Women’s hockey stumbles at home against Providence

Senior+forward+Tori+Sullivan+%2819%29+scores+her+fifth+goal+of+the+season+and+Northeastern%27s+second+goal+of+the+game+Sunday+against+Providence.

Muhammad Elarbi

Senior forward Tori Sullivan (19) scores her fifth goal of the season and Northeastern’s second goal of the game Sunday against Providence.

Mike Puzzanghera, sports editor

A day after clinching the regular season Hockey East championship, the Huskies were stunned by Providence 5-2 at Matthews Arena Sunday, giving Northeastern only its second home loss of the year.

Saturday’s game saw the Huskies (22-5-4, 20-3-2 WHEA) beat the Friars (20-10-2, 14-9-2 WHEA) 3-1, putting them out of reach of Boston College in the Hockey East standings and securing first place.

On Sunday, however, Providence had the best look early, as forward Maureen Murphy skated in on NU goalkeeper Aerin Frankel on a breakaway. Frankel stayed composed in goal, however, and got down low to stop the chance with her pads.

But Providence continued attacking, and found the first goal through forward Sara Hjalmarsson. She attacked down the right wing against Husky defender Maddie Hartman. Hjalmarsson shifted the puck to her preferred left hand before rocketing a wrister bar-down to beat Frankel.

The Huskies hit back quickly on a 4-on-3 situation. After three penalties in the span of 31 seconds, the Huskies found themselves with the advantage, and sophomore defender Skylar Fontaine fired home her 10th of the season soon after the final penalty. Freshman forward Alina Mueller supplied the pass back toward Fontaine, who launched a one-time slap shot past PC netminder Madison Myers and in.

Northeastern continued to pressure, and given another power play chance at the end of the period, they capitalized once again. This time, Fontaine’s shot was saved by the pads of Myers, but the rebound found its way to senior forward Tori Sullivan at the left pipe. Sullivan made no mistake and slipped the puck in for her fifth score of the year.

The Friars leveled things up at 4:01 of the second as Hjalmarsson got her second of the game. Cassidy MacPherson played a pass across the face of goal, and Hjalmarsson got in a good position to shoot and snuck a shot past Frankel.

Just over a minute later, Providence got goal number three to take the lead from forward Neve Van Pelt. Van Pelt rolled a low shot toward the net from the right, and it slipped through the legs of Frankel and in.

The Friars’ dominance in the second period was shown in the shot margins: They outshot NU 11-4, and maintained heavy pressure in NU’s D-zone throughout the frame. It left NU head coach Dave Flint with plenty to tell his team at the break.

“I told them we need to simplify things and we need to start getting pucks to the net,” Flint said. “I think we were trying to do too much sometimes, making a pretty play instead of just getting pucks to the net and getting the puck down low. They came out that second period and they played desperate; they outworked us and we let them.”

Providence was yet again knocking on the doorstep at the start of the third, but they were thwarted by an incredible save by Frankel. After saving the first shot by Emily Landry, the rebound fell out to Hayley Lunny and it looked to be a sure fourth goal for the Friars. Frankel had other ideas, lunging across the goal and saving it with her stick at point-blank range and keeping the Huskies’ deficit at one.

But the Friars got their fourth through forward Christina Putigna minutes later, as she picked up a pass at the left circle and ripped her shot past Frankel.

An empty-netter by Meaghan Rickard wrapped things up for Providence, as they put five past the top defense in Hockey East.

“They played like the game meant more to them than it did to us and it did, they’re fighting for home ice and yesterday we locked up the regular season championship,” Flint said. “I think we got a little lackadaisical.”

The loss will not affect Northeastern in the Hockey East standings, but it could serve as a hit to their position in the Pairwise, as they are still looking to maintain a high ranking before the conference tournament.

The conference title NU clinched Saturday is just the second regular season Hockey East title in the program’s history, with the first coming in 2002.

“Especially in a league like Hockey East where its competitive top to bottom, for us to win the regular season championship, it’s quite an accomplishment for the girls, and we were definitely excited about it,” Flint said.

The Huskies will look to rebound when they take on Merrimack (16-10-6, 10-9-4 WHEA) Friday at Matthews Arena.