Women’s hockey sweeps UNH in Hockey East Quarterfinals

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Women’s hockey sweeps UNH in Hockey East Quarterfinals

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By Caroline Ingram, news staff

Northeastern and the University of New Hampshire women’s hockey teams met for a best-of-three series in the quarterfinals of the Hockey East Championship last weekend at Matthews Arena.

NU entered the series holding a 2-1 advantage in the regular season meetings between the two teams. Their last postseason meeting was in 2015, with NU winning the series two games to one.

In the first game of this series, UNH struck first 8:23 into the initial game with a goal by forward Carlee Toews. Toews entered the NU zone on a 2-on-1 with teammate Devan Taylor skating down the left side. Toews fired a wobbly shot, which beat first-year NU goalie Aerin Frankel.

Just 53 seconds later, NU evened the score with a goal by fourth-year forward Denisa Krizova. Fourth-year forward McKenna Brand came through the slot with possession, leaving a drop pass for Krizova, who fired a high shot above UNH goalie Ava Boutilier’s glove.

The strong offensive play continued from NU as they pulled ahead at 11:31. Krizova fired a shot, which rang the iron and fell into the crease. With Boutilier bobbling the puck, fourth-year defenseman Lauren Kelly crashed the net to bang home the rebound for her 12th goal of the season.

After the game, head coach Dave Flint expressed his satisfaction with how his top line has been playing recently.

“[Brand, Sullivan and Krizova] make us go and they give the whole team a lot more confidence when they are going,” Flint said. “If they’re not producing, then we have to rely on someone else to step up. They really turned it on for us today and it made the whole team play better.”

With just 31 seconds to go in the opening period, the Huskies tacked on another goal to make it 3-1. First-year defenseman Skylar Fontaine rushed the puck into the offensive zone and beat Boutilier bar-down.

In the second period of play, UNH pulled within a goal nearly halfway through the frame, as defenseman Maddie Truax banked a pass off the boards which Taylor Wenczkowski picked up. Wenczkowski’s high shot rocketed past Frankel to put the score at 3-2, Northeastern leading.

The third period was evenly matched between the teams, with neither goalie giving up a goal. Frankel was able to preserve the win with a 23-save effort.

When asked about his decision to go with Frankel for the weekend series rather than veteran Brittany Bugalski, Flint said he went back and forth with the decision.

“Both goalies this season have had great performance, and not-so-great outings,” Flint said. “In this semester in particular, neither of them was really jumping up and taking control of the net. I felt like Frankel has played well the past week or so, and she looked good in practice.When it came to decision time, I went with who I thought was playing the hottest and coming.”

The teams met again Saturday, with the Huskies looking to close out the series and advance to the semifinal round with a victory. The first half of the opening period was evenly matched between the teams, with both generating quality scoring opportunities.

With a little over 11 minutes to go in the first period, NU had a great 3-on-1 chance with first-year forward Veronika Pettey and second-year forward Matti Hartman crashing the net, and third-year Kasidy Anderson not far behind. Hartman fed the puck back to Anderson, who fired a high shot that was deflected by Boutilier.

A strong couple of shifts ensued, with another great chance for the Huskies by second-year defenseman Codie Cross, who fired a low shot from the point which Boutilier fumbled. Moments later, NU found itself on the man advantage after a tripping penalty to UNH’s Ellie Sasaki.

On the power-play, NU drew the first goal of the game when Krizova found third-year forward Tori Sullivan hanging around the far post of the net and fired a hard pass over to her. Sullivan was able to get her stick on the pass and direct it past Boutilier for the point.

“[Brand, Sullivan and Krizova] have gone in spurts this season,” Flint said. “They definitely picked it up this weekend which was nice to see. If we are going to be successful down the stretch they have to be rolling.”

UNH quickly responded to the Huskies’ goal, and forward Nicole Dunbar pounded in a rebound just 56 seconds later.

The teams headed to the locker rooms deadlocked 1-1, with both teams getting 10 shots on net in the opening period.

In the second period, the Huskies pulled ahead just 1:11 into the frame. Krizova gained possession behind the UNH net, finding Brand at the top of the right circle. Brand put a hard shot on net, generating a large rebound out to Sullivan, who was in perfect position to knock in her second goal of the game.

The Huskies dealt with a bit of penalty trouble as both Hartman and Shelby Herrington were called for tripping penalties in the period, but the NU defense was steady and Frankel was able to stave off UNH’s scoring chances.

The period closed with the Huskies holding a 2-1 advantage and outshooting UNH 25-16.

“The team felt confident going into the third period,” Flint said. “They knew they were capable of getting the win, they knew what had to be done to get that win.”

In the final period, both goalies put up stellar performances to keep the game 2-1 in favor of the Huskies with under five minutes to go. Fourth-year defenseman Lauren Kelly drew an interference penalty with 4:56 to go in the game after colliding with a UNH player in front of the net. The Huskies were able to kill off the Kelly penalty and brought the clock down to under two minutes to play. Boutilier was pulled with 1:27 left, and Cross almost scored an empty net goal, but her attempt was blocked by player traffic in front.

The final minute of play was a shooting gallery for UNH, but Frankel stood strong and staved off their hopes for a late goal. Second-year forward Andrea Renner came up with a huge blocked shot with less than 10 seconds to go, diving and sliding in front of the blast and sending the puck out of play.

UNH’s final hopes came down to a faceoff play with three seconds to go after NU called its timeout. UNH won the draw but Anderson came through the circle and snagged the puck, dumping it out of the zone and cementing the win.

The win advances NU to the Hockey East semifinal round for the eighth straight season. The Huskies will host the University of Maine Black Bears for the semis Saturday at Matthews Arena, followed by the championship game Sunday.

“It’s a huge two wins for us,” Flint said. “We’ve certainly had a lot of ups and downs to our season, so this is a big confidence boost for everyone. We’ll be looking to take this confidence and this strong level of play into our next series.”