Women’s hockey finds power play success in weekend sweep

McKenna Brand and Denisa Krizova celebrate after Krizova scored during the Huskies' defeat of Syracuse. Photo courtesy Jim Pierce, Northeastern Athletics
McKenna Brand and Denisa Krizova celebrate after Krizova scored during the Huskies' defeat of Syracuse. Photo courtesy Jim Pierce, Northeastern Athletics

The No. 9 Northeastern University women’s hockey team came out with two strong performances against the Syracuse Orange over the weekend, a sharp contrast from their performance just one week ago.

Against a talented Colgate team, the Huskies struggled to capitalize on their offensive opportunities. That was not the case during their two games at Syracuse, as the Huskies found the back of the net early and often. They swept the weekend series with back-to-back 5-1 victories.

Fourth-year captain and forward McKenna Brand spoke to some of the adjustments the team made following the Colgate series and how those contributed to the success against Syracuse.

“The week before Syracuse we focused a lot on systems,” she said. “The penalty kill was definitely one of our weaknesses against Colgate. Although we let up two shorthanded goals this weekend, both systems improved significantly.”

The offensive difficulties experienced during the Colgate series was a different story against Syracuse, as the Huskies converted five goals on 18 shots Friday night, including two-goal performances by Brand and first-year Veronika Pettey.

The upperclassmen of the team have noticed the talent of their young teammates and the impacts they have on the team. Brand noted how the team has responded well to Pettey’s adjustment to collegiate play.

“She fit in really well right away,” Brand said. “She’s super shifty and a very skilled player, so she’s really easy to play with. She was a really nice add to the team this year and I’m excited to see what she does the rest of the season.”

The Huskies opened the scoring just over 11 minutes into the opening period with a goal by first-year Tessa Ward, her first collegiate goal. Fourth-year defender Ainsley MacMillan dished the puck to fourth-year teammate Shelby Herrington in the neutral zone, who then took the puck up the right side of the ice and fired a centering pass to Ward in the high slot.

The goal was an important boost for the Huskies, who found the back of the net for the first time in six games. After last weekend’s sweep at Colgate, head coach Dave Flint reiterated the importance of knocking home that first goal.

“We have to start finding ways to get the first goal,” Flint said. “We can’t be letting teams walk all over us from the start, because then we end up playing catch-up for most of the game.”

Just 41 seconds after the goal by Ward, the Huskies went up 2-0 as Pettey picked up the puck in the neutral zone following a Syracuse turnover. Pettey then skated down the wing and her top-shelf shot rocketed past the Orange’s Abbey Miller in net.

The Huskies continued the run, adding a third goal on the power play. Brand shifted the puck to the point, and after some nifty puck handling by Codie Cross, she found Brand netside for a quick shot that snuck under the crossbar.

“Again, the power play was definitely the difference-maker this time around,” Brand said. “We didn’t put as many shots on net as we would’ve liked to, but ultimately we were able to convert on our opportunities.”

The Huskies added two more goals on the powerplay in the third period. Both Brand and Pettey notched their second goals of the game.

Brand said it is important to get goals from multiple lines, rather than just a handful of players.

“Having a lot of depth on the team is what’s going to be the difference-maker going forward and what is going to propel us throughout the rest of the season,” Brand said.

On Saturday, the high volume of goal scoring was no different for the team, as they were able to strike a little over eight minutes into the first period. First-year defender Brooke Hobson recorded her first collegiate goal on the power play. Third-year forward Kasidy Anderson picked up the puck along the boards behind the Syracuse net and then sent a beautiful backhanded centered pass through the slot to Hobson.

A few minutes later, the lead was stretched to two goals after second-year forward Matti Hartman squeezed a shot through the five-hole of Syracuse netminder Maddi Welch.

The Orange cut the lead to one after first-year forward Victoria Klimek shoved in a rebound goal on the man advantage. The hiccup in the Huskies’ play did not hamper their efforts or aggressiveness, as they regrouped and continued to spend long minutes in the offensive zone.

Fourth-year forward Denisa Krizova fired a slapshot past Maddi Welch in net on the power play to add to the lead and to her career totals. Krizova now has 92 assists in her collegiate career, moving her closer to passing 1998 graduate Hilary Witt for fourth place on the all-time NU list with 95 assists.

The scoring was closed out with goals by Pettey and second-year defender Andrea Renner in the final frame. The win closed out a successful weekend for the Huskies, who were able to rebound nicely from last weekend’s slip-up.

The two solid performances by the team were certainly a confidence-booster for the squad.

“This weekend was a good start with the improvement of the penalty kill and our power play,” Brand said.

She also highlighted some of the things the team is looking to improve in long run.

“I think we need to focus on getting more shots on goal and also on taking care of our own end,” Brand said. “If we can take care of that, everything else will fall into place.”

Looking ahead, the Huskies aim to continue to focus on scoring early and often. The team hopes to ride this momentum into their midweek game against the University of New Hampshire Wednesday night.

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