The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

Northeastern women’s hockey charts upward trajectory heading into 2024

Northeasterns+on-ice+unit+talks+between+plays+in+a+game+against+UConn.+UConn+shut+out+its+fellow+Huskies+two+nights+in+a+row+in+early+November.+
Sofia Sawchuk
Northeastern’s on-ice unit talks between plays in a game against UConn. UConn shut out its fellow Huskies two nights in a row in early November.

Just barely surpassing the .500 mark, it’s clear that the Northeastern women’s hockey team is not the same group that stepped off the ice at the end of last season, but that was to be expected. After losing over half the team’s scoring power, the remaining skaters were left with a mountain to climb, and someone had to step up to the task. However, who that would be wasn’t clear when the season began in late September. 

Despite the uncertainty, the beginning of the season looked promising. The Huskies opened the year with a split series against No. 11 Penn State, and although the result wasn’t the blowout expected from the then-fifth-ranked team in the country, it was a strong enough finish to give them hope for another elite season.

Northeastern then went on to win its next four games: two against Long Island University and two against cross-town rival Boston University

But then, the hot streak started to slip away.

In the next seven games, the Huskies went 2-5 with every loss being a shutout, including two massive upsets. 

Merrimack College and the College of the Holy Cross, two Hockey East underdogs, both claimed their second-ever wins against the dominant Huskies, each by notching a sole goal, one of which was in overtime. 

Normally, returning from a single-goal deficit wouldn’t be too big of a problem for the Huskies, but these losses highlighted a major issue for the team: scoring. While last year’s Huskies averaged 3.8 goals a game, this season’s squad is pulling in just 2.2, and every shutout loss makes the problem even more glaringly obvious.

Goaltender Gwyneth Philips looks down the ice. Philips was named assistant captain ahead of the 2023-24 season. (Sofia Sawchuk)

For the last few years, there was a consistent trio — Alina Müller, Chloé Aurard and Maureen Murphy — known for generating opportunities and scoring goals. Players like current fifth-year forward Katy Knoll and graduate student forward Peyton Anderson would contribute with goals of their own — 18 and 11 last year, respectively —  but no other Huskies had that same on-ice chemistry as the top line.

So while there has been an emphasis on simply scoring goals, the larger trouble has been finding playmakers, and especially ones that can perform consistently together. 

When the 2023-24 season commenced, head coach Dave Flint spent two months trying out different combinations of players. Week after week, game after game, Flint swapped around the groupings, subbing rookies in for veterans, pushing centers out to wing, experimenting to see who the most effective scoring combinations would be. 

For now, he seems to have settled on a top line of junior Skylar Irving, junior Taze Thompson and Knoll. 

Early in the season, many of the Huskies’ shots came from range, and although they far outshot their opponents, the lack of players in the crease made it easy to protect the net. However, Thompson is not afraid to get right in front of the net — in fact, it’s where she thrives. She doesn’t back down when the opponents’ defense is bearing down on her, and she’s always ready to make a quick move in the crease. As the season has progressed, she’s become more confident and comfortable in that position. Five of her eight goals so far this season have come in the last five games.

Knoll is there for whatever the team needs. Her two-way play shines, as she’s one of the team’s leaders in both points (10) and blocks (28). A consistent contributor since her freshman year, the now-assistant captain is a guiding force in both play and attitude, and is a reliable face for the Huskies. 

This season, Irving has been the one creating the most scoring chances for the Huskies. She leads the team in shots with 76 and points with 17 (4 goals, 13 assists). She’s growing into a role as a playmaker, and if Thompson and Knoll can be ready to scoop up rebounds and knock in redirections (especially with Thompson’s impressive .258 shooting percentage) there’s a good chance the puck is getting into the net. 

Although these three give the Huskies hope for a consistent driving force, two other athletes have made themselves known as goal-scorers. Anderson leads Northeastern’s scoring with nine goals this season, including her first career hat trick, and freshman forward Allie Lalonde has contributed an additional six.

Skylar Irving takes a faceoff in a game against Penn State. Irving tallied an assist in that season-opening matchup. (Sofia Sawchuk)

Lalonde was just one of eight new additions for the Huskies during the offseason, and she’s made the biggest impact of the rookie squad. She’s found a regular spot on the lineup, along with fellow freshmen forwards Peyton Compton and Ella Blackmore and freshman defender Rylie Jones.

With the recent absence of key defenders, graduate student Megan Carter and senior Lily Yovetich, due to injury, Jones — along with the rest of the d-core — has had to step up. 

They took on that challenge well. Although the Huskies hold a less-than-stellar 11-8 record on the season, they still boast third in the nation in scoring defense with just 25 goals allowed across 19 games. 

The defender that gets the gold star across the board is Jules Constantinople. The sophomore leads the team in blocks (35) and has shown up with some physical play to keep the Huskies alive and energized. In November, she scored four of her five points this season, including her first career goal, earning herself Hockey East Defender of the Month. 

Furthermore, they’re backstopped by reigning Goaltender of the Year Gwyneth Philips, and while she may have slipped to seventh nationally in her goals-against average with 1.217, she’s the only one in the top 10 to have played a full slate this season. 

Momentum started to improve for the Huskies in November. They’ve avoided a shutout since Nov. 10, when they defeated Providence College 6-1 in the first game of a split series. They also faced ranked teams back to back at the end of the month — No. 15 Vermont and No. 14 Boston College.

Although Northeastern fell to Vermont, it was a narrow 3-2 loss, and the Huskies rallied just a few days later to defeat BC 3-1. 

Despite Northeastern’s struggles through the first half of the season, things are looking up for the team. The Huskies head into 2024 on a four-game win streak and look forward to their first-ever TD Garden game as part of the 45th Women’s Beanpot Tournament. 

To start the calendar year, the Huskies will travel to Connecticut to take on Yale, who they bested in the NCAA Quarterfinals last season. The puck will drop for that rematch Jan. 2 at 6 p.m.

About the Contributor
Amelia Ballingall, Sports Editor
Amelia Ballingall is a third-year speech language pathology and audiology major. She is sports editor for The News and previously served as deputy sports editor and deputy design editor. She is also Vice President of Membership Development for Delta Phi Epsilon, the social media manager for Speech and Hearing Club, and a Student Success Guide on campus. Amelia is looking forward to another great semester with The News!
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