In a lost season, almost anyone can say they missed their shot at a title. This season, eight teams can make that claim.
The NCAA hockey tournament was canceled due to coronavirus, so the eight teams that qualified didn’t get a chance to compete for a national title. Top ranked teams like Cornell and Wisconsin will move on to next season, this opportunity erased.
Another one of those teams is Northeastern, and this might have been their year. Everything was in place for a deep run as the program sought its first national title.
Northeastern surged in the Hockey East portion of their schedule, finishing in first by nine points. They also took a dramatic Beanpot victory over Boston University. The season was capped off with 9-1 victory over UConn to win Hockey East Tournament leading to a 3 seed in the National Tournament bracket.
It seemed nothing was going to stop the Huskies.
It is true nothing in hockey stopped them; instead, it was the world.
The abrupt end is a lost opportunity for the team, especially for the three seniors the program was built around this season.
Veronika Pettey, Paige Capistran, and Codie Cross helped build the Huskies to the point they were at this season, and lost their final shot at a title. The Huskies miss out on a postseason where 45 combined points from the trio would have helped.
For the younger core, it’s a missed chance at competing in the postseason and gaining valuable experience for future runs. Northeastern isn’t going anywhere the next few years, and will likely be a Hockey East favorite for a while.
That might be the most costly though. Alina Mueller, named the New England MVP, Patty Kazmaier Top-Three Finalist, Hockey East Player of the Year and CCM/AHCA First-Team All-American, lost a chance at a postseason she’ll never get back for the Huskies. Losing an entire postseason run that won’t get made up — only spring athletes are getting an extra season of eligibility — is a blow for Northeastern.
Goalie Aerin Frankel, who has seen time with the United States national team, also lost a year where she could have helped Northeastern make a move on a title. Her single-season records for Northeastern included a 1.07 goals against average and .958 save percentage The 37 goals allowed in 38 games were the fewest for any team since Hockey East was founded in 2002.
It’s no exaggeration to say the third-seeded Huskies had their best opportunity ever to make a run for a national title with the group they had. Their 32 wins in the regular season were the most in the nation, and they swept trophy season for the first time in program history.
The Wisconsins of the world would have been a challenge of course, and nothing is a given, but it’s fair for Northeastern to look back at this season as a lost opportunity for their best finish ever.
It’s not any easier to accept a lost chance, not because of an upset or injuries or other factors, but because of the state of the world.
Chances at a championship don’t come every year, and even for a group with a bright future, there’s no promises they’ll be back; instead, all that hard work to get to this point is erased, and the title sits vacant, clouded by what-could-have-beens.