DULUTH, Minn. — For the third straight year, the Northeastern women’s hockey season ended in Frozen Four disappointment. They were defeated, 3-0, by Ohio State in a national semifinal Friday afternoon.
The Buckeyes (32-5-2), the nation’s No. 1 team and seeking to defend their national championship, took control immediately, pushing Northeastern (34-3-1) into their zone and needing just 1:16 to take the lead when Sloane Matthews buried a rebound in front. That put the Huskies on their heels and set the tone for the rest of the game.
Ohio State dominated from one end of the ice to the other. NU was never able to find sustained time in the offensive zone, and settled for a few breakaways as their best opportunities to score.
“We struggled to generate offense,” said coach Dave Flint. “They were definitely the better team on the ice this afternoon.”
While Northeastern prided itself on its own speed, nothing could quite prepare the Huskies for the relentless, constant pressure the Buckeyes brought. Flint said his team was not able to cope with how quickly they needed to make decisions and move the puck.
“You have to do everything quicker. They really don’t stop,” he said. “When you’re used to having an extra second to make a play and all of a sudden that window is gone, it’s hard.”
The Huskies attempted just nine shots and put only four on net in the first period, but it looked like Chloé Aurard evened the score at 14:21 when she buried a Maureen Murphy feed. But OSU coach Nadine Muzerall challenged the goal, and it was waved off due to a hand pass in the Northeastern defensive zone.
Flint said he told his assistants as soon as it happened that the Buckeyes would challenge the call and he was already looking for ways to replicate the momentum.
But Ohio State smothered Northeastern’s top line of Alina Mueller, Aurard, and Murphy, who totaled 669 points in their career. Patty Kazmaier top-three finalist Mueller, the active NCAA career leader in points, assists, assists per game and game-winning goals, managed just one shot on goal Friday. Murphy and senior defender Megan Carter led the team with three.
Ohio State’s 53 shots were by far the most given up by Northeastern this season. The Huskies’ 15 were eight fewer than their previous season low.
National Goalie of the Year Gwyn Philips was also plagued by the relentless Ohio State attack. After the opening goal came on a rebound, Makenna Webster beat her with a one-timer from the high slot at 11:18 of the second. Hadley Hartmetz made it 3-0 through a screen from the blue line at 18:44.
No matter what the the six-time defending Hockey East champions did, they could not gain traction. That led to frustration and trying to do too much, said Flint.
“We tried to make adjustments — or at least we talked about them,” he said.
“They just swarm and swarm and swarm, and it’s like they get more energy when they get you pinned in. We pride ourselves in not turning the puck over from one top of the circle to the other top of the circle. I think we turned the puck over more times today in that area than we have maybe all semester. That’s how they play, and they make you make mistakes and then they counter with their speed.”
Ohio State also won the faceoff battle, 39-30, making it even more difficult for Northeastern to gain control of the puck, clear the zone and get a breather. It was just one more way that the Buckeyes overpowered the Huskies and set themselves up against Wisconsin on Sunday for the national championship.
“We have fast players, but they came at you with everybody,” Flint said. “It was a track meet we couldn’t keep up with.”