PROVIDENCE – The inaugural broadcast of the women’s Hockey East playoffs on FloHockey promised to bring the kind of excitement that has been the watermark of play in the league all season long.
Saturday’s semifinal games did not disappoint.
The Northeastern Huskies hung to defeat the Providence Friars, 3-2, in the opener of the women’s Hockey East semifinals, which was seen live exclusively on FloSports.
But, it wasn’t easy.
Providence first line senior left wing Christina Putigna scored just 18 seconds into the game, sending an obviously pro-Friars crowd into a frenzy at Schneider Arena.
“We put an emphasis on the first three minutes of every period and the last three minutes of every period,” said Providence head coach Matt Kelly.
“We want to be super clean and bring a lot of energy in those timeframes, so that was our goal…you want to start on the right side of the puck, make sure everyone’s getting their touches and getting out there and getting their legs into that type of game.”
Thankfully for Northeastern head coach Dave Flint, however, Alina Mueller believed in getting off to a good start as well. His top center answered with a goal of her own just 94 seconds later after Chloe Aurard forced a turnover in the offensive zone and Mueller quickly snapped off a shot past Friars goaltender Madison Myers, high blocker side.
“Any time you start a big game, and they score 18 seconds in, does your team go back on their heels and never really recover,” he asked. “The one thing I’ve liked about our team this year is their resiliency. It seems, time and time again, they’re put in different situations where they need to bounce back. To answer back with that goal in the first period was huge, and if they had got another one, it might have been a totally different game.”
It was a key moment for the team, but also reigning Hockey East Goaltender of the Year Aerin Frankel, who needed to put her own shaky start behind her.
Did she ever.
“I think it was just knowing how hard our team works no matter what the circumstances are,” said Frankel, who ended up making 32 saves in the victory.
“We respond really well to adversity, and this game was a testament to that. We were down by a goal and came right back and answered it. They scored again, then we scored again as well. That’s the kind of mentality we need throughout the playoffs, and if we continue to do that, we’ll be successful.”
As Frankel alluded to, the teams did swap goals in the second period; Matti Hartman’s sixth of the season at 8:47 gave the Huskies their first lead, but Kate Friesen answered back on the power play at the 15:11 mark to tie the game at 2-2.
Aurard scored the game-winner just two minutes and 32 seconds later, however; after defenseman Brooke Hobson’s initial attempt on Myers was blocked, Aurard picked up the loose puck and snapped it home from the slot for what was ultimately the game-winner.
“Obviously, I’m pleased with the outcome, but it was a good hockey game,” Flint said. “Credit to Providence, I thought they outplayed us for some long stretches in that game…luckily, we came out on top.”
Without Frankel’s heroics, perhaps it’s a different story. The 5-foot-5 sophomore stood tall against an incredible push by the Friars in the third period, credited with just eight saves despite the puck seemingly being in Northeastern’s defensive zone for the majority of the final frame.
“Credit to my teammates, I think I was able to play pretty relaxed,” said Frankel of her third period play. “I know they were going to block shots for me and pick up sticks in front of the net. Coach always harps on taking care of our D zone first, and I think we had that mindset today. That allowed me to be able to relax and play my game.”
Flint added: “It’s the most important position on the ice, and she’s been a rockstar for us all year long. The team rallies around her. For her to bounce back after that first goal and put in the performance she did, I’m really proud of her.”
EAGLES DOMINATE RIVAL TERRIERS TO ADVANCE TO HOCKEY EAST FINAL
In discussing the highly anticipated women’s Hockey East semifinal showdown between heated rivals Boston University and Boston College, Eagles defenseman Megan Keller promised a bloodbath.
And there was one.
On the scoreboard, anyway.
As seen live only on FloHockey, Lindsay Agnew opened the scoring for Boston College just 22 seconds into the game, and the Eagles never looked back en route to a dominant 5-1 win to advance to Sunday afternoon’s final against Northeastern.
“I thought we played a great game,” said Eagles head coach Katie Crowley.
