The UConn women’s hockey team has had a historic 2021-2022 season. Head coach Chris MacKenzie has brought the program a long way from his first season in 2013-2014 that saw his team go 9-24-2, failing to make it past the quarter finals of the Hockey East tournament. Eight years later, MacKenzie and the Huskies set a program record in wins with 24, and reached their third Hockey East Championship in five years. UConn rolled into Saturday night’s rematch with four-time defending champion Northeastern looking for revenge after suffering a brutal 9-1 defeat in the title game two years ago. Less than a month ago, UConn was overwhelmed in the regular season finale against Northeastern, getting shut out in a 5-0 defeat. With aspirations for their first conference championship win in program history, they returned to Boston to try and dethrone the dynasty.
UConn has reached new heights in this tournament, thanks in large part to Megan Warrener, the freshman goalkeeper who strung together back to back dazzling performances in which the opposing teams only scored one goal in each contest. Early on in the championship, she was put to the test, making saves on shots from Northeastern stars Maureen Murphy, Chloe Aurard and Megan Carter. The four-time defending champions were relentless in their attack on the offensive end, with an Aurard shot hitting the post two minutes into the game. This energy was matched on the defensive end as well, limiting the visiting Huskies to just two shots on goal in the first half of the opening period that were turned away by Aerin Frankel, shutting down early scoring opportunities from Amy Landry and Danielle Fox that would have put UConn on the board.
Warrener came up clutch in an onslaught of shots from Lily Yovetich and Skylar Irving, who had multiple chances to put Northeastern in front on their home ice. The freshman goalkeeper was aided by a strong UConn defense that kept the champs off the scoreboard, with Chloe Gonsalves and Kaitlyn Yearwood blocking shots generated from the Northeastern attack later in the first period. Carter and Skylar Fontaine also had chances to notch the first goal of the game, but it was the defense anchored by Warrener that kept UConn very much in contention for this championship game.
A rare Northeastern giveaway opened the door for Morgan Wabick to deliver for UConn, and like she has all season, she came through with an unassisted goal, putting the visiting Huskies up 1-0 with a little over a minute left in the first — her thirteenth of the season to send UConn to the second period with a lead. Despite getting outshot 16-5 in the first, Warrener and the defense had the Huskies in position to win their first Hockey East title, needing to protect a slim one goal lead against powerhouse Northeastern.
UConn had chances early in the second to pad its lead, on a power-play opportunity generated by a Victoria Mariano boarding penalty. However, Frankel turned away a Natalie Snodgrass shot on goal and Danika Pasqua shot wide of the net to keep UConn’s advantage at one and neutralize the extra attacker. Northeastern looked to use this momentum to tie up the score, but Maddie Mills, Irving and Carter all failed to get the puck past Warrener, failing to convert their several chances early in the second period. Again the visiting Huskies had a chance to notch their second goal of the game, but the Northeastern defense and Frankel shut down UConn’s power-play, created by a Brooke Hobson interference call. With seven minutes to go in the period, it was Northeastern’s chance to score on the power-play after Landry was called for tripping, but Fontaine and Aurard could not break through Warrener, with their high-powered offense struggling to find an equalizer. The theme of failed power-plays continued to haunt UConn, with Frankel saving five shots in two minutes, saving opportunities from both Wabick sisters and Snodgrass to keep the score at 1-0.
After almost two periods of being held scoreless, the defending champions lit the lamp and beat Warrener, courtesy of Alina Mueller, scoring her ninth goal of the year off assists from Fontaine and Hobson with just 17 seconds left in the second period, giving Northeastern the momentum they had been searching for all night, sending the game into the final period knotted at 1.
This was the spark Mueller and company needed, as less than a minute into the third, she scored her second goal of the game, this time from Fontaine and Murphy to put Northeastern in the driver’s seat, staked with a 2-1 lead on their home ice. Now forced to play from behind, UConn’s struggles to score its second goal of the game were evident, with shots coming at a premium. Viki Harkness had a couple of chances to tie the score, but Frankel continued to step up for Northeastern, turning away both shots to keep the champs ahead. With five minutes left in regulation, the host Huskies continued to pepper Warrener and keep their foot on the gas against the UConn defense, registering six shots on goal in just two minutes of gameplay. The dagger came at the hands of Aurard, who is no stranger to championship goals, this time icing the game with her twentieth goal on the year off of feeds from Murphy and Mueller to give Northeastern a two-goal lead they would not relinquish.
For the fifth consecutive season, the Hockey East crown belongs to Northeastern, as they defeated UConn and ended their historic season with a final score of 3-1. Throughout the season, six Huskies reached double-digit goals, led by Wabick, Summer Rae-Dobson and Jada Habisch with 13 apiece. Wabick and her sister, Taylor Wabick, each notched 20 assists to lead the team. In goal, the duo of Samantha Carpentier-Yelle and Warrener each maintained a goals allowed average under two, making 815 saves combined at 93%. The two UConn goalies combined for nine shutouts in this magical, historic season for the women’s hockey program. Trying to take down a dynasty like Northeastern’s seemed impossible for a team that was not even .500 a year ago, but UConn showed resilience and vast improvement that almost made the fantasy of the program’s first Hockey East Championship become a reality.