#3 overall seed Northeastern faces off against #8 seed Minnesota Duluth in the first Frozen Four semifinal on Friday afternoon at 3:15 EST. Here’s a quick look at what to watch for from the Huskies:
How They Got Here:
31-4-2 overall record, 21-3-2, first place Hockey East
- Won the Hockey East playoff championship
Notable Season Series: 1-0 vs. Wisconsin
What to Watch For:
-Northeastern is the only Hockey East team in the tournament this year. In fact, Northeastern didn’t play a single team that qualified for the NCAA Tournament until they faced off against Wisconsin last weekend in the NCAA quarterfinal.
But the Huskies have proven themselves legit over the past few years, and they have a fair chance at becoming the first team from Hockey East to win a national championship this year, after falling just one goal short against Wisconsin in the championship game last year.
That said, their semifinal against Minnesota Duluth on Thursday has a bit of a feel of a trap game for Northeastern. Last weekend’s quarterfinal match-up with Wisconsin was an emotionally-charged one after the sting of last year’s title game loss. And there’s no extra motivation necessary should they make the national title game. But standing in their way is a very good Minnesota Duluth team. They did beat the Bulldogs last year, although last year’s UMD team did not have Elizabeth Giguere, but just barely beat them. Duluth also comes in looking like the underdog as the #8 seed, but on paper, these two teams match up pretty evenly. It’s going to take a very good effort to come out on top and advance to Saturday’s title game.
-Northeastern is far from a one-player team, but it’s fair to say that they were also a much different team, one that was not nearly as good, when Alina Mueller was playing for Switzerland in the Olympics. She is as dynamic of a player as anyone in college hockey. Last year, Minnesota Duluth was able to get Ashton Bell on the ice as often as possible to match up against Mueller’s top line. This year, it will probably be more of a group effort on the blue line.
-Mueller is the more well-known name, but the other dangerous threat on that top line is Maureen Murphy, who also averaged over 1.5 points per game this season. Murphy only played half the season for Northeastern last year after transferring in from Providence, and while she was good last year, she has taken things to another level this season.
-I talked about this a bit in the UMD half of the preview, but this feels like a game where the top lines maybe each get their goals, but end up cancelling each other out, and the team that gets secondary scoring is the one that wins in a close game.
What separates Northeastern from the rest of Hockey East isn’t necessarily the first line. They’re good, but a lot of teams have a really good first line. The biggest difference is the way Northeastern can generate pressure and getting scoring from their second line with Maddie Mills, Katy Knoll, and Skylar Irving. How that line matches up against UMD’s second line with Rogge-McMahon-Van Wieren is the one to watch, and could play a huge role in deciding who wins the game.
-The other difference-maker in a tight game is special teams, and Northeastern is strong in that area. Quality of competition caveats abound, but Northeastern is above 30% on the power play, and above 90% on the penalty kill. Minnesota Duluth is respectable with a player advantage at roughly 24%, but is sub-80% on the penalty kill this season. The big difference is that Northeastern has a true playmaker on the blue line in Skylar Fontaine that can create opportunities. Minnesota Duluth can’t afford too many trips to the box, because the game could get away from them if they give Northeastern chances on the power play.