It can be daunting to be the new player in the locker room, even with superb credentials. When that locker room is Northeastern’s, a team that has qualified for the last two Women’s Frozen Fours, daunting could be an understatement.
But Maude Poulin-Labelle, the reigning Hockey East co-Defender of the Year, chose to spend her graduate year with the Huskies. Despite setting records for defender scoring at her former school, Vermont, and making three league All-Star teams, she wasn’t sure what would happen when she joined Northeastern.
“Obviously, Northeastern has a lot of talent,” said Poulin-Labelle. “Everyone here wants to improve, and they all want to make a lineup, and that can be hard because everyone is so talented. We all want to get better every day.”
It was a risk, but the move is working out for the Sherbrooke, Québec, native. She has played in all 24 games for the 21-2-1 Huskies, and is the team’s top-scoring defender and fifth-best overall with 16 points (2 goals, 14 assists.).
Poulin-Labelle has filled the gap left by the graduation of the player she shared last year’s Defender of the Year title with, Skylar Fontaine, who was quite possibly the most dangerous offensive defender in women’s college hockey the last few seasons.
During Saturday’s 5-0 win against Maine, Poulin-Labelle set up Maureen Murphy for her second goal of the game. It was a milestone for both: For Murphy, a fellow transfer, it was her 100th career goal, and for Poulin-Labelle, it was her 100th career point.
“I was happy, but I wasn’t thinking about it,” said Poulin-Labelle. “I just wanted our team to win the game. If you had told me when I started college that I would reach 100 points, I wouldn’t have believed it.”
Poulin-Labelle recorded 84 points during her four years at Vermont and was part of the program’s best-ever finish last year (second) in the Hockey East regular season, going 22-11-3. When it came time for her fifth year, she sought out a city environment while pursuing a master’s in sports leadership.
“I spoke with a few schools, and I liked the three coaches here,” she said.
She was already known as an offensive defender when she entered Vermont, earning the label during her career at Stanstead, a private high school on the Quebec/Vermont border. But what changed in college was learning when to jump into the play.
“When I started playing in the NCAA, I had to learn when to jump in, and when not to, and how to read plays better,” said Poulin-Labelle. “I learned how to be an effective defenseman, and how to contribute in other ways.”
That decision-making is key when playing with a high-energy and speedy team, which has been Northeastern’s style the past few years. Poulin-Labelle enjoys the playmaking ability that all four forward lines possess, and enjoys getting in on the action.
Poulin-Labelle’s start in hockey is an example of her wanting to leap into the action. Her older brother Jeffrey and sister Marie-Pier played youth hockey. On registration day one year, a 3-year-old Maude begged her father to be included with her siblings, but he had to break it to her that she missed the age cutoff of 4. The league administrator overheard the chat, and intervened.
“He said, ‘Oh, but the third kid is free!’ ” said Poulin-Labelle. “So he let me play even though I was 3.”
That league took a chance on her, and it turned out for the best. Sounds similar to the chance she took moving to Boston.
Northeastern looks to be headed for a sixth straight Hockey East championship, and Poulin-Labelle enjoys the process.
“We want to get better as a team every game,” she said.
Mueller ties the mark
Poulin-Labelle’s teammate, Alina Mueller, is likely to set the Hockey East record for league points this weekend. In two victories last weekend, she had four assists to tie Northeastern forward Kendall Coyne’s mark of 167 points (64 goals, 103 assists) ... Boston University broke a losing streak that dated to Dec. 9. The Terriers earned an upset of Providence, second in Hockey East, with a 2-2 tie Tuesday that they won in a shootout. The Terriers got the win even though they had only 23 shots on net through two overtimes. “To not have a million shots but have a couple jump in is super important,” said coach Brian Durocher. “Credit to the kids for executing.” … Merrimack junior defender Raice Szott is one of 15 nominees for the Hockey Humanitarian Award, which recognizes “a student-athlete who makes significant contributions not only to his or her team but also to the community-at-large through leadership in volunteerism.” It will be awarded during Men’s Frozen Four weekend in April … At the Winter World University Games in Lake Placid, Arlington native and Princeton alum Shannon Griffin has four goals and two assists through Team USA’s four preliminary games (2-2), with one game to go. Billerica’s Clare Conway, who plays at Worcester State, has two goals.
Kat Cornetta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.