Goal by Goal: Clarkson 3 - Northeastern 3 at the Friendship Series

The first game in Belfast didn’t disappoint

Clarkson and Northeastern met in the first of the two games of the Friendship Series in front of a huge crowd for women’s hockey — the gamesheet puts attendance at 2534, and the organizers put all the audience on one side of the arena to maximize the atmosphere. It really worked. You can feel the energy coming off the room on the big scores or big saves. The big crowd was, in turn treated to a great, high-tempo, high-energy game.

NCAA Matchup of the Week: Clarkson vs Northeastern in Belfast

Coming into the game, a lot of people thought one of the teams maybe wasn’t for real this season. But those people differed about which team it was. Was it Northeastern, with its heavy dependence on freshmen and its relatively easy schedule? Or was it Clarkson, with its top-heavy scoring and its series of recent surprising losses? In fact, both teams turned up at or near their best, both teams looked very much for real, and the final result was a 3-3 tie which was a reasonable reflection of the game as a whole.

CLARKSON GOAL (Loren Gabel / Assist Elizabeth Giguère): Clarkson 1 - Northeastern 0, 4:52, First period

Although the start this goal looked gritted out, in the end it comes down to the quick hands of Loren Gabel. Emma Keenan battles for the puck on the boards and doesn’t win it, but distracts Northeastern’s Chloé Aurard enough that when Aurard breaks free, Elizabeth Giguère can strip it off her relatively easily. Giguère takes a beat and tries to blast it on net using Northeastern’s Alina Mueller as a screen, but Mueller manages to block it. Unfortunately for her, the puck dribbles into open ice where Northeastern’s Skylar Fontaine is slow to recognize the danger and lets Gabel get to it first. (Don’t worry, Fontaine gets redemption later). Gabel’s first shot goes off Aerin Frankel’s far pad, but the rebound somehow finds its way straight back out both through Frankel’s defender, who is tangled with her, and Clarkson’s Kelly Mariani, who is tangled with the defender, and lands right on Gabel’s stick. Gabel doesn’t need a second invitation to get the puck past the doubly-screened Frankel on her glove side.

Clarkson continued to look stronger for most of the first period, but Northeastern were on top for most of the start of the second, though without dominating. Then, against the run of play:

CLARKSON GOAL (Elizabeth Giguère / Assists Emma Keenan, Josiane Pozzebon): Clarkson 2 - Northeastern 0, 12:57, second period

As they say, never try to start a land war in Asia, and never go for a line change on Olympic-width ice when Elizabeth Giguère is out for her shift. (Is it a line change, or did Northeastern just feel like being close to their benches? It’s hard to tell). Anyway, Northeastern’s sudden fondness for the starboard side of the ice opens up an opportunity for Emma Keenan, who started the play for the first goal, to set up a great 120-foot pass off unfamiliar boards to a streaking Giguère. Giguère picks up the puck, toys with Northeastern defender Paige Capistran, and then takes advantage of both the screen that Capistran is creating and her “make yourself as small as possible” approach to shot-blocking to get off a shot. Capistran actually manages to deflect the shot, but it still ends up on target and beats Frankel high blocker side for a two goal lead for the national champions.

Then things got a little crazy.

NORTHEASTERN GOAL (Skylar Fontaine / Assists Matti Hartman, Brooke Hobson): Clarkson 2 - Northeastern 1, 18:31, second period

Northeastern continued to look better for the rest of the second period, and this is great possession hockey. After Veronika Pettey, offscreen, wins the puck in the corner, Brooke Hobson’s presence of mind makes the play happen for Northeastern. First, she sets Matti Hartman up for a slapshot on net. When Kassidy Sauve makes the save through traffic and the puck bounces out, Tessa Ward passes it back to Hobson, who’s now moved from the far point to the centre, and Northeastern passes the puck crisply while Clarkson mainly just watches. In particular, poor Kirsty Pidgeon in the middle of the screen seems to have no better idea of what to do than to wave her stick menacingly in the general direction of the puck. Pidgeon completely misses Hartman moving into prime shooting position and the two Northeastern forwards, tangling up the Clarkson D, form an effective screen for Hartman’s crisp one-timer.

So Northeastern are within one. Then seventeen seconds later...

NORTHEASTERN GOAL (Kasidy Anderson / Assist Alina Mueller): Clarkson 2 - Northeastern 2, 18:48, second period

This one is actually on Loren Gabel. With no particular pressure on her, she tries to make a clearing pass and instead of putting it cleanly on Giguère’s stick she sends it right to the stick of Alina Mueller. Everyone stops what they’re doing to stare at Mueller because she’s glamorous and Swiss, and only Josiane Pozzebon of Clarkson seems to realise that the real danger is Kasidy Anderson. Well, not only Pozzebon. Mueller realizes it too and sends a precise pass (like clockwork!) through the holes in the Clarkson defense (like cheese!) to Anderson, who immediately roofs it.

Tie game! Then eighteen seconds later...

NORTHEASTERN GOAL (Mia Brown / Assist Tori Sullivan, Codie Cross): Clarkson 2 - Northeastern 3, 19:06, second period

... a not-super-dangerous-looking breakaway for BC transfer Tori Sullivan turns into a case of good intentions gone wrong for Clarkson. Three Clarkson skaters converge on Sullivan so that when the puck is finally poked away from her and falls on the stick of Mia Brown, that makes four bodies between Brown and Kassidy Sauve. Freshman Brown, who scored the overtime winner against BC earlier this season, makes no mistake on the shot. Brown then debuts a unique celly known as the “Elmer Fudd leap”.

Northeastern and Clarkson are playing the first ever NCAA women’s hockey games outside North America

Somehow, Northeastern avoided scoring again in the remaining 54 seconds of the period. Clarkson knew they had to come out strong in the third and they did.

CLARKSON GOAL (Kelly Mariani / Assists Ella Shelton, Taylor Turnquist): Clarkson 3 - Northeastern 3, 3:50, Third period

Lack of defensive awareness or perhaps an over-commitment to the play they were planning leads Northeastern to give up the equalizing goal. Clarkson wins the faceoff and gets the puck back to Ella Shelton on the point. Worse, though, Northeastern lets Kelly Mariani (who has moved during the game from the Gabel/Giguère line to the Cassidy Vinkle/T.T. Cianfarano line) skate unsupervised all the way from left wing to the low slot. Mariani’s deflection of Shelton’s shot is unstoppable. It also happens so quickly that the Clarkson players are visibly unclear about who they should be congratulating, which, honestly, it’s surprising that that doesn’t happen more often. (At the end of the clip you can see Cianfarano, skating towards Shelton, do a kind of confused congratulate-shrug which kind of sums up hockey in a nutshell).

The teams are back at it at 7 am Eastern on Sunday, which may be in the past by the time this posts. A win for either team would be massive in the Pairwise rankings that determine qualification and home ice for the NCAA tournament. Who will come out on top?