The top seeded Northeastern Huskies advanced to the Hockey East Semifinal on Saturday afternoon with a 3-1 win over Vermont at Matthews Arena. On the face of it, it was an easy weekend for the top seed. Two wins, a series sweep, and an aggregate score of 8-2. It was anything but.
The Huskies were outplayed for forty minutes on Thursday, but found another gear in the third period to take Game 1 5-1 over the Catamounts. On Friday, they found themselves trailing 1-0 after a first period controlled by the underdogs. Although the Huskies completed the win thanks to a big day from Skylar Fontaine, they were pushed hard by the Catamounts.
They were lucky. Lucky because, when the dust finally settled on Sunday afternoon, they were the only team that advanced from the top four. Boston University, Boston College and Providence were all upset at home. BU and Providence were swept in shocking fashion, while BC let a 1-0 series lead slip away with losses on Saturday and Sunday on home ice.
The Providence Friars, who are the only team in the country to score two wins against Northeastern this season, were expected to make a run towards their first Championship since 2005. That quest never got off the ground.
The Wildcats made their presence known on Thursday when they scored a 4-2 victory in Game 1. In Game 2, it was UNH’s strong defensive play that took center stage. Tori Howran scored at 12:01 of the third period, while Ava Boutilier stopped 35 Friar shots en route to her first playoff shutout. Another first? The first-ever series victory for UNH in the Hockey East Playoffs. The Wildcats have not advanced since 2010, prior to when the best-of-three Quarterfinal began.
Meanwhile at Walter Brown Arena, the Terriers saw their Hockey East and NCAA Tournament hopes evaporate. Carly Jackson stole the show, stopping 57 shots on Friday night and then another 27 on Saturday to propel the Black Bears to a sweep. Ida Kuoppala scored the game winner in double overtime on Friday, while Tereza Vanisova notched the series winner on Saturday.
Maine was just the second ever #7 seed to win a series against the #2 seed. They join the 2018 UConn Huskies, who eliminated the #2 seeded Providence Friars that year. UConn kept the good times going when they shocked the #1 seeded Boston College Eagles. Maine will be hoping to do the same to Northeastern.
In the #4 Vs. #5 matchup, Boston College raced out to a 1-0 series lead on the strength of a 4-2 victory on home ice on Friday night. Little did the Eagles know it would be their final victory of the season. UConn evened things up with a 2-0 victory on Saturday, one that was back stopped by Morgan Fisher and her 21 saves.
On Sunday, things followed the path of the series. BC raced out to a 1-0 lead, this compliments of Lindsay Agnew at 9:32 of the first period. Just like in the series, UConn would come screaming back.
The Huskies evened things up at 14:23 of the third period when Viki Harkness scored her eighth of the season. A stunned Eagles team could not recover, and gave up the dagger just 3:26 later. Natalie Snodgrass, UConn’s top offensive weapon, fired home her 16th of the season at 17:49 to give the Huskies a lead they would not lose.
The 2-1 victory in Game 3 gave them a 2-1 victory in the series, advancing UConn to the Semifinal for the first time since 2018. They lost to Northeastern in the Championship game at Matthews Arena that season.
It is the first time in league history that two or more lower-seeds have advanced to the Semifinal. Maine, the #7 seed, can join UConn (2018) as the lowest ever seeds to reach the Championship game. Their task? Take down the two-time defending Champion Huskies.
They’ll take on Northeastern in the first Semifinal on Saturday at 12:00 pm at Lawler Rink on the campus of Merrimack College. It is just the second ever postseason meeting between the Huskies and Black Bears. Northeastern defeated Maine 2-1 in the 2018 Hockey East Semifinal at Matthews Arena.
At 3:30 pm, UNH and UConn will face off for the other spot in the Championship. UNH has not made the final since 2009.