When track and field competitions were halted last March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it wouldn’t be hard to find an athlete who broke a little piece of his heart. While the NHL and NBA seasons were put on a long hiatus before being crowned champions, it was not feasible to do the same in the amateur ranks. Dream seasons just went up in smoke.
That’s pretty much what happened to the Northeastern women’s hockey team. Since the Huskies were rebuilt as an elite program after the takeover in 2008, coach Dave Flint had led NU to his best season in program history (32-4-2), with championships in the Beanpot, Hockey East’s regular season. and the tournament and a third consecutive NCAA tournament bid.
But on the eve of the NCAA quarter-finals, the tournament was canceled.
It was difficult to deal with, Flint said. I’d say, yes, since I’ve been in Northeastern, that was by far our best chance of winning a national championship. We had a really strong team and peaked at the right time and went to the NCAAs. It was a tough pill to swallow when they stopped it.
That was the bad news. The good news is that Flint, whose team tops Hockey East and ranks third nationally, will welcome most of his heavy hitters back for this truncated Hockey East slate, which starts Friday with Boston College playing New Hampshire in a home-situation. and-home this weekend. “Unfinished business” would be a proper rallying cry for the Huskies.
Absolutely, said Flint, whose season kicks off Nov. 27 against Providence. Despite this being a unique year, we are excited to be back in hockey and they definitely feel they have some unfinished business left and something they want to achieve this year is winning an NCAA Championship.
Flint has striking features in the net, on the blue line and in the front. Goalkeeper Aerin Frankel comes off a season in which she set a record of 27-4-2, 1.07 GAA, a 0.958 save percentage and 10 shutouts. Back-up Gwyneth Philips last year pitched with a 5-0 record.
Success usually starts at the goal line and extends from there. To be a successful team at the end of the season, you need really good keepers. That’s one area where we are strong, Flint said.
Up front, Alina Mueller comes off an explosive campaign in which she posted 27-39-66 totals, while defender Skylar Fontaine (17-25-42) was named HE’s best defender, the first Huskie to take that honor.
(Fontaine) is a game changer for us. She’s not just defensively solid. She brings a whole other dimension offensively. She is probably the fastest skater in the competition. She brings a lot to the table for us, Flint said.
Perhaps the toughest competition the Huskies will face is Boston University. The Terriers were second in the preseason poll, but coach Brian Durocher has some shoes to fill. Sammy Davis took the top pick in last spring’s NWHL draft.
We are always a bit careful with the preseason rankings and they can give us a whisker higher than I might have thought because Sammy was certainly a very talented forward, but we lost seven other players and five of them were defenders, Durocher said . So suddenly we become much more inexperienced there. … There will be a learning curve and how quickly they get to Div. 1 speed will determine a lot about our team.
The advantage for the Terriers is that they too have a strong one-two punch in the net with Corinne Schroeder (.943 savings rate and 1.54 GAA in 2019-20) and Kate Stuart (.938, 1.58). Forward Jesse Compher comes from a season where she outperformed a point-per-game (13-16-19 in 26 games) and Durocher will be looking for her and a slew of other players including Kaleigh Donnelly, Kristina Schuler and Nara Elia, to throw in to make up for Davis and Abby Cook’s loss.
While everyone is excited to be playing games again, there is trepidation as coronavirus cases increase. The Ivy League canceled the season and on Wednesday, the UMass-Amherst men’s team series with Maine scheduled for this weekend was sunk.
This thing is trending in the exact opposite way we all hoped for, Durocher said. We have been so thorough and diligent all summer. I live across the street from the rink and you had Comm Ave. walk blindfolded six times a day in summer and you would not have been hit by a trolley, car or bicycle. But suddenly, with people walking around and people going out and interacting again, it’s more difficult because this thing is spreading. We all have to be careful and hope we can stay safe by staying in our own little area. And we did. But if you start cross-sections, play UNH and then Maine and then Boston College, it’s going to be a challenge because you’ll have people coming from different walks.
Athletes are the best among us at retaining tunnel vision, but that trait is currently being tested.
It is heavy. You sit there and get ready to practice and you know that matches are close and suddenly you see teams cancel their seasons one by one, Flint said. It makes you nervous and it makes the kids a little bit nervous too. I get text messages from players saying, ‘I saw this team is not playing. What does that mean for us? “We just have to stay focused, day by day, and when we get to the point of playing, we play and do what we can.
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