The UConn women’s hockey team fell to Northeastern 2-1 in the Hockey East Championship semifinals. The Huskies (9-10-1, 8-9-1 Hockey East) valiantly bowed out of the tournament, while Northeastern (19-1-1, 17-1-1 Hockey East) will move on to the championship game.
The reality was the Huskies of Connecticut were the underdogs in this contest; while the Huskies, who are a No. 7 seed, were able to upset the No. 2 seed Boston College 5-1 in the quarterfinals, it felt very unlikely that such an occurrence would occur again, especially against the No. 1 seed Northeastern Huskies.
Northeastern went into the contest as confident as ever. The Bostonian Huskies had not lost in three months and three days, and finished the regular season with an 18-1-1 (18-1-1 Hockey East) record. Not only were they ranked No. 1 in their conference, but Northeastern also sat at No. 1 in the NCAA women’s hockey rankings. If that is not enough to convince you of how good they are, their largest margin of victory in the regular season was a 12-0 thrashing of Holy Cross.
UConn knew the reality of the situation: they would have to play a perfect game in order to win and advance to the finals. Head coach Chris MacKenzie lined up Tia Chan as the goaltender, while defenders Claire Peterson and Camryn Wong made up the backline; finally, forwards Viki Harkness, Natalie Snodgrass, and Jada Habisch made up the attacking trio.
Chan was instrumental in keeping the game scoreless in the opening ten minutes of the period, as she kept out everything that came her way. Despite the blitzkrieg on UConn’s goal, got opportunities on the attack; Savannah Bouzide went coast-to-coast and nearly snuck it past Northeastern goaltender Aerin Frankel. Furthermore, Viki Harkness’ shot in the fifth minute was millimeters away from finding the top of the net, smashing against the crossbar and keeping the game scoreless.
The bench for UConn was also able to have a positive impact in the attack. Forward Amy Landry nearly found the back of the net off a rebound, and defender Morgan Wabick was able to test the goaltender and take a shot on net, which was saved. Even though the puck was not going in, Northeastern most definitely began to feel the pressure.
Despite the positive first half, UConn suffered a monumental gut punch a minute before its conclusion when forward Chloe Aurard found fellow forward Alina Mueller, who was right in front of Chan. Mueller made contact with the puck and just got it past the Husky goaltender to make it 1-0 Northeastern.
Chan was instrumental in keeping UConn in the match after conceding, as she made heroic efforts to keep the puck out of the net. However, those heroic efforts also existed on the other side of the ice, as Frankel also made some exceptional saves to keep Northeastern in the lead. One of these saves came when Landry was in the clear, with only the goaltender to beat; Frankel stood, and kept the puck out of the net.
It felt as if UConn were barely holding on, but with six minutes left in the second period, defender Emily Reid received the ball on the right side of the ice and played it in the path of forward Coryn Tormala, who proceeded to smash it into the net and tie it up at one for the Huskies.
Northeastern bombarded the UConn goal in the opening six minutes of the third period, and Chan once again stood tall and did everything in her power to keep Northeastern from taking the lead. UConn was able to get out of this spell and shift the pressure onto the Bostonian squad. Reid was able to get a shot off that nearly snuck past Frankel, and several UConn players tried but failed to score from behind the net, with Frankel able to get on top of the puck.
While UConn was the one creating chances throughout the third period, one simple give-and-go by Northeastern took Peterson out of position, giving way to Aurard who scored her second goal of the night to put Northeastern up 2-1.
This time, UConn was not able to get back into the match, which meant Northeastern would advance to the championship game. Despite the loss, head coach Chris MacKenzie is most certainly proud of his squad for the fearlessness they had against the No. 1 seed in the conference.
The Hockey East Championship game is on Saturday, March 6 at 7 p.m., and Northeastern’s next opponent will be the winner of the other semifinal between Maine and Providence.