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Northeastern set to play UConn in women’s Hockey East final

The top-seeded Huskies eliminated Maine, while the No. 5 seed from Connecticut turned back UNH.

Northeastern is 22-0 when Alina Mueller scores.
Northeastern is 22-0 when Alina Mueller scores.File/Mark Lorenz for the Globe

NORTH ANDOVER – It’s a dog-eat-dog world and a Huskies-versus-Huskies Hockey East Women’s Championship after Northeastern and UConn won their semifinal games Saturday afternoon at Merrimack College and set up a Sunday matchup in the finals.

No. 1 seed Northeastern came from behind to beat No. 7 Maine, 3-1, in the early game before No. 5 UConn beat No. 6 UNH, 4-0, in the late contest. The teams will face off at Lawler Rink at 2 p.m. Sunday.

In Northeastern-Maine, the Huskies survived early while the Black Bears clogged things up defensively and got back to their aggressive, attacking style late in the game to advance to their fourth straight final.

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“Our team has been pretty resilient all year and being down a goal going into the third I wasn’t even really nervous,” said Huskies coach Dave Flint. “I went into the locker room and I could tell just by our demeanor we weren’t nervous, we were confident.”

The Black Bears (15-14-8) scored first when defender Ida Press netted her seventh goal of the season early in the first period. Press was assisted by Ali Beltz and Ida Kuoppala on the power-play goal from just inside Maine’s attacking zone.

Northeastern (31-4-2) kept up an aggressive attack but had nothing to show for it, thanks to an excellent performance from Maine goalkeeper Carly Jackson (35 saves), until the third period when the Huskies scored two quick goals to take the lead.

“I think we played very well in the third period but we also haven’t been in a lot of situations like this in our program’s history,” said Maine coach Richard Reichenbach. “So I think we were wavering a little bit back and forth between feeling the moment and going back to our game plan.”

The Huskies loosened up and started skating faster, particularly after First-Team All Star defenseman Skylar Fontaine got them on the board with a power-play goal at 1:05. Fontaine was assisted by Cammi Granato Award winner (Hockey East player of the year) Alina Mueller and Chloe Aurard and Mueller put Northeastern up for good with her 26th goal of the season, assisted by Fontaine, at the 3:45 mark.

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“This stat last night that I didn’t even realize [until the team] banquet was that when Alina scores a goal we’re 21-0, now 22-0,” Flint said. “So that tells you how big it is. The team feeds off her energy, and Skylar, she’s so dangerous anytime she’s on the ice. She stepped up today in a big way for us and had a big game."

Fontaine added an empty-net goal with 14 seconds remaining to give the game its final score.

Northeastern, the two-time defending champion, will take on UConn, which had little suspense in the late game against UNH. Connecticut scored two goals in the first period, another in the second, and another in the third while goalkeeper Morgan Fisher stopped 20 shots for the shutout.

“Fish, hey, that was exactly what we needed at the right time,” said UConn coach Chris Mackenzie.

Defensewoman Taylor Wabick scored the first goal unassisted for the Huskies at 4:11 in the first, then Viki Harkness netted another at 12:20 assisted by Leona Sim and Camryn Wong. Morgan Wabick scored one early in the second and another against an empty net at 14:50 in the third.

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“I think we just knew that we needed to stick to our game and we’d have success and not give in to their play,” Wabick said.

Northeastern will be the clear favorite in the final but Mackenzie said he didn’t worry about his team’s mental readiness. For UNH’s part, the pain of the loss was lessened slightly by the fact that just playing in the semifinals was a benchmark for the program.

“I’m proud of this team. This is the first time in 10 years UNH has been in this tournament and our seniors have been working really hard to get our program back here, so I’m just really proud of them,” said Wildcats coach Hilary Witt.


Nora Princiotti can be reached at nora.princiotti@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @NoraPrinciotti.