By James Duffy, deputy sports editor
The Northeastern University (NU) women’s hockey team skated off the ice at Matthews Arena for the final time this season, and despite closing the doors on their barn, the players were all smiles.
In their last pair of home game this year, the Huskies pummeled Providence College (PC) twice en route to a sweep in the first round of the Hockey East playoffs.
After finishing the regular season in second place in the conference, NU locked up home ice for round one and took full advantage of the opportunity.
The Huskies found themselves down early in Game 1 after Providence senior defenseman Lexi Romanchuk ripped a shot into the back of the net just two minutes into the contest.
The puck went past junior goalie Sarah Foss, who was making a spot start in place of the usual netminder, freshman goalie Brittany Bugalski.
The Huskies offense broke out in the second half of the game, scoring a trio of goals late in the second period and tacking on another in the third.
Senior forward Kendall Coyne was the sparkplug for the offense, notching two goals and an assist to help lead her team to a 5-2 win and a 1-0 series lead.
Two blue liners stepped up as well, as sophomore Ainsley MacMillan and senior Jordan Krause each potted a goal in the victory.
Foss settled down after allowing the Friars to get on the board early, finishing with 33 saves for her eighth win of the season.
“I told the team how hard it is for a goalie to be thrown in, last-minute, into a playoff game,” said head coach Dave Flint. “For her to play like that was huge for us.”
Bugalski was back in net on Saturday after sitting out one game due to injury.
“She’s day-to-day,” Flint said of his freshman tender. “Today she was good.”
Bugalski didn’t miss a beat in her return to the lineup, quickly snapping back to her old form.
She only needed to face 26 shots, but made some stellar saves to keep Providence off the scoreboard in the first two periods.
The Friars were able to net two in the final period, but it came too late as the Husky offense had already kicked into high gear.
After Coyne and sophomore forward McKenna Brand each got on the board in the second period, the Huskies racked up four goals in the third to lock up the 6-2 win.
Providence nearly clawed back into the game with a power play goal with five minutes left that made the score 4-2, but Coyne scored twice after that to slam the door on the series.
Penalties were an issue for the Huskies all series long, and it nearly cost them in Game 2. NU took eight penalties in the game, but solid defense and strong goaltending held PC to just one power play marker.
“The refs went from not calling anything [in Game 1] to calling a lot today,” Flint said. “We’ll need to be more disciplined.”
Coyne tallied her fifth hat trick of the season in the series finale and added an assist to round out her four-point performance.
Following the sweep of Providence, the Huskies now travel to Merrimack College, the site of the Hockey East semifinals and final. In the semifinals, the Huskies will take on Boston University (BU), the No. 3 team in the conference and a familiar foe.
NU faced off with the Terriers four times this season and got the better of them three times, but Flint said preparation for the game would be no different than the past.
“We’re going to do what we’ve done all year – watch film and get ready for it,” he said.
Photo courtesy Jim Pierce, Northeastern Athletics.