Northeastern captures sixth straight Hockey East women’s title. Huskies’ pursuit of elusive NCAA championship will begin at Yale

A women's hockey player lifts trophy overhead
Tournament MVP Alina Mueller celebrates Northeastern’s sixth straight Women’s Hockey East championship. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

The Northeastern women’s hockey team defeated Providence, 4-1, to win an unprecedented sixth straight Hockey East championship on Saturday at Matthews Arena.

On Sunday, the Huskies learned that their road to an elusive NCAA title will begin against Yale in New Haven, Connecticut, at 3 p.m. Saturday.

Northeastern (33-2-1) is the fifth seed in the 11-team field while the Bulldogs are the fourth seed.

A victory in that game will advance the Huskies to their third straight Frozen Four, which will be held March 17-19 in Duluth, Minnesota. They are seeking to become Northeastern’s first NCAA champion in any team sport.

Northeastern defeated Providence on goals by Alina Mueller, Megan Carter, Chloé Aurard and Taze Thompson—backed up by the standard 20 saves by Gwyneth Philips, the nation’s leading goaltender. Mueller, Aurard and Maureen Murphy (3 assists) combined for seven points in front of a noisy, “Stacy’s Mom”-singing crowd.

“It’s hard to win one championship. They’ve won five,” coach Dave Flint said of Mueller and Aurard at the postgame press conference. “It’s something they can look back on and be proud of. I’m going to do the same thing someday and be proud of all that we’ve accomplished.”

Mueller (five goals and three assists in the Hockey East tournament) was named the most valuable player. Joining her on the all-tournament team were Philips, Murphy, Carter and Peyton Anderson, who scored two goals in Northeastern’s 3-0 semifinal win over Boston College.

The quarterfinal matchup of the NCAA Women’s Ice Hockey Championship will feature the tournament’s top defenses. Northeastern leads the nation with a 0.86 goals-against average while Yale ranks second (1.32). The Huskies balance their back-line excellence with the prolific trio of Mueller, Murphy and Aurard, who rate among the top 10 scorers in women’s hockey this season—with 663 career points between them.

Mueller, Murphy and Philips rank among the 10 finalists for the Patty Kazmaier national player of the year award.

The Huskies enter the NCAAs on a 21-game winning streak covering the past 16 weeks. By earning one of the top five seeds, they benefit from the equivalent of an opening-round bye in the 11-team, single-elimination tournament. 

Yale (28-3-1), which lost in the semifinal of the ECAC tournament to Clarkson, 4-3, in double-overtime on Friday, earned the higher seed based on strength of schedule.

“I’m extremely proud of this group,” said Mueller, the team captain. “There was a lot of talk about us losing [12] veteran players, we’re losing Aerin (Frankel, the nation’s top goalie for the previous two seasons), what’s going to happen with our team? And we showed everybody that we believe in the family culture. That’s what brings us championships.”

The Huskies, who were making a seventh consecutive appearance in the conference championship game, have made the sensational seem commonplace.

But there was nothing easy about this latest triumph. The Huskies were forced to mount a comeback in a physical and contentious rematch with their toughest opponent this season.

For all of Northeastern’s ongoing Hockey East dominance and the overwhelming stats of its explosive front line and NCAA-leading defense, third-seeded Providence entered Matthews Arena with hard-earned confidence. Northeastern have won all but three games this season and the Friars (22-11-4) are responsible for two of those blemishes—a 2-2 tie at Matthews on Oct. 29 (won by the Huskies in a shootout) and a 3-0 loss at Providence on Nov. 15, Northeastern’s last defeat.

Since then, the Huskies have outscored their opponents by a combined 79-17.

And yet they found themselves in trouble in the seventh minute when the 14th-ranked Friars converted their first shot for a 1-0 lead. Noemi Neubauerova, a graduate student from the Czech Republic, converted her 37th career goal on a shot from the blue line by senior defender Lauren Deblois. It was a stunning start on this slushy day in Boston.

The Huskies responded as champions must, with Mueller—fresh off becoming the program’s all-time leading scorer three days earlier—leading the way. She banged a shot off the high left pipe and not quite two minutes later put away the rebound via Aurard to pull the Huskies even at 1-1 with 5:25 left in the opening period.

The goal was Mueller’s 26th of the season and 97th of her career. Overall, she extended her Northeastern scoring record to 252 points.

The Huskies went ahead, 2-1, on a shot from above the left circle by senior defender Megan Carter. It was the fifth goal of the season for Carter, who recovered from a nasty collision behind the Northeastern net at the end of the first period.

The Huskies opened the final period on a power play that Aurard exploited for her 19th goal of the season (and 88th of her career), having pounced on a Murphy shot that dribbled through a Providence defender. Aurard is the NCAA’s active leader with 27 career power-play goals.

“They read, react and anticipate each other so well,” Providence coach Matt Kelly said of the Huskies’ experienced front line. “It’s tough to keep them off the scoresheet. And then they’ve got great depth too.”

Taze Thompson added a power play goal in the final three minutes, tipping in a shot by Maude Poulin-Labelle. The Huskies scored on half of their four power plays against sophomore goalie Hope Walinski (32 saves), who was making her fourth career start for Providence.

Junior defender Lily Yovetich earned special praise from Flint for leading a defensive unit that has allowed one goal or fewer in 18 of the last 19 victories. The Huskies leaned on Philips for a variety of crucial saves, including several that kept the Friars from doubling their early lead.

“Gwyn’s been great all year,” Flint said. “Today was a tough game for her. She came with some big saves when the game was on the line. And that’s what you need to win championships is timely saves—consistency.”

The Huskies took turns skating with the Hockey East trophy, as though taking one familiar lap after another with an old friend. And they doused Flint with ice water, despite his pleas to stay dry. 

It was another step for a team that may be on the way to achieving all of its goals—the Beanpot championship, a sweep of the Hockey East regular-season and tournament titles, with the potential of national awards to come for Philips (as the top goalie) and Mueller (top player). 

Will this dream season culminate in the biggest prize of all?

Ian Thomsen is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email him at Follow him on Twitter @IanatNU.