No. 4 women’s hockey advances to Hockey East semis, defeats UVM 3-1


Sarah Olender

The NU skaters celebrate their second of three goals.

George Barker, sports editor

As the two opponents huddled up, one focused on how tonight represented an all-important step in their path to a third consecutive Hockey East championship. The other simply hoped it wouldn’t be the last night of hockey they’d see for months.

“We were just talking about how we have to play how we play and get pucks to the net, move our feet and play with each other,” said junior defender Skylar Fontaine, who finished the game with three points and a hand in each of Northeastern’s goals.

The next time the teams would huddle by their nets, it would be with the defending champion Northeastern Huskies celebrating a series win and the Vermont Catamounts mourning the end of their season. On the back of two odd goals and strong play in net by junior Aerin Frankel, the No. 4 women’s hockey team advanced to the Hockey East semis with a 3-1 win over the visiting Catamounts.

“Excited that we’re moving on to the Hockey East Championship in Merrimack next weekend. Today, [it was a] hard fought win. I thought we started out slow again but definitely got it going in the second and the third,” said NU head coach Dave Flint. “Credit to Vermont, they gave us two good games and I’d rather have that first round … have some good competition and make us work, which they did, so we’re ready to go for next weekend.”

UVM made it a difficult series for Northeastern, despite the seemingly easy matchup on paper of the first seed Huskies against the eighth seed Catamounts.

“I wasn’t at all confident that we were just going to walk through this,” Flint said “They made us work. Neither game was easy.”

Fontaine shined for NU tonight, acting as a primary driver of their first two goals. The game saw dozens of high-danger scoring chances, and the only reason it didn’t end as a high scoring bout was the excellent play by Frankel and her counterpart across the ice, UVM sophomore Blanka Škodová. Frankel ended with 25 saves on 26 shots while Škodová finished with 41 saves on 44 tests from the Huskies.

“My thought process 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… My first one was a shot, my second one was a pass,” Fontaine said with a laugh of her two unconventional scoring plays.

Sarah Olender
Fontaine drives with the puck during her three point game.

Early in the first, it looked like the Huskies were just too fast for the eighth-seeded Catamounts. Their first two shifts were overpowering, with freshman forward Jess Schryver taking the puck right into the UVM crease just thirty seconds in and her linemates following that play up with a beautiful deflection play seconds later. Fortunately for UVM, Škodová came out hot and blanked the Huskies through their brief hot start.

It looked like Škodová gave her skaters momentum and after a couple line changes, UVM took control of Matthews Arena and tested junior goaltender Aerin Frankel throughout the first with a few high-danger shots. She came through for nearly all of them, but with 16 seconds left in the first stanza, she faltered.

“You can’t be giving up goals with 15 seconds left in the period, even if it was a power play. It was kind of a broken play off the rush and we had a bad change … they capitalized on it,” Flint said. “You got to minimize your mistakes. Unfortunately for us, that mistake ended up in the back of the net.”

The Catamounts were on the power play after Fontaine caught a two minute tripping minor. Initially, it looked like Frankel and her penalty killers were going to stand up for the waning moments of the first, but when a rebound got out of her reach, the Catamounts capitalized. Frankel was stuck to the right of her net in the butterfly as the puck sat aimlessly in the crease, just long enough for senior center and UVM captain Ève-Audrey Picard to launch it into the Northeastern twine. With seconds left in the period, the game was 1-0 UVM.

“I liked how we responded. Credit to the team, they’ve done that all year. We get our backs against the wall, a little adversity and they crank it up. I just told them, moving forward, we can’t start slow the rest of the playoffs,” Flint said. “The teams are getting better and we’re going to be behind too much and it is going to be too late. Hopefully, they heard that message and next weekend we start a lot faster.”

The game stayed tight in the second as the two teams appeared shockingly even. The Huskies were fortunate to tie the game up eight minutes in. Fontaine picked one up, unassisted, in a unique hockey play. Fontaine looked to center the puck and get a Husky shot from behind the net, but instead, she put it off Škodová’s back into the net. After a lengthy review to determine whether the Czech goalie kept the puck from crossing the line, the score was tied 1-1.

Moments later, NU flipped the game on its head and took control, 2-1. Fontaine was the driver again as she put a puck off Škodová’s pads from the wing. Škodová couldn’t cover it and halt the play, and freshman forward Peyton Anderson opportunistically forced the puck from Škodová’s control into the net. Again, a review was necessary, but Matthews’ massive videoboard quickly quelled any concerns of an intentional kick by Anderson and confirmed the call on the ice of a Husky goal.

“My goal, I thought I saw it go in then I started second guessing myself. The second one, I was pretty confident,” Fontaine said about sitting through two offical reviews.

The Huskies were held off the scoreboard the rest of the period, but they finally started to take control of possession. While UVM wasn’t completely shut down offensively, NU outshot them 14-7.

The third period brought another NU goal, this time on the power play. NU was handed one and a half minutes of five-on-three hockey and initially, Škodová stood tall and kept them off the scoresheet. Eventually though, the barrage of offense proved too much and an Alina Mueller shot from the slot beat her glove side, giving the Huskies a comfortable two goal lead to protect for the second half of the third period.

For the rest of the contest, NU looked to roll over Vermont and put a halt to their season. They dominated puck possession and kept the desperate Catamounts pinned in their zone as the clock wound down. In the end, Škodová’s play was the only reason the Huskies didn’t completely dominate the scoresheet. The Czech goalie’s season would end with just over 40 seconds in the contest as UVM head coach Jim Plumer pulled her to get six skaters on the ice, but the NU defense held strong and stifled the last-ditch effort to advance and move closer to a third straight Hockey East title.

“[Škodová] played great. You got to find ways,” Flint said. “There are going to be games when you run into a hot goalie or a team that is defending you well, but you got to find ways to put the puck in the net. Lucky for us, we did that tonight.”

With her tenth career postseason win now under her belt, Frankel remains undefeated in the playoffs. That’s fortunate for the Huskies, as according to Flint, a hot goaltender is one of the keys to a championship. Not only did Frankel impress with her defense, but she also earned an assist on Fontaine’s goal.

Sarah Olender
Frankel makes one of her 25 saves of the contest.

“I always say it’s about the hot goalie,” Flint said. “Our league is so tight, there is so much parity, anybody can beat anybody.”

Now, NU can lock in on the three remaining teams with a full week to prepare. After a competitive first series, the Huskies have just two more obstacles ahead. With only Providence, who beat the Huskies twice this year, and Vermont eliminated, they won’t know for at least another day who they need to game plan for. Regardless, Flint’s preparation has already begun, as made evident by the beginning of his playoff beard.

“To be honest, this morning I was going to shave, and I didn’t feel like it,” Flint said. “So I said, I can play it off as a playoff beard, so I guess I’m just going to keep going with it.”