“That one of the best games we’ve played all year. Every line was going fast, moving pucks well, taking care of pucks and taking care of our D zone. I thought every line played a full game, including our D, and (goaltender) Maddy (McArthur) played well when we needed her to play well. I was happy with the way we played. Obviously, BU has had a tremendous year, so I give them credit too.”
Truth be told, there wasn’t much to be positive about for the Terriers, who had won the last two regular-season matchups against the Eagles, but came out flat early and never seemed to recover, as evidenced by Agnew’s quick tally against goaltender Corinne Schroeder.
“Obviously, a fantastic game for our opponent, Boston College,” said Terriers head coach Brian Durocher.
“They played great right from the get-go…(the quick goal) certainly didn’t help matters, but we did get out of the first period at 1-0, and I think we played better in the first period than in the second. The second, that thing was going downhill; we had it at 3-1 and let them get one more to make it 4-1, and it’s an awful steep slope to go up.”
It was one they simply weren’t able to climb, not this time.
Reigning Patty Kazmaier Award winner Daryl Watts scored the first of her two goals on the night at the 3:57 mark of the second, followed by a Kelly Browne tally a little under eight minutes later to make it a 3-0 game. Terriers defenseman Abby Cook netted a power play goal to break up the shutout and give Boston University some brief hope, but Watts’ second of the game shortly after quickly extinguished that flame.
The line of Watts, Agnew and Makenna Newkirk combined for three goals and three assists and really seemed to have clicked at just the right time.
“I think it’s great,” Watts said. “Me, Makenna and Lindsay, we love to play with each other, and in practice we work really hard. In the games, it’s just clicking right now. We’re finding each other, and it’s really fun.”
Their coach certainly doesn’t seem to mind either.
“When our best players are our best players, we can do some really good things here,” Crowley said. “I thought tonight was an example of that. I thought Daryl played one of the best games of her year today, I thought Caitrin Lonergan was really good, I mean I could go through everyone on the team, I thought everyone played really well today. I think this group is a special group. They’ve been through a lot, and I’ve said it before, I don’t think I’ve had a tighter team. In this game, it showed. They wanted to go out and do it for each other, and they found a way.”
FAMILIAR FOES FACE OFF ONE MORE TIME IN SUNDAY’S HOCKEY EAST FINAL
Boston College Eagles versus the Northeastern Huskies.
But, after having already played each other a whopping four times this season, the stakes won’t get any higher than playing for the Bertagna Trophy and a chance for an automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament in Sunday afternoon’s women’s Hockey East Championship game, which can be seen live only on FloHockey at 1:30 PM Eastern.
“Northeastern is a great team, they’ve got some really good individuals,” said Eagles forward Daryl Watts. “But, we’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing. It’ll be fun.”
It was not fun in the regular season series opener, when they lost on the road, 5-4, on November 27. Nor was it when they also dropped the next game the two teams played, 4-1, also at Matthews Arena, on January 11.
Fun? Try the Eagles’ 7-5 win at home against the Huskies the very next night. Or a very satisfying win in the Beanpot consolation game, a 4-1 win on February 12.
Both the first four matchups having been split down the middle and the familiarity between the two teams should make for a very interesting championship Sunday.
“I think we know their team, and we know how good they can be,” said Eagles head coach Katie Crowley. “They’ve had a couple wins against us, and we’ve had a couple wins against them. So, I think this league is an extremely strong league…I think this is going to be a battle. Every puck battle is going to matter. That’s what it makes it fun, that’s what makes it what I think will be a great championship game.”
Boston College has the momentum, but also may have a distinct advantage with the status of Northeastern’s first line center, Alina Mueller, up in the air heading into Sunday. The two-time Olympian – she was the youngest hockey player ever to win a hockey medal, helping Switzerland to bronze in 2014 – left Saturday’s semi-final game with an undisclosed injury and did not return.
“I didn’t get a report yet, but I know she’s getting looked at,” said Huskies head coach Dave Flint. “It’s ‘upper-body,’ and I’m not exactly sure what happened during the play. (Our) trainers are looking at her and doctors are going to look at her, and they’re going to give me a report a little bit later.”
Mike Ashmore has 17 years of experience covering professional and college sports. You can follow him on all social media channels at @mashmore98.