Queens of the East: Northeastern’s top line bags two points apiece en route to Frozen Four


Mika Podila

Graduate student forward and captain Alina Müller celebrates after a goal in Saturday’s game against Yale. The Huskies defeated the Bulldogs 4-1 to claim a spot in the 2023 Frozen Four tournament.

Amelia Ballingall, deputy sports editor

When the No. 5 Northeastern women’s hockey team (34-2-1, 24-2-1 HE) traveled to Yale (28-4-1, 19-2-1 ECAC) Saturday afternoon, it was the first time all season they had faced a team ranked higher than them, but that wasn’t a problem. Although the Bulldogs had the home ice advantage, the Huskies headed into the matchup riding a 21-game win streak and used that momentum to propel them to a 4-1 victory. 

Plenty of loyal friends, family and fans made the trip to Ingalls Rink, painting a stripe of red and black in the stands to support their team.

“Our fan support has been tremendous all year long,” said Northeastern head coach Dave Flint. “You go into a visiting arena and your fans seem louder than the home team’s fans. That really boosts the players and they really appreciate all the support that we get.”

When the puck hit the ice, Yale looked like the stronger team. The Bulldogs immediately took to the offense, rocketing shots toward Philips, but after Yale got a dangerous scoring chance two and a half minutes into play, Northeastern turned on the jets. 

“I think it was a little bit of a slow start,” Flint said. “But once we settled in, got the nerves out a little bit, we definitely picked it up.”

Control went back and forth for the entire first period, both teams playing a similar game. With a top-ranked goalie behind each of them — senior Gwyneth Philips for the Huskies and sophomore Pia Dukaric for the Bulldogs — both Northeastern and Yale put up a strong and clean defensive wall. 

A few quality scoring chances slipped through the cracks, including pipe shots from both sides in the opening frame, but luck was not on anyone’s side. The opposing netminders gobbled up every rebound opportunity.

By the time the buzzer sounded to end the first period, Northeastern had taken more shots on goal — 12 to Yale’s 10 — and carried that into the middle frame to hit the puck drop with authority. 

“We want to outwork every team we’re playing. Obviously, there’s a lot of confidence coming if you win, but keeping that confidence, not getting too high, staying humble,” said graduate student forward and captain Alina Müller.  “Confidence is the key to success.”

It only took four and a half minutes for the Huskies’ tenacity to pay off. After using her body to intercept a pass at the blue line, sophomore forward Skylar Irving sauced the puck up to freshman forward Lily Shannon, who had already broken past the Bulldog defensemen. Shannon easily danced the puck around Dukaric to put the Huskies on the board with her sixth goal of the season. 

“I think once she scored that goal … everybody relaxed a little bit and got a little shot of confidence,” Flint said. “For a freshman to step up and get that big goal for us was really important.”

A few minutes later, Northeastern took a team penalty for too many players on the ice, giving Yale the chance to tie the game. 

Yale, like the Huskies, had played a calm and collected game so far, but the Bulldogs started looking a bit frantic on the power play. Northeastern held Yale out of scoring range for the majority of the home team’s five-on-four, holding the Bulldogs to just one shot in the two minutes.

By the time the penalty expired, it was clear Yale’s confidence had been rattled.

And what followed didn’t help.

After an unlucky series of plays in which the Bulldogs failed to seal an offensive zone turnover and later bounced the puck off the crossbar, Yale thought they had finally evened the score with 3:16 left in the period.

The referees immediately waved it off as ‘no goal,’ and after a lengthy review, their suspicions were confirmed: freshman forward Naomi Boucher’s tip-in came from above the cage, so the play was called for a high stick and the Huskies kept their lead. 

With only one goal separating them and the home team, Northeastern opened the third period with a ferocity. 

At 2:27 into the frame, senior defenseman Megan Carter took a shot from the back of the offensive zone. Graduate student forward Chloé Aurard was waiting in the crease, screening Dukaric and giving the netminder no chance at stopping the puck as she deflected it into the back of the net. 

With 12 minutes remaining in regulation, Northeastern called a timeout. Yale had begun outshooting the Huskies, leading 29-27 in shots on goal, but the stoppage allowed the visitors to recollect. It paid off just two minutes later. 

Northeastern’s top line had been dominating the shot count all night, so it was only a matter of time until one of its rushes found a way past Dukaric.

Although Yale sophomore defenseman Olivia Muhn tried to get in their way, it’s nearly impossible to stop the fatal combination of Aurard and Müller.

The entire play was a series of perfect passes. After Philips effortlessly steered away the puck, the Huskies cycled it through the defensive zone, where Müller took it up ice with Aurard by her side. Closing in on the net, Müller handed the puck off to Aurard, who gave it right back so Müller could drive a shot past the out-of-place goalie.

“It can be crushing to a team when you get a goal disallowed and then a team scores,” Flint said. “It’s just the way we’ve been all year long; we’ve stepped up in big situations and come up with big goals.”

With the final few minutes of the game closing in, Yale found its lone goal in sophomore forward Anna Bargman. 

The Huskies attempted to clear the defensive zone, but Yale sophomore Emma DeCorby grabbed the puck out of the air, holding onto it a little too long, though nothing was called and play continued. Junior forward Elle Hartje dropped the puck off in front of the net for linemate freshman forward Jordan Ray. Ray’s shot was blocked, but Bargman slammed the rebound past Philips before she could get a glove on it. 

“We’re an offensive team, and to be held to one [goal], all you can do is say ‘well, Northeastern, you deserve it,’” said Yale head coach Mark Bolding

Although there had been some questionable plays so far in the game, an individual penalty was not called until Bargman was sent to the box for tripping just ten seconds after her goal.

Yale’s penalty kill unit was incredibly effective, diverting every Husky shot attempt and even notching one of their own while down a player.

Once Northeastern’s power play ended, the Bulldogs pulled Dukaric for the extra attacker. 

Shortly after, Huskies graduate student defenseman Maude Poulin-Labelle was called for tripping and Yale’s advantage was doubled, giving them the six-on-four edge for the remainder of the game. 

For any other team, this would be a tough obstacle to overcome, but for the NCAA’s second-ranked penalty kill, it was light work. 

Northeastern cleared the puck down the ice, and Bulldogs senior defenseman Emma Seitz chased it down, but Huskies graduate student forward Maureen Murphy was faster. Murphy bodied Seitz off the puck and rifled it into the empty net to seal the Northeastern win. The Huskies’ ninth short-handed goal of the season was the first that Yale had taken all year.

Yale may have won more than two thirds of faceoffs and notched 39 shots against Northeastern (over the Huskies’ 20), but the visitors’ whole-team defense carried them to victory. While the Bulldogs only contributed three blocks to the defensive end of the ice, Northeastern tallied 14. Their effort was backstopped by a steady Philips, who made a career-high 38 saves against the Bulldogs’ offensive onslaught.

“[Philips] made some unreal saves,” Müller said. “Without her, we wouldn’t be sitting here.”

Now, for the third year in a row, the Huskies are headed to the Frozen Four. The lone representative of the east coast, the team will travel to Duluth, Minnesota, Friday to take on top-ranked Ohio State University, the tournament’s defending champion. The weekend’s contest will crown the top dogs of the NCAA, and, as was proven in tonight’s upset win over Yale, you can’t count Northeastern out.