Northeastern, seeded No. 1 in the tournament, will meet third-seeded Connecticut in the conference final for the third time in five years. A victory in the title game Saturday at 7 p.m. at Matthews would break the Hockey East record for consecutive championships while also guaranteeing Northeastern, currently ranked No. 3 nationally, of home ice in the opening quarterfinal of the NCAA Tournament—though that right may have been earned already.
Connecticut (24-8-4) advanced Wednesday with a 3-1 win over second-seeded Vermont.
Northeastern (29-4-2) was a gracious host in the semifinal, outshooting the Black Bears 41-13 but refusing to embarrass them on the scoreboard. Maureen Murphy scored twice over a span of 15 minutes to quash the visitors’ hopes, leaving the senior forward with 13 power play goals and 29 goals overall—ranking her No. 1 nationally in both categories.
In the month since they absorbed a two-game losing streak to Vermont and BC, the Huskies have gone 8-0-1 with an overall scoring advantage of 40-7.
“These are the types of games that are going to really help us push through,” said Northeastern associate head coach Nick Carpenito in praising the physical play of Maine. “When we get to the NCAA tournament, we’re going to be playing [against] a lot of physicality, and every game moving forward is going to be close.”
Maine (15-9-1) has lost all four games this season against the Huskies by a combined 16-2.
The visitors put up a stubborn fight nonetheless. Northeastern held a 21-2 shot advantage nearing the halfway point with nothing to show for it. The Huskies were relieved when goaltender Aerin Frankel, the reigning national player of the year, saved and covered up the rebound of an Ally Trimper power-play slap shot midway through the second—but were also frustrated to be so close to falling behind in a game they had been dominating.
Moments after that penalty had been killed, the mood changed as Maddie Mills pushed the pace up the right side, crossed to Chloé Aurard, then cleaned up Aurard’s rebound for the opening goal with 8:11 remaining in the middle period.
“Maddie Mills really opened it up for us,” said Murphy of her teammate and roommate. “Keeping the faith and relying on one another was really big.”
It was 2-0 four minutes later when Alina Mueller’s second assist of the night was converted on the power play by Murphy. But the Huskies weren’t home free. With 13 minutes remaining, Maine broke through on a power-play slap shot by Ida Kuoppala.
Murphy eased the anxiety when she netted the final goal of the evening with 9:27 to go. She wasn’t much interested in her newfound role as the nation’s leading scorer.
“It’s honestly something I never really thought was possible,” Murphy said. “And I think it’s just better not to think about it. Because at the end of the day, my goal isn’t to lead the nation—it’s to win a national title with our team.”