Top line breaks through for women’s hockey in win against BU

Top line breaks through for women’s hockey in win against BU
Members of the Northeastern women's ice hockey team celebrate after the team's overtime defeat of Boston University. Photo courtesy Jim Pierce, Northeastern Athletics

In the first period of Saturday afternoon’s matchup against Hockey East rival Boston University (BU), the Northeastern University (NU) women’s hockey team found themselves in a familiar position. They had fallen into a two-goal deficit in Friday night’s game, and there they were again Saturday afternoon, down 1-0 barely five minutes into the game.

Prior to the game, the Huskies anticipated a high level of intensity, as it was the second game of a home-and-home series against their Hockey East foe and school rival. The game followed a theme of resiliency and firsts for NU, as four different players recorded either their first goals of the season or the first of their careers.

Third-year forward McKenna Brand expressed the intensity after the game.

“Every time we play against them it’s a really intense game,” Brand said. “It’s a huge four points. We’re only playing them three times for conference, so we’ve got to make the most of the season series, and know going into the games against them that it’s going to be an aggressive rivalry game.”

BU came out of the gates with a quick, aggressive forecheck that produced multiple scoring opportunities, including a shot from the blue line which rung the crossbar 4:58 into play. Moments later it was BU third-year Mary Grace Kelley who buried home a shot after a BU faceoff win.

Down early, the Huskies continued to battle with resilient play. After the BU goal, the Huskies began to find their legs and started generating more offensive pressure. Third-year forward Kasidy Anderson had a great chance for a shot in the slot, but was unable to locate the puck in her skates.

Seconds later, Anderson again had an opportunity to even up the score when BU goalie Erin O’Neil dropped the puck after a glove save. Anderson pounced on the rebound, but was unable to lift it over a sprawling O’Neil in net.

Anderson was finally able to break through and capitalize on a scoring chance after a bullet pass from fourth-year forward Shelby Herrington found her in the high slot. Her top shelf shot blew past O’Neil just past the midway point of the period.

The score remained tied 1-1 as the teams headed to the locker rooms. The Huskies outshot the Terriers 15 shots to nine in the opening frame, but were frustratingly unable to capitalize on their chances.

In the three games leading up to Saturday’s match-up, NU’s top line had yet to produce up to their potential. The trio of forwards, Brand and fourth-years Tori Sullivan and Denisa Krizova, was itching to put some pucks in the net for the Huskies.

They did just that as Brand ripped off a one timer from first-year defenseman Skylar Fontaine 3:37 into the second period. Brand’s first goal of the season was a huge relief for both herself and her linemates.

“It felt so good,” said Brand. “It was a huge boost to our confidence and was certainly a big monkey off our backs.”

The Huskies were able to keep the momentum going their way, as they struck again less than five minutes later. The low shot from first-year defenseman Brooke Hobsen at the point was knocked loose by multiple NU players in front of the net, with Krizova able to put it home. It was her first goal of the season, and second of the night for the top line, who were starting to find their rhythm.

“We were just clicking really well all game tonight,” said a relieved Brand. “It was nice to finally get it going, and hopefully we’ll be able to keep it going.”

Up 3-1, the Huskies took the power off the juice momentarily and the Terriers made them pay. Just 28 seconds after the Krizova goal, BU’s Savannah Newton found the back of the net on an awkward shot from the perimeter of the left circle. The puck snuck in the near side post past NU’s netminder Brittany Bugalski.

The goal was frustrating for the Huskies, and head coach Dave Flint was disappointed with how his team kept letting BU back into the game.

“I didn’t like how we started going down one, then going back to back with them exchanging goals,” Flint said. “And then being up two we were really putting on the pressure and then we’d let up a little bit again and they were within one again.”

The teams battled back and forth for the latter part of the second period, but the Huskies were able to tack one more on the board at 18:22, with a beautiful quick passing play from the top line. All three members of the top line recorded a point on the play, with Brand and Krizova assisting Sullivan’s first goal of the season and first goal in a Huskies uniform after she transferred from Boston College in the offseason.

“That was the first game where things finally started to come together for them (Brand, McKenna, and Sullivan), and it was certainly nice to see,” Flint said. “I was very pleased with their production tonight [and] the chemistry between that line has developed, and that’s crucial for our team”.

Flint also described his team’s ability to fight back after being down early and letting BU stay close in the game with quick goals after their scores.

“I like how we are battling back and the way we’re rebounding when we get scored on, that’s really important for us,” he said.

The final period of the game began with BU desperate for some offensive zone time. They were able to pull within a goal after forward Victoria Bach dangled around both Northeastern defensemen and deeked Bugalski on the right side for a goal with 13:37 left in the game.

The Huskies knew they couldn’t sit back with conservative play as their lead was once again only one.

Things went their way after they were able to draw a penalty and went up on the powerplay with 9:21 remaining in regulation. On the power play, McKenna Brand continued her outstanding play for the game, with a top shelf snipe that beat O’Neil high above the left shoulder.

The Huskies put the game away with an empty-net goal by first-year forward Veronika Pettey with 2:04 left in the game. Pettey’s first career goal kept the trend of “firsts” going for the Huskies.

The win was all the more satisfying coming against a rival team. Flint expressed the importance of two wins against a league opponent.

“Every point is huge in our league,” Flint said. “Given the fact that it’s BU, too, there’s a big rivalry there which always ramps it up a little bit too. I tell the team all the time, every game is important in the whole NCAA hockey season, it can be the difference of hundredths of a point. We approach every game pretty much the same, but we’d like to think that when points are on the line in a league game, things will get ramped up a little bit and mean just a little bit more.”

The Huskies, now 2-1-1 on the season, will look ahead to next weekend’s games against Colgate University with a bit of a confidence boost after their first line was able to put the pieces together against the Terriers.

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