College Sports

Wisconsin defeats Northeastern in overtime to claim women’s NCAA hockey championship

Jared Wickerham For The Boston Globe
Northeastern's Alina Mueller takes a shot in front of Wisconsin's Grace Bowlby in the women's Frozen Four NCAA championship game in Erie, Pa.

It wasn’t the way the Northeastern women’s hockey team wanted its season to end.

Three minutes into overtime of Northeastern’s first-ever national championship game appearance, the game was decided when Wisconsin’s Daryl Watts — a player the Huskies used to face regularly before she transferred from Boston College to the Badgers — bounced the puck off Huskies’ defender Megan Carter and into the net for as unexpected a game-winning goal as there could be.

The 2-1 victory in the Women’s Frozen Four at the Erie Insurance Arena earned Wisconsin its sixth national title and ended NU’s 22-game unbeaten streak.

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“I’m disappointed in the way it ended,” said Huskies coach Dave Flint. “I wish it was with a better goal.”

The top-seeded NU (22-2-1) squad had the best performance yet by a Hockey East team in a national title game, keeping Wisconsin off the scoreboard until midway through the third period. Much of the credit goes to Huskies senior goaltender Aerin Frankel, who made 35 saves. She pounced on endless Badger opportunities and acted as an on-ice coach for her defense, pointing out strategies to her teammates at every break in the action.

“I can’t even fault her for that last goal,” said Flint. “She has proven she’s the best goalie in the NCAA and the best player in the NCAA.”

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Frankel’s play and NU’s strong defense was key in keeping the first 49 minutes of the game scoreless, as Wisconsin (17-3-1) was the first team all season to successfully neutralize NU’s offensive talent.

“They did a really good job of keeping us out and keeping us from getting the rebounds,” said Flint. “If we had gotten more Grade-A opportunities, it would have been a different outcome.”

Both teams played a great neutral zone game in the first period. Opportunity came the Huskies’ way in the second period. NU (22-2-1) had three power plays in the frame, but was unable to convert.

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In the third period, Wisconsin (17-3-1) focused on peppering Frankel, and finally capitalized. Makenna Webster picked up the rebound from a Casey O’Brien slapper to strike first for the Badgers exactly 11 minutes into the frame.

NU quickly responded. Just 38 seconds later, NU tied it on a Chloé Aurard blast from the right faceoff circle that sailed past Wisconsin goalie Kennedy Blair.

“I thought that goal was going to be enough to get us through the rest of the game,” said Badgers coach Mark Johnson. “But they were not going to lay down. They scored that very next shift.”

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The power play problems continued for NU. After a Wisconsin cross-checking call, the Huskies had an advantage with 5:22 left in regulation. Huskies defender Skylar Fontaine took five shots during that the power play, but Badger defenders blocked three of them to keep the game tied.

In overtime, the Badgers maintained possession in the Huskies’ zone. Three minutes into extra time, Watts bounced the puck from behind the NU net. After the game, she admitted she was trying to bank it off Frankel’s back, since the goalie was down in a butterfly position. Instead, it deflected off Carter, who was speeding in to cover Watts, and into the net.

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For all of the talk about Hockey East teams being slower and less physical than western squads like Wisconsin, the Huskies showed through the entire tournament that they could go toe-to-toe with the national powerhouses.

Flint believes it might be the start of a new era for the program.

“We have set a new standard for Northeastern hockey,” said Flint. “And the way this ended doesn’t take away from what they were able to do all season.”

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