No. 4 women’s hockey topples visiting Maine Black Bears 3-2 in overtime

George Barker, news staff

No. 4 Northeastern associate head coach Nick Carpenito opened his phase of the postgame press conference with a remark on Maine’s senior goaltender Loryn Porter, mentioning how he expected to have nightmares about her for a third straight week. It’s hard to blame him, as Porter single-handedly kept her short-handed Maine skaters in the contest with a remarkable 51 saves in the overtime contest, but excellent play by the Huskies’ first line joined by newly eligible redshirt junior and Providence transfer Maureen Murphy was enough to get NU over the top. 

“As far as today’s game goes, I thought we were really, really good. I thought we were executing well, I thought we were getting a good presence up front offensively,” Carpenito said. “I thought defensively we were fantastic… I think for us it was a good win, and we’re continuing to build on everything that we’ve been working on the last couple weeks.”

The Huskies (6-1-1, 6-1-1 HEA) reversed their normal formula this afternoon, starting off the game with an excellent first period that they wholeheartedly dominated. Murphy’s addition to the first line was incredibly impactful, as the recently-cleared transfer gave the dangerous duo of junior forwards Chloé Aurard and Alina Mueller another top-notch scoring threat to work with, and when that line was paired up with senior blueliners Skylar Fontaine and Brooke Hobson, the Huskies were able to force Maine (4-5-0, 4-5-0 HEA) defenders to sit back and pray for a mistake. 

“They’re great people and great players… We talked a lot before the game, in between periods and then last night, so just a lot of communication,” Murphy said about Aurard and Mueller and their chemistry as a group from the opening puck drop. 

Aurard, Mueller and Murphy each had a goal, while Hobson had two assists and Fontaine picked one up for herself. Mueller had two assists to goal along with her goal, while the trio of skaters combined for 26 shots on goal, a fact that Carpenito was pleased with. Nobody on the Huskies outside of that five was on the ice for a goal, which is no knock on the rest of NU, but a testament to strong play of their top players and Porter’s standup day. 

The Huskies’ opening tally came two and a half minutes into the contest, as the Huskies’ top unit looked like they were playing on the power play even when playing 5-on-5 hockey. A strong setup by the Huskies led to a left-to-right pass from a crashing Fontaine, giving Mueller a one-time shot from the right faceoff circle. Mueller’s hard shot beat Porter to the right post, her first of three points on the afternoon and her third goal of the season. 

Mueller’s goal was one of Porter’s only mistakes of the night, and she was the number one reason Maine stood a chance against the Huskies today. Her defense around her played extremely tight in their zone and let the Huskies work on the perimeter, the same style of defense the Black Bears employed in their two game series earlier this season. It led to an immense shot total by NU, but Maine worked hard to keep those shots from Porter, even if her 51 saves don’t make it look that way. The Black Bears combined for 26 blocks in the afternoon with Maine’s captain and senior blueliner Taylor Leech leading the way with 6, including one that should’ve been counted as a save as Leech ate a shot in the crease with Porter sprawled on the ice from a previous save. 

“There were times where it felt like we were shooting against six goaltenders. The thing about [Maine] is they’re just so disciplined, they’re really well coached, they’re not afraid to block shots,” said Carpenito, who discussed the combination of Maine’s shot blocking and elite goaltending as a difficult one to face off against. “It’s very, very tough to get one through on [Porter].” 

The Huskies closed the first stanza with 15 shots on goal while limiting Maine to zero shots in their most dominant first period yet this season. NU continued to pepper Porter in the second, and their netfront presence combined with a steady stream of shots proved fruitful again eight minutes in. Hobson ripped a shot on net from the slot, and a persistent Murphy grabbed her first goal as a Husky from the blue paint as she hammered home a loose rebound.

“I think we had a lot of momentum and we had a lot of possession throughout the entire game…. I just ended up in front of the net and [Hobson] took a great shot. We all just were crowding [the net]. I think even if I hadn’t put it in, I know Chloé was there too, so I just really didn’t have to do that much work,” Murphy said, underselling her own netfront presence a bit. 

Maine was playing with only three forward lines and five defensemen, but was able to hang around as the game went on. Late in the second period, Maine junior blueliner Ida Press intercepted a Husky dump as NU went for a full five skater change and cut right through the neutral zone. Freshman winger Morgan Sadler arrived as a reinforcement, and on the opposite side of the ice from the Huskies bench, she got an open look at the net and snuck one bardown over sophomore Gwyneth Philips blocker-side shoulder. Philips was making her first start of the campaign to give senior star netminder Aerin Frankel a breather and finished with 11 saves on 13 shots.

“I think we have one of the best one-two goaltenders in the country. Gwyneth [is] an outstanding goaltender and she’s a goaltender of our future realistically. We’re going to play a lot of hockey in a very short amount, amount of time,” Carpenito said. “It wasn’t that Aerin wasn’t playing well,  she’s been playing fantastic for us, we just want to make sure that we’re doing a good job keeping her fresh.”

Maine capitalized on another NU mistake early in the third period to knot the game up at two goals a piece. Black Bear junior center Ali Beltz grabbed a turnover behind Philips’ net and snuck a wraparound in before Philips could get her pad sealed. The Huskies dominated virtually every minute of regulation, but Maine’s persistence gave them a chance to reward Porter with a win as their game-tying goal stood long enough to send the game to an extra five minutes.

“Realistically I felt like we had two mistakes today, and unfortunately with a team like Maine, they’re going to make you pay. The first goal against [us], we got the puck in deep and we had a bad change that came back on us, and [Sadler] had a great goal bar-down short side,” Carpenito said. “[We had] a mishandle behind our own net, and they made us pay for that too. That’s our league… whatever team makes the least amount of mistakes is typically going to win the hockey game.”

Maine could only hold the Huskies off for so long though, as in the waning moments of overtime, the trio of Aurard, Mueller and Murphy struck again. Carpenito went with all forwards to close the game out and it paid off. Aurard carried the puck up the right wing, hesitated and looked to be considering a pass, but was encouraged by Murphy to shoot instead. Murphy’s sage advice and Aurard’s hard shot to Porter’s blocker side finally ended Porter’s elite game and saddled her with a hard-luck loss. 

“We had three forwards out there, which is pretty atypical… We were coming down [the ice] and I was on my off hand, and I know Chloe has a great shot,” Murphy said. “So I just was yelling ‘Shoot, shoot, shoot.’ She heard me and just picked her spot and it was a nice shot.”

The Huskies’ next game is scheduled against Hockey East-leading No. 7 Providence (9-2-1, 9-2-1 HEA) Friday at 4 p.m., with the rivalry contest coming at a great moment for NU as their execution has come into form recently. NU’s past two games have looked to be their best so far on the year, and the addition of Murphy has helped an already dangerous line become absolutely terrifying. 

“I think we’re getting better every week, and our execution was great today. We’ve seen over the last couple weeks what doesn’t work for us and what works for us,” Carpenito said, mentioning moving their feet, stronger execution, keeping it simple with pucks on net and crashing the net hard. “I think it’s good for our team to see what works and just as importantly, what doesn’t work… Providence, they’re a very, very strong team and I expect another very, very difficult weekend as I always do in Hockey East.”