
  • F Simon Boyko
  • F William Lemay
  • D Andrew Lucas
  • F Riley McCutcheon
  • F Thomas Beretta

By Matt Neiser

It was a forgettable 2018–19 campaign for the Vermont Catamounts, who finished second-to-last in Hockey East after accumulating just five wins in conference play. The Catamounts closed out the season with a winless month, going 0–5–1 over their final six games. Not ideal.

The lone bright spot for Vermont was goaltender Stefanos Lekkas, who was one of the best netminders in the country last season. The rising senior posted a ridiculous .930 save percentage and a 2.27 goals against average, earning him spots as a Hockey East Second Team All-Star and Mike Richter Award semifinalist.

There were rumors swirling in March that Lekkas had entered the NCAA transfer portal, but — much to the relief of Catamount fans everywhere — he dispelled those rumors and reaffirmed his commitment to Vermont for his senior year.

Head coach Kevin Sneddon’s Catamounts play a physical brand of hockey, relying on their size and muscle to tire teams out and keep pucks away from the net. Combined with the stellar goaltending of Lekkas, it makes for a rather formidable defense. Despite ranking in the bottom 15 in the nation in wins, Vermont registered a top-15 goals against per game average (2.41).

It’s the other end of the ice that keeps the Cats from putting up Ws. They netted an abysmal 2.12 goals per game last season, the eighth-worst mark in the nation. No player reached double-digits in scoring; the top mark was freshman forward Joey Cipollone with nine goals.

Luckily for the Catamounts, they are returning six of their top seven goalscorers from last season. Junior Max Kaufman (eight goals, 13 assists) and senior captain Derek Lodermeier (five goals, 13 assists) will likely join Cipollone on the first line. Other key offensive contributors will be juniors Vlad Dzhioshvili and Alex Esposito, a couple of six-footers who combined for 13 goals and 16 assists as sophomores last season. 

The loss of defenseman Jake Massie to the NHL will hurt the Catamounts on the blue line, but they have the depth to help fill that void. Senior Matt O’Donnell added five goals and eight assists last year, valuable contributions for a team with offensive struggles. Juniors Owen Grant (one goal, two assists) and Christian Evers (two goals, five assists) will be key contributors as well, while senior Corey Moriarty, sophomore Carter Long, and junior Cory Thomas will provide much-needed stability and depth.

One intriguing addition to this year’s squad is freshman Jacques Bouquot. The 6’ 0” freshman initially committed to Boston College before ending up with Vermont. A skilled two-way center with enough talent to pop up in 2019 NHL Draft discussions, Bouquot is a wild card and potential game-changer for the Catamounts.

Bottom Line: Having Lekkas at the back will keep the Catamounts in some games, but the offensive skill just isn’t there for Vermont right now. No matter how good your defense is, you have to score — and the Catamounts haven’t shown they can do that consistently. Barring breakout years for multiple players, expect Vermont to struggle to compete for a playoff spot come March.