Talent and Chemistry

by Jacob Horowitz

Hockey may be Northeastern’s most well-decorated sport, and that success does not end with the men’s team. The women are back-to-back conference champions, were ranked third in the nation for most of this season and fresh off of another NCAA quarterfinals appearance. 

This year’s domination was led by freshmen roommates Alina Mueller and Chloe Aurard, whose precocious talent and chemistry have held the collegiate hockey world rapt and cemented them as some of the world’s most promising hockey talents.

The strength of their partnership was clear in their contribution: Mueller and Aurard combined for 82 points (51 and 31 respectively). Mueller’s 21 goals and 30 assists led the team in both categories while Aurard’s 12 goals and 19 assists placed her fourth. Over their 27 conference games, only three conference games went by without Mueller and/or Aurard registering at least a point.

That talent – and chemistry – formed long before the pair arrived at Northeastern, as they commanded international attention on the European stage. Mueller scored the bronze medal-winning goal and became the youngest hockey player to ever win an Olympic medal when she led her home country of Switzerland in the 2014 Olympics at the age of 15. Later, as a member of the U18 National team, she competed against her future teammate, Aurard, who skated for France.

“We just had so much fun on the ice,” Aurard remembered. “I think [Mueller is] so good and in my head, I’m thinking, ‘what if one day I get to play with her?’ Then it happened. We got really close on the ice during the first practice at Northeastern and then being roommates with her made us closer. I think we just really think alike.”

“It was just fun and I enjoyed [the team environment] and every week was better and better,” Mueller said. “We got to know each other better and better. We had this bond right away.”

And while no one questioned the impact the pair could have when they were finally skating together, their different hockey backgrounds created different expectations from the Husky coaching staff.

For Mueller, Flint expected instant contribution.

I saw [Mueller] competing in the Olympics at that point . . . and kind of followed her along the way through World Championships and those subsequent years after,” recalled head coach Dave Flint. “We just hung on and lucky for us, she chose Northeastern.”

“Chloe’s a little different – she committed early to us but we knew that she needed to work on her English. So she had to come over to prep school in the United States to learn English so she could get into Northeastern.”

Unsurprisingly, Mueller’s dominance began as soon as she arrived, scoring her first goal and notching her first assist in the second game of the season. That month, she led all NCAA rookies with 11 points in nine games and won National Rookie of the Month. Mueller continued to contribute game after game, building an NCAA-leading 22-game point streak lasting 111 days, picking up countless conference honors along the way.

[Mueller] made the transition pretty smoothly and hit the ground running when she got on campus. She’s had an amazing year for us. . . She’s impactful every game,” said Flint, who described Mueller as a “joy to work with.”

“They made it really easy for me and the team was [behind me] right away,” Mueller remembered. “From the beginning, it was just so much fun and we kept rolling and rolling and winning games. Now we are [in the NCAA tournament] and it’s pretty cool.”

For Aurard, though, it was unclear how long of an adjustment period was going to be needed.

“Where she went to prep school [at Vermont Academy], the level wasn’t real high,” Flint said. “She was pretty much the best player on the ice every time. It was gonna be a big jump for her to college so we weren’t sure how quickly she would make that transition. We know how talented she was, we knew the ability she had, it was just a matter of how quickly she could get up to speed.”

But it took Aurard no time at all, as she scored her first goal in the first game of the season and won National Rookie of the Month in November (right after Mueller won the month before).

For Flint and the overall success of his program, their chemistry is instrumental.

“I think they’ve developed a good chemistry and friendship,” he explained. “It’s really translated on the ice for the both of them.”

Flint was right. Of the 98 Northeastern goals scored during the regular season, Mueller and/or Aurard played a hand in 53 of them. Between the two of them, they’ve won two Commissioners Association National Rookie of the Month honors, five Pro Ambitions Women’s Hockey East Rookie of the Month, five Pro Ambitions Women’s Hockey East Rookie of the Week, three Women’s Hockey East Player of the Week and two NCAA Stars of the Week.

Aurard credits her international experience with preparing her most for NCAA play.

“I think that playing against teams like Russia and Switzerland [for whom Mueller played] really helped me get used to the speed in college. I think my national team got me ready.”

While Mueller’s consistent contribution has been less of surprise, it was her impact off the ice that impressed Flint the most.

“She’s so outgoing, she’s so respectful of her teammates,” Flint lauded. “She’s a kid who you can tell is happy to be where she’s at and enjoys every moment. That’s kind of infectious with the team. As big of an impact as she’s had on the ice, she’s had as big of an impact in our locker room this year.”

Unfortunately, the season ended on a sour note: an overtime loss to Cornell in the NCAA quarterfinals, a game Alina Mueller missed due to injury.

Fortunately for the Huskies, Mueller will be fit by fall and both her and Aurard look ahead with excitement.

“The team is obviously going to be different because we are losing people like Kassidy [Anderson] and goalies and they’re really great leaders,” Aurard said. “Our juniors are great too, and they’re going to be really great leaders. I look forward to meeting the freshman and making them feel like how the team made me feel.”

“Everything is open – if we play our best hockey we can beat anyone,” Mueller said. “We will do it big.